Jesus’ care for the lonely
As I read the story (in Mark 5:21-43) of Jesus’ healing of a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, I am struck by the realization of how deeply Jesus cares for the pain of lonely and ostracized persons.
According to religious law, this woman was unclean, and all who came in contact with her were made unclean. The Law required, “Any bed she lies on, while her discharge continues, will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches these will be unclean, he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening.” (Leviticus 15:25-27) Thus she was left in a rather miserable predicament. Everything and everyone she touched was made unclean. So who would want to have anything to do with her? She was absolutely cut off from public worship of God, and virtually cut off from fellowship with other people. To take it a step further, tradition of the time blamed such bleeding on immorality, and required a husband to divorce his bleeding wife! This woman was well experienced with rejection and loneliness and heartache!
In Dry, Augusten Burroughs writes, “Why am I so anxious? And then it hits me. I’m not anxious, I’m lonely. And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs. And it scares the s__t out of me to be so lonely because it seems catastrophic—seeing the car just as it hits you.” That was the life of the woman Jesus met in Mark 5.
In Fully Alive, Larry Crabb adds, “Because we were wired to breathe the life-giving air of community, we cannot endure the thought of isolation. We fear aloneness—life without connection, achievement without companionship, existence without friendship, forever wandering in lonely despair. Loneliness is a taste of hell.” That was this woman’s life.
According to the Jewish law, this woman should not have been in a public setting, and she should never have reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, yet she is desperate enough to hope that the touch of Jesus’ clothing will heal her.
Sure enough, according to Mark 5:29, as soon as she touched Him she was healed!
It’s what Jesus did after she was healed, though, that amazes me the most. It’s what Jesus did after she was healed that shows me the depth of His care for the pain she had experienced for so many years. Though a synagogue ruler named Jairus is tugging on Jesus sleeve, trying to get Jesus to hurry to his home where his own young daughter is dying, Jesus stops there to take time with the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Jesus took the time with this woman because she mattered as much to Him as Jairus’ daughter meant to Jairus. Indeed, when Jesus speaks to this woman, He calls her “Daughter.” That’s the kind of love Jesus had for her. She was as precious a daughter to Jesus as Jairus’ daughter was to Jairus! So Jesus took time to connect personally with a woman who had been ostracized and shamed for 12 years, because He cared as much about the healing of her broken heart as He did for the healing of her body.
What strikes me is that Jesus doesn’t just love the world as some mass unit; He loves the broken-hearted individual who has struggled through the pain of loneliness. The one who may have been rejected by others will find a friend in Jesus.