Surrounded, Yet Alone
Sometimes, my husband and I will be sitting somewhere in public and play a silly game. It’s a game where we “people-watch” and assign names and even accents to those passing by. We narrate elaborate stories and scenarios of where the unknowing participant in our game is going or what they are doing. It is truly an entertaining way to pass the time when you’re waiting at a restaurant, sitting on a park bench, or — anywhere for that matter!
But the reality is — it’s just childish make-believe and we have no clue who these people are, or what they are doing. But even if we don’t know who they are or what they are going through — God does.
We walk alongside people in the line at the grocery store, we are pressed together with other parents in school pickup huddles, rub shoulders with people sitting next to us in the cafeteria, on the subway or buses, and even in the pew at church, and we may never be aware of the struggles, inner turmoil, and anguish they may be enduring. And if we’re honest, some days (maybe even today), we might be those very people — the desperate, the hurting, and the lonely.
Mark 5:21-34 is one of the most beautiful pictures that Scripture gives us when it comes to being surrounded, yet completely alone. And, even in a pressing crowd of people, our Lord knows us, sees us, and will never neglect us.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 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.” 24 So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 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. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”NIV translation
I like to use my imagination when I read Scripture.
Sometimes, I’m reading to study, but there are also times I’m reading for the narrative, and my mind fills in the blanks of what The Word does not share.
For instance, I imagine that it was the middle of a hot mediterranean day, and we find Jesus on His way to attend to the needs of a sick and dying child. At this point in His earthly ministry, He had likely grown accustomed to the throngs of people who surrounded Him. And since the stories of Jesus feeding the 5,000 are recorded in each of the gospels, I imagine that thousands of people followed after Him on this day as well. All the while, they tread on His garments, pushing and shoving their way to gape at Him, yet, it was never mentioned any other time then in this passage that He took notice of something in particular that happened to Him in the crowd that day.
“…He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”Mark 5:30 (NIV)
The disciples are almost incensed that Jesus would ask such a question. They point out the obvious fact that they are being completely crowded and you can almost see their eyes rolling when they say:
“You see the people crowding against you…and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?'”Mark 5:31 (NIV)
But Jesus kept looking.
He didn’t keep looking because He didn’t know who touched Him. Of course He knew. He is omniscient. He asked the question so that faith and divine healing could be testified.
Then the woman who touched Him steps forward and falls at His feet…trembling in fear.
From a physical and medical perspective, anyone who’s been hemorrhaging for 12 years straight is going to be severely anemic, tired, fatigued, and sickly. Her emotional and mental status were likely fragile and suffering as well, because she was probably living in isolation, without much human touch since, under Mosaic Law, she was seen as ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:25). And if that were not enough, Scripture tells us that she was destitute and penniless because she’d spent everything she had to pay doctors in an attempt to find a cure.
This poor, apprehensive woman, had been made more timid by 12 years of illness, failed hopes of a cure, and by poverty. She felt alone and isolated — but she still had faith.
“For she thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his clothing, I will be healed.’”Mark 5:28 (NIV)
She had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I love the end of this story.
So often the Bible gives us exact names of people or places because there is so much that can be revealed in the definition of a name…but in this instance the absence of the woman’s name has meaning too. In some versions, she is simply referred to as, “The woman with the issue of blood” and instantly, her imperfection and diagnosis became her identity. Her uncleanness, her isolation, and her suffering was how the world saw her.
But Jesus saw her and He knew her.
He saw past all of her fear, sadness, loneliness, and pain and He called her, “DAUGHTER”.
In Greek, this word is translated as, “thygatēr” (θυγάτηρ, thü-gä’-tar ) and means: “a daughter, a daughter of God, acceptable to God, rejoicing in God’s peculiar care and protection.” (Strong’s G2364). This woman who had suffered in isolation and loneliness was the only woman in all of recorded Scripture whom Jesus addressed by such a name.
He let her know through His tender words that she was accepted, given peace, brought out of isolation, and made whole. From the moment she reached out, she became connected to The Messiah — and was never the same again.
Her earthly name was never mentioned in this story — but her heavenly name was.
She was called, “Daughter”.
Her faith in Jesus made her whole on this side of Heaven and secured her a place in eternity. I wait with joyful expectation for the day when I can hear Jesus call me, “Daughter,” too.