The Three-Mile-Per-Hour God (Mark 5:21-43)January 26th, 2010
Christianity, when it is true to itself, proclaims the power, healing and transformation which is found in Jesus Christ. The moment that any Christian movement loses its focus on the person of Jesus Christ, it ceases to be fully, wholly Christian. It is the person of Jesus Christ which makes us the people of God.
This text in Mark, as much as any, helps us to see this point by showing us precisely who Jesus is. The text begins with a well known and respected synagogue ruler known as Jarius coming and requesting that Jesus lay hands on his twelve year old daughter who is gravely ill. For those of us who have children, we can identify with the desperation and anxiety which must have filled the heart of this man. This man was a ruler in the synagogue, so he had to be aware that he was risking his name and reputation by coming to make this request of Jesus.
On his way to the home of Jarius, Jesus got caught in the midst of a great crowd, pushing and shoving. In a crowd of this size, there must have been dozens of people who were suffering and in need of the touch of Jesus, but Mark highlights one woman of faith. This woman is in almost every respect the opposite of Jarius. He is an important official and he has a respected name and religious pedigree. We do not know the name of this woman; she has no status or title. All we know is that she had been suffering from a hemorrhage of blood for the last twelve years. This meant that, as a perpetually unclean woman, she would not be granted access to the Temple. She could not engage in worship. She could not speak with a priest. She could not offer the appropriate sacrifices. In short, she was effectively cut off from God in any way that could possibly be understood in the world of first century Judaism. Despite her great need, she had no access to God, temple, priest or healing.
But, as we discovered in chapter four of our study, the Lord Jesus Christ is the New Temple. Everything in the Jewish system is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the Temple. He fulfills the priesthood. He is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the Final Sacrifice. Jesus fulfills everything that was held sacred by the Old Covenant: the Law, the Priesthood, the sacrificial system, the Temple – all of it was being fulfilled in Jesus. Though this woman was shut out and couldn’t go to the Temple, in Jesus Christ the Temple was coming to her!!
This afflicted woman saw that Jesus was passing by, and she decided to risk it and reach out and touch the hem of his garment. She knew that the Law forbade her from interacting with, or touching, a ritually clean Jew. But, she thought, if I can touch the hem of his garment, I just might be healed. Remember, the Jewish view of holiness was that if someone unclean touched something or someone clean, it made the clean thing or person unclean. It never happened in reverse. When anything unclean touches something clean, that clean thing becomes unclean, never the other way around. In this interaction, however, something different is happening, something we saw earlier when Jesus encountered the leper. When this unclean woman touches Jesus, she becomes clean! Just as sickness fled from Jesus’ life, so uncleanliness flees from His purity. The woman touches just the hem of His robe, and cleanliness floods through her body and heals her.
So, there are two people in this passage who are reaching out to Jesus in faith: a well known, named, and respected synagogue ruler named Jarius, and an unknown and unnamed woman who was ritually unclean and banned from the Temple. This woman risked her dignity and the anonymity of her suffering by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. To the amazement of the disciples, Jesus instantly stops and asks, “Who touched me?” The disciples are aghast at this question. “Lord, you see the crowd pressing against you and yet you ask, who touched me?” You see, for most of us life is just a bunch of accidental contacts. We push and shove our way through life, but Jesus was the most sensitive man who ever lived. He knew when someone reached out in faith to touch him.
The disciples had a singular view of the mission of Jesus: Get to Jarius’ house. They didn’t want any interruptions. However, Jesus was a man who never minded being interrupted. He did not run to Jairus’ house. He wasn’t in a big hurry. He continued walking. There is a book by a Latin American Christian entitled, “The Three Mile Per Hour God.” The thrust of the book is that the reason most of us miss the Lord in our daily lives is that we are running and dashing through life while God is moving at three miles per hour, which is the pace of walking. We are commanded in Scripture to “walk” with God. Jesus walked through the world. It is amazing to realize that Jesus accomplished the redemption of the entire world at three miles per hour. Jesus said to the woman, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering!” By this time, Jairus’ daughter was already dead. About the time this woman was receiving new life, the 12-year old girl was losing her battle. But Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Even death itself flees from His life. He took the dead girl by the hand, and the text retains the very language of Jesus as He spoke to her in Aramaic: “Talitha Koum” which means, “Little girl, get up.” Immediately death fled from her and, like the woman with the hemorrhage of blood, life fled into her.
Make a point of slowing your pace down so you can be sensitive to the pain of those around you. You will find that great things can be accomplished at three miles per hour! The world is full of people who feel shut out from the presence of God. They feel they have no access to healing, hope or salvation. If we slow down enough to allow them to touch us, we will find that Christ will still extend his healing power and gracious salvation through us to those in need.
Please fill out the form below if you would like to provide feedback to Dr. Tennent concerning this blog entry.