Short as it is, the story makes clear that she has done everything in her power. It’s really interesting to see the differences in the accounts about this. Mark tells us “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” Perhaps out of professional courtesy, Luke, the physician, simply says “no one could heal her.”
She yearns to be whole. It is not lack of desire that keeps her hemorrhaging, that keeps her ritually unclean. Neither is it a lack of effort, but her efforts only result in a continual supply of filthy rags. Each of us shares her fate. We may greatly desire to be righteous, but we lack the power, and our attempts at righteousness only produce filthy rags, and leave us weak frail, anemic, haggard, overwhelmed, and fragile. According to Mark, this conscientious woman had consulted—and apparently paid—“many doctors.” In our efforts to be righteous, we may consult with many spiritual gurus, pastors, counselors. All these can be useful and helpful, but no matter how carefully we follow their advice, we cannot become righteous. Like the woman with the issue of blood, some of these prescriptions may actually make us worse, may convince us that we’re becoming righteous, which of course only makes our true condition more serious.
She has tried everything, exhausted her financial resources, only to see her condition worsen. With all this, it wouldn’t be surprising if she felt cursed by God himself. But the coming of this Jesus has brought her hope. She has heard of the miracles he has performed, and has come to trust in his power. She brings no payment—she has none. She offers no service—in her unclean state, she can give none. She brings only her faith. She touches only the hem of his garment—the merest brush, the slightest contact.
She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
The crowd has been jostling, pushing, prodding. People seeking, demanding Jesus’ attention. He barely notices them. But the slightest touch of a trusting one seeking grace, and the spark of divine power leaps from him, from his garment, no less, and suffuses her whole being with healing. This, too, demonstrates a deep spiritual truth. The purity of Christ eliminates impurity. That’s true in our lives as well. That doesn’t mean that we become instantly sinless. But the longer we allow Christ to sit on the throne in our hearts, the longer we stay in touch with him, so to speak, the more his purity drives out our impurity; the more his holiness suffuses our lives and helps us to become holy.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
As often happens in the gospels, Peter speaks, representing all of the twelve. And here Peter is incredulous. “You’ve got to be kidding,” we can almost hear him say. “We’re being jostled on every side by this crowd, and you want to know ‘who touched you.’? Everybody touched you!”
In this story Peter speaks for all who are spiritually unaware. I know, I know, Peter is one of the inner ring. Ask anybody who knows anything about the New Testament the names of the disciples closest to Jesus were, and they’ll reply, “Peter, James, and John.” But here he’s clueless. At this moment, he’s spiritually unaware. Not because spiritual things don’t matter to him, but rather because he’s focused on the logistics of getting Jesus safely from one place to another. And that’s not a foolish or sinful focus, it’s a practical one. Because Peter’s mind is focused on an urgent matter. Remember our story started with the words, “Just then?” Mark sets up what “then” means this way:
“. . . . [O]ne of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. Just then. . . .
No wonder Peter is preoccupied! A desperately ill little girl lies close to death. That makes his incredulity seem more reasonable. They are on their way to save a little girl’s life. Peter doesn’t want to get there too late. So when Jesus stops and says, “Who touched me?” Peter may well have been thinking, “A little girl lies near death, and you want to know who touched you? Where are your priorities? We need to get to that little girl before it’s too late.” At least, that’s what I would have thought. How about you?
But then Peter didn’t know what Jesus knew, and what we know, having read the entire story: There is no such thing as too late for Jesus. In fact, all three gospel accounts agree that even though the girl died before Jesus arrived in her home, it was not too late. He raised her from the dead. But that’s another story, for another time.