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Gospel Content / Gospel Process
The story of the bleeding woman in the Gospels has fascinated me for some time. One question that leaps from the page is, why was she only partially healed by touching Jesus’ cloak? Mark writes that the woman told herself, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well,” or literally, “be saved” (Mark 5:28). However, upon touching Jesus’ garment she was merely “healed” (Mark 5:29). It is only later in v. 34 that Jesus says, “your faith has made you well” - or again literally, “your faith has saved you”. What is going on here?
I believe Jesus was determined to have a face-to-face encounter with this hopeless woman so that he could grant her far more abundantly than she could ask or think. For she did not dare to hope that Jesus (God Saves) could save her from the pain deep beneath her bodily affliction, her shame that imprisoned her in anonymous fear. Instead, she implemented a carefully executed plan to remain unseen, unnoticed and unknown. But Jesus, in his severe mercy, would have none of it.
Can you see her? Can you see Jesus seeing her? Can you see her being seen by Jesus?
Imagine her head turned down, shaking on her knees, hoping that her dirty hair would hide her dirty face and her dirty, blood stained clothes. Imagine Jesus looking down on her with tender compassion in his eyes. Imagine Jesus using his words to pull the woman’s eyes up to meet his. Only then, through this intensely personal encounter, is the woman translated from shameful anonymity to familial intimacy and full restoration.
This story illustrates a twofold dynamic for gospel ministry: gospel content must always be mediated through gospel process. We want people to believe the truth that Jesus saves, but that belief only sinks into the depths of a person’s heart through relationship with God and with God’s people.