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Healing, wholeness and salvation
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." (Mark 5:34)
The faith of the woman who was healed when she touched his clothes is one of the great examples of personal faith in Jesus.
Hers was an intensely personal kind of faith, befitting her particular need. The image of reaching out and touching evokes empathy with an act of love, as when lovers touch lightly to affirm their presence together and their trust in each other. The woman took some liberty in her great need: she presumed a little on the other side of the relationship, simply believing that his response would meet her need. He reacted at first as if someone had taken advantage of him:
But he gave his blessing when she came to him in fear and trembling:
What he said to her is packed with meaning: faith, made well, peace and healed, all these words are deeply significant and say much about Christian beliefs and the work of Christ for the sake of humanity. But, before we begin to think too much in generalities it will be helpful to understand a little more of what her healing meant to the woman who showed such faith. Not only had she been healed physically but her whole situation in life had changed.
We might say that the nature of her illness was embarrassing, not the sort of thing one could talk about easily in polite society, but in her culture it was much worse. She would have been ritually unclean according to Jewish law. Being unclean put a person outside of normal society and it was closely related to being a sinner. Blood had much more significance for them, spiritually, than it does for us. Because they thought of a person's or an animal's life as residing in their blood, people were very careful of everything they did in regard to blood. It was especially important to avoid any contamination by contact with blood. That is why they bled animals in a special way to make to them spiritually safe, or Kosher, as they say today, before they could be eaten. The woman who, as it is said in Mark 5:25, "... had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years", would have been placed under severe restrictions according to the law in Leviticus 15:25-30. Her bed and anything she sat on would have been called unclean and
When a woman had been cleansed of her disorder for a week, it was prescribed that she take a sacrifice of two turtle doves or two pigeons to the priest who would offer one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering. That ritual would not only express thanksgiving for healing but, at the same time, it made an act of atonement: as it was written, "the priest shall make atonement on her behalf". So, in their ancient understanding of estrangement from God, she was to be reconciled to God as a sinner forgiven when she was rid of her uncleanness. With what a mixture of emotions, then, of shame, fear and hope, she must have reached out Jesus!
We might think their taboos regarding blood strange, and the treatment of a woman who suffered as a sinner, because she was unclean through no apparent fault of her own, to be cruel and unacceptable. But if you think only in terms of social progress, you will miss the point of the story, which was that through faith in Jesus she was restored both to health and to God. Here we come to the spiritual import of her healing. Besides physical healing it implies also salvation, or restoration of her relationship to God, and restoration to her place of normal social interaction with her family and neighbours. It was social and spiritual healing as well as physical. The Hebrew people, though they might lack, in our view, an adequate understanding of disease and a proper regard for women, knew something profoundly important: that wholeness of life on earth, in ourselves in body, mind and spirit, in relation to rest of creation and in society, in all our relationships, depends upon our being in harmony with God the source and support of all life.
That broad conception of healing and reconciliation going together is found elsewhere in the gospels, as when Jesus said to the paralysed man your sins are forgiven.
This broad understanding of healing, as restoration, both in relationships and within oneself, both physically and spiritually, is contained in the meaning of the words that Jesus spoke to her, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed.
The old authorised or King James Version used the word "whole" in the place of both "made well" and "healed". Though they are different words in the Greek, both being "made well" and being "healed" contain the idea of being made whole. Your faith had made you whole can also be translated as Your faith had saved you. Other uses of the same Greek word are found where the language of salvation is preferred: For example, when the angel said to Joseph,
When the disciples were in a storm on the lake and were afraid the boat was sinking (as we remembered last week) :
It is the same word. There too, being saved or made whole was linked to faith:
And with faith again, in the same way, in regard to healing, when he healed a blind man:
And it is used in the sense of salvation at the end for those who remain faithful for the sake of the kingdom:
It was used in derision of Jesus when he was being tormented on the cross:
When the same word is used earlier in the passage we read from Mark today in the plea made by Jairus to save his daughter it is translated "make well" but linked with saving her life: He
It is no accident that the story of the healing of the woman of faith is set within the story of the raising of Jairus' daughter. He was saving people from death as they were restored to wholeness of life in relationship to God, through faith.
So health and salvation go together. In the hymn we will sing in a minute:
Your arm O Lord in days of old
was strong to heal and save
Your touch brought life and health
O be our great deliverer still,
strong Lord of life and death;
restore and quicken, ....
The wholeness of life brought by faith in Jesus the Christ, restores people to God as they are healed. That is why such wholeness is closely related to the grace of forgiveness, as in the story of the paralysed man, and again in the case of the woman who was a notorious sinner who sat at his feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee, washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with hair, and anointing them with costly ointment, while they said that if he was a prophet he would know what sort of woman this is.
Even the word "peace", which he used both to that woman and to the one who touched his clothes, contains the idea of oneness: it can mean being one or at one with oneself; the basic Greek word for peace has the sense of things being joined together, as in reconciliation. So one word reinforces the other as he said, go in peace, and be healed.
What then do we say? Jesus saves? Jesus healed the sick? He is the prince of peace? Or as in the words of forgiveness we have used in the liturgy and the lesson of two weeks ago:
Here is the great work of salvation, healing and wholeness of the person and relationships, both in the earth and in heaven.
So may it be here and now, there and then. Amen.
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(Mark 5:34) He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
Mark 5:34: See word notes on 'well' and 'healed' which are both tr as 'whole' in the KJV. cf 'saved'
1 "WELL": 4982. sozo, sode'-zo; from a prim. sos (contr. for obsol. saos, "safe"); to save, i.e. deliver or protect (lit. or fig.):--heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole.
2 "HEALED": 5199. hugies, hoog-ee-ace'; from the base of G837; healthy, i.e. well (in body); fig. true (in doctrine):--sound, whole.
Note KJV "whole" as for "well" but different Greek
837. auxano, owx-an'-o; a prolonged form of a prim. verb; to grow ("wax"), i.e. enlarge (lit. or fig., act. or pass.):--grow (up), (give the) increase.
FAITH 4102. pistis, pis'-tis; from G3982; persuasion, i.e. credence; mor. conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), espec. reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstr. constancy in such profession; by extens. the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:--assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.
3982. peitho, pi'-tho; a prim. verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by anal. to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflex. or pass. to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):--agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.
PEACE 1515. eirene, i-ray'-nay; prob. from a prim. verb eiro (to join); peace (lit. or fig.); by impl. prosperity:--one, peace, quietness, rest, + set at one again.
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