Select your language
Nuer (Sudan/South-Sudan)
Tshiluba (DR Congo)

Who touched me?

Michael Hardt

Mark 5:25–34

This incident might have become known as the meeting that was no meeting had not the Lord intervened in the remarkable way He did.

We are referring to the case of the woman who, for 12 years, had suffered from an issue of blood (v. 25). Her case is also related in Matthew 9 and Luke 8 but we focus on Mark’s account as a number of details we would like to highlight are omitted in the other accounts. Unless indicated otherwise, verses referred to are from Mark 5.

The woman had suffered severely from her illness, which is referred to twice as a ‘scourge’ (vs. 29, 34). She had sought advice from many a medic (v. 26) — each new doctor bringing a new glimmer of hope, only to be dashed soon afterwards. These medical consultations had come at significant expense — but without any relief, let alone success. One of the things only Mark tells us is that her condition had actually deteriorated. To make things worse, her financial resources had been exhausted in the process.

Her hopeless situation is a telling illustration of a sinner, not so much in his blindness (inability to see God’s glory) or lameness (inability to come to Him) but as being not only unclean but a source of continuous defilement (see Lev. 15:19ff.),[1] and the inability of human means to address the problem of sin. This is emphasised by the statement that she had ‘suffered’ many things from many physicians.[2]

But then she ‘heard of Jesus’ (v. 27). We are not told what exactly she heard but it was sufficient to prompt a decision and to set her steps in motion: she ‘came’. The timing was all but opportune: the Lord had just been confronted with another emergency, a matter of life and death. Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue, had implored Him to intervene and to heal his daughter who was on her deathbed. The Lord — despite the crowds, and despite all that He would find at Jairus’ house — had decided to go with Jairus (this little sentence is as moving as it is comforting: ‘And Jesus went with him’ (v. 24)), but the woman, in her distress, somehow managed to approach the Lord, from behind, and to touch His garment. She experiences immediate healing and realises it (v. 29).

We might have thought that this was the end of the story: the woman going on her way, having been blessed, and the Lord moving on to attend to the case of Jairus’ daughter. But He had higher thoughts and more blessing in store for this new beneficiary of His grace.

At first sight we may wonder why the Lord intervened in the way He did. He asked the question ‘who touched me?’ (v. 31) and He must have done it in such a way that it caught people’s attention (Luke tells us that ‘all denied’ (8:45)). When the woman realised that there was no way of escape or, as Luke puts it, that ‘she was not hid’ (8:47), she came trembling and full of fear and fell down before the Lord (v. 33). No doubt all eyes were upon her.

Why did the Lord bring about this situation? We can be quite sure that it was not to embarrass but to bless her. Had the Lord simply let her go she would have felt that her act was unauthorised, and her healing was a stolen blessing. Also, she would have missed out on the opportunity to really meet and get to know her benefactor. The Lord wanted her not to be healed only but to know that He had blessed her, willingly and with permanent effect. He did not want her to go away without hearing His words ‘go in peace’ (v. 34). Her safety was not to be based on her feelings, but on His word.

But there was a second reason as well. As a result of the Lord’s question the healed woman ‘came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth’ (v. 33). This happened ‘before all the people’ and included not only the fact that she had touched Him but also the reason for, and result of, doing so: she declared ‘for what cause she had touched him, and how she was immediately healed’ (Luke 8:47). In this way her confession became a testimony to all the people and, importantly, to the Lord’s disciples who did not seem to have been fully cognisant of the greatness of His person and, in particular, His omniscience. They were surprised by the Lord’s question ‘Who has touched my clothes?’ (v. 31) or, as Luke puts it, ‘Who has touched me?’ and commented that the crowd was pressing around Him so that people seemed to touch Him all the time.

The Lord, of course, knew who had touched Him and why, and that power had gone out from Him. But the disciples’ question raises an interesting point: if, with all the pushing and shoving that was going on, many people were touching the Lord all the time, why was it that only in the case of this particular woman there was an operation of power, even a life-changing effect? Was she the only one who had a need? Surely not. It was the woman’s attitude that made all the difference. She had come to Him in a deep sense of her need, conscious of her own inability to resolve the problem, and in faith that Jesus, and Jesus only, could heal her. This faith is demonstrated by her saying: ‘If I shall touch but his clothes I shall be healed’ (v. 28). And it is acknowledged by the Lord who declares: ‘Thy faith has healed thee’ (v. 34).

So it is still today. There are still crowds ‘pressing’ or ‘thronging’. Many come in touch with the Saviour outwardly. Thank God, the gospel is publicised on many channels and by many witnesses both live and printed. But the all-deciding question is whether Jesus is touched in faith — in the attitude of the suffering woman of this narrative.

And even as believers, how many times we may go to meetings, or listen to preaching and teaching, but do we always do so with a sense of need? Do we touch ‘the hem of his garment’ in faith? Would the Lord say that power has proceeded from Him? Let us take up the challenge and not only be part of the crowd, but touch Him in faith.

The Lord gives an amazing answer to the woman (v. 34). He makes no reproach but addresses her as ‘daughter’. Secondly, He recognises her faith: ‘thy faith has healed thee’. Thirdly, He uses the word ‘healed’, not ‘cured’ as in verse 29 where it says ‘she knew in her body that she was cured from the scourge’. That was physical healing. But here the Lord uses the word ‘sozo’ which is normally translated as ‘saved’ and, in this way, broadens the effect of her faith from physical healing to the thought of salvation. Fourthly, He says: ‘go in peace’, indicating that there was no need to have a bad conscience, but she could go her way in full peace. Finally, He adds: ‘and be well of thy scourge’, giving her the assurance that she was not only experiencing temporary relief but a healing with permanent effect.[3]

The Lord is still the same. Whoever comes to Him in a sense of need can be sure that the ‘touch of faith’ will be rewarded most richly.


[1] In the dispensational application (which is Matthew’s emphasis) she represents the Gentiles being cleansed from defilement during the interval in which the Lord’s mission to Israel (represented by Jairus’ daughter) is interrupted.

[2] As believers we are thankful for medical help we can receive when needed. The point is that in relation to the sin question, human resources are worthless and even counterproductive.

[3] The lasting effect is further emphasised by the use of the perfect tense in the preceding clause: ‘thy faith has healed thee’.