“Immediately Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. In fact, that’s often the case. And when it happens, we have to simply sit back and marvel at it. Trying to understand will just make our heads hurt. When it comes to the Scriptures, sometimes the things we find are too strange not to be true. This is especially the case when it comes to Jesus and the Gospels. Sometimes the stories the authors tell are so unexpected or seem so different from what we might expect that they have to be true. This is one of them.
I’ve got to be honest with you: I have been reading this passage for days, and I’m still not totally sure what to make of this part. I’ve been praying through it, reading about it in several different commentaries and study Bibles, and I still just don’t know. Oh sure, I can make guesses about it. The commentary authors I read certainly do. I could take an assumption and run with it just to have something to write, but the truth is that I just don’t know. Sometimes the best approach is to simply acknowledge we don’t know and live with the tension.
There are several things here that seem to defy clear explanation. I’m sure there’s some deeper reason for Peter’s making sure Mark included it, but I wonder if the real reason isn’t simply because it was so funny to him that he couldn’t not tell it. Indeed, as much as I wonder about this story, it’s just funny to me. That doesn’t change the fact that this story raises some questions I can’t answer.
For instance, exactly how much control did Jesus have over His healing abilities? My first instinct would be to say He had absolute control over them. But if that’s the case, how did this woman manage to be healed of this chronic illness that had been ravaging her body for twelve years simply by secretly touching His robe? By all four Gospel accounts this is the only time something like this happened, but that it happened even once is a big deal. Jesus may have pronounced her healed after she revealed herself to Him, but by her own accounting, she was healed on the touch.
My answer? Well, I want to say Jesus knew what was going on the whole time here, but then you read on and there’s no real indication anywhere that He knew who had touched Him. The commentaries I read all kind of gloss over this part. The authors all imply that Jesus really did know, but was playing dumb to go along with the situation. This was a divine appointment He knew He’d have, but He knew what was happening. I’m not at all convinced.
When Jesus stops the group and asks, “Who touched me,” there’s no indication in the text in any way, shape, or form that this was anything other than a genuine lack of knowledge on His part. He knew His healing powers had been engaged, but didn’t know who had caused that to happen. To argue anything else—like that He knew what was happening—is speculation rooted in assumptions about Jesus that are reasonably justified by the rest of the Gospel accounts, but not backed up by this story itself. Bottom line: we don’t know.
This, though, is where that humor I mentioned comes into play. Can you imagine this moment? Jesus stops amid a throng of people all pressing up against Him and asks, “Who touched me?” The disciples all look at Him and can’t help themselves from keeping the sarcasm from dripping from their response. “There’s a crowd of people all pressing up against us and you’re asking who touched you? Everyone touched you!” I suspect the group laughed for hours when they told and retold this story later. Peter probably had to stop to catch his breath from laughing so hard when relating it to Mark.
One more question: What did it feel like for Jesus when He healed someone? The thing that alerted Him to the woman’s touch was that He felt His power go out from Him. He felt her healing. What did that feel like? Was there a tingling sensation? Was it like water flowing? Did He feel the connection with her and her cells being knit properly back together? How did it feel? I’m afraid that’s a question whose answer we won’t have until we can ask Him in person.
So, what are we to make of all of this? Can we offer any conclusions at all? Or are we just left with questions? Well, to a certain extent, like I’ve already said, there really aren’t answers to these questions. They’re not here and we don’t find them anywhere else in the text. This part of the story creates a bit of tension that does not get resolved.
That being said, I think we can say something about Jesus here. It’s not something new or unique from the rest of the Gospels, but it is a good reminder of it all the same. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. These both existed in Him simultaneously. He was not half human and half divine, but all of both. God and man in the same body. In His divinity He could do all of the things God Himself could do. Because He was God Himself. In His humanity, though, He had all of the physical and even intellectual limitations we all do.
There’s more: In His humility He didn’t exploit His divine nature for His personal convenience. Ever. Think about all the times that would have made His life easier. This is certainly one. He could have used His God powers and known exactly who had touched Him. But He didn’t. He asked, much to the frustration and amusement of the disciples.
In Jesus’ humanity, He understands your experience with the world, whatever it happens to be, perfectly well. You don’t experience any circumstances with which He can’t relate. You have a Savior who understands you no matter what. In His divinity, though, He can help you in the midst of those circumstances no matter what they are. If He could command the wind and waves, He can handle your situation just fine. You have a Savior who can help you. As the song says, “what a friend we have in Jesus!” Is He your friend? He’d be glad to be if He’s not. So will you. Reach out to me and I’ll share with you how you can make that happen.