Have you ever been in a worship service or at a conference, looked around and decided everyone in the room was having a wonderful spiritual experience except you? People are getting blessed and healed all around you it seems, and there you are, feeling alone, empty, uninspired, passed over.
I have experienced that feeling. It is painful. Sometimes we just don’t know how to connect to the source.
But we must never believe that we are forsaken. He doesn’t change, and he doesn’t forsake. Sometimes we’re just hindered for some reason from experiencing his presence or receiving his blessing.
I have found comfort studying the stories recorded in the early Chapters of the Gospel of Mark. These stories prove to me that in the midst of the maddening crowd, Jesus sees the individual heart, and he responds to individual need when we approach him in desperate faith.
These chapters contain constant reference to crowds. Jesus, at this point in his ministry, had become quite famous in Israel and drew large crowds wherever he went. This made it much harder for him logistically to move around and get his Father’s work done.
Until I got this insight, I never understood why Jesus so often told people he’d healed or delivered from demonic control to keep the miracle quiet. Wouldn’t you think he’d want them to broadcast it far and wide? After all, miracles are pretty good for publicity when you have a message you want to spread, as Jesus certainly did.
But Jesus understood that all things were happening in God’s time, and he was concerned with always being perfectly in step with the Father’s will. Talking too much at the wrong time would only impede his progress in the long run.
On one of these very crowded occasions, Jesus was walking through a town in the region of the Galilee, “and all the people followed, crowding around him” (Mark 5:24). We are told that a nameless woman pressed through the crowd to come closer to Jesus. She had been suffering for years with constant bleeding. Many doctors had drained her resources dry without helping her. Endometriosis? Cancer? We don’t know, and neither did she. No one could give her a diagnosis or a cure for 12 years!
If you’ve ever read Leviticus, you’ll know that there are lots of laws and instructions about dealing with bodily discharges, including blood. They automatically rendered a man or woman ceremonially unclean. Women were isolated in quarantine during their monthly periods, unable to fellowship with others for a full seven days. But, the law continues,
“When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period” (Lev. 15:25).
Imagine the loneliness and pain of this woman! She had been labeled unclean for a full twelve years, excluded, an outcast from her community, because anyone who touched her would become unclean also.
As this stricken, unfortunate woman approached the Savior, the narrator takes us inside her mind, where she believes, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed” (v.28).
We don’t know how she has come to believe this so strongly, but she does. And she touches that robe. And she receives her healing instantly!
Her faith was rewarded, and Jesus knew it! He hadn’t intentioned a healing at that moment. He didn’t even know who had received it or what had happened. He just knew that something had flowed out from him to an individual in that crowd, and he needed to connect with that individual.
He asks his close disciples and they laughed at the idea of figuring it out. That tells us just how tightly packed the crowd was.
I must directly quote this part, so perfectly stunning it is:
“Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’ (Mk. 5:33-34).
With all of those people, she pressed through and got the healing she had needed for so long, and even more. She also received Jesus’ blessing and his public declaration of her new freedom. She needed no longer feel unclean, ashamed, or unworthy to take her place in the family of Israel.
Scripture comes to life so poignantly here, doesn’t it? It helps me to trust that whatever I may be feeling, or whatever persistent issue has seemed resistant to prayer, Jesus knows me. When I approach in my brokenness and need, his virtue and healing power will extend itself to me.
Jesus has compassion on crowds. But Jesus extends himself in extraordinary ways to individuals too. When we draw near in faith, he responds with supernatural mercy and favor.