Unnamed Heroines of Scripture: The Mark 5 Woman

Does the Proverbs 31 woman intimidate you? Her profile has been known to make some women feel inadequate (and to ratchet up some men’s expectations). Dear sister, if you fail to start your workday before dawn, buy fields before breakfast, and laugh in the face of danger, perhaps you could consider another woman in Scripture. We will call her “The Mark Five Woman.”

Her Desperate Need

Her profile starts with her desperate need. In the Greek, Mark stacks participles one on top of another to describe its extent in towering proportions. She has “a condition.” It’s awkward and embarrassing, depriving and defiling. And ongoing – a blood discharge that has afflicted her for 12 years. This is not some periodic inconvenience, but a health problem that has taken over her life, socially alienating her from all human relationships, including the most intimate. No wonder she consulted every doctor in the region and bravely endured the painful treatments they prescribed. But 12 years later her condition hasn’t left – only her money has. Now, as she approaches the Great Physician, she approaches Him with nothing – nothing but need.[1] You could do that surely? When we come to Christ with nothing, we come with the only thing He needs: our weakness makes perfect His strength (2Co 12:9). As Richard Sibbes put it, “We cannot please Christ better than … by … taking part of his rich provision. It is an honor to his bounty to fall to.”[2]

Her Selfish Faith

“Yes, I can be like the Mark Five Woman as to her neediness,” you say. “But what strong faith she showed.” So she did. Christ Himself will comment on her faith, and that in stark contrast to that of His disciples (4:40). But what if her faith was a touch selfish? You and I can exercise selfish faith, can’t we?

Watch her. She knows her ritual impurity is contagious. Everyone she touches will become unclean until evening. Unlike Jairus, therefore, she has to approach Christ from behind. But she’s not alone, for a great crowd is thronging Christ. She knows she has no business being there. She should be spatial distancing. But her need is desperate and her faith is certain: This man can heal me; never mind the others, never mind the Healer Himself, nor the little dying girl. I’m going to get healed, and I’m going to get healed now.

The glancing touches along the way were incidental. The furtive touch of Christ’s garment, deliberate. And in all of them she thought of no one but herself.

Like me, you may not have much in the way of great faith, but you’ve managed to show selfish faith. That day you trusted Christ, you were just thinking of your own salvation. And even now that you are saved, the needs of the children (for example) can sometimes wait while you go get a touch of Christ.

Her Trembling Testimony

“She felt in her body that she was healed” (5:29).[3] Faith’s expectations were met. The crowd had provided her cover, and she and she alone had felt that touch. But suddenly Christ turned around. “Who touched my garments?” he asked (5:30). Peter and the disciples began to berate the Lord, perhaps to the woman’s temporary relief. To them, the question seemed nonsensical. Everyone was touching Christ! But the Lord persisted, searching each quiet face until “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth” (5:33). She hadn’t wanted to. She had tried to avoid it. And when she did do it, it was with fear and trembling. But by the Lord’s grace, the whole truth came tumbling out.

Some of us aren’t very bold evangelists. When an opportunity comes, we try to hide too. Let’s learn to pray: “Lord, don’t let me get away with it. Make me have to say it, the whole truth, even with a shaky voice.”

A Woman of the Word

The Lord is so gracious! Out of the abundance of His gentle heart His mouth speaks: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (5:34). His determination to find who touched Him was not to reprimand her but to reassure her! His words reinstate her into the community and establish her in His. “Daughter,” he calls her. Jairus wasn’t the only man with a daughter to be healed.

And like all Christ’s true spiritual family, the Mark Five Woman becomes a woman of the Word. She was saved by the Word (her faith came by hearing the reports about Jesus, verse 27), and was assured by the Word (her assurance rested not only on the inward experience of her healing but also on the objective Word of Christ). And you will be a Mark Five Woman, not by posting your picture-perfect devotions on Instagram, but by daily rehearsing Christ’s words to you, “I am His, and He is mine.” No matter how short-squeezed your prayer time is, hear His words as you get up, “Go in peace.”

A Teacher of Teachers

Mark has a penchant for story sandwiches where one story delays the ending of another. What flavor is he wanting this healing story to add to the Jairus story? The connections are too many to cover at the end of this article, but you can trace for yourself how the theme of faith and fear keeps this “sandwich” (and the whole section of Mark 4:35 to 6:6) together. Chew on it. Here’s just a taste.

When Jesus turns to the now-bereaved Jairus and tells him to believe and not fear, He’s saying: “Believe in Me, just like the Mark Five Woman did.” Her “selfish” faith may have made the Doctor late, but if Jairus will listen to her trembling testimony and imitate her faith, it will not be too late, even though his daughter is dead. Yes, Jairus now has nothing too. But his daughter will become a woman of the Word: “Little lady,” she’ll hear,[4] “I say to you, arise.”

[1] Compare Pro 31:20.

[2] Quoted by Dane Ortlund in his book, Gentle and Lowly.

[3] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV.

[4] James Edwards’ translation. I’m indebted to Edwards for this last point.