The Hemorrhaging Woman

Mark 5:21-43 (Fourth Sunday After Pentecost)

(Image: Holy Spirit Dance, Gwen Meharg, watercolor.)

When we read the story of Jesus healing the hemorrhaging woman (or a leper or a paralytic or the demon-possessed), it’s tempting to see only the private moment—a two-person encounter isolated from the larger social order.

But these meetings—while they are personal and often quite intimate—are also confrontations: they are conflicts between an old order and a new one; between a religious system rooted in purity codes and the fear of bodies (women’s especially) and an alternative social practice meant to signal God’s coming reign of wholeness and well-being.

The encounter between Jesus and the hemorrhaging woman is this kind of confrontation, this kind of conflict. First, the woman approaches Jesus—a social and religious taboo of the highest order. Not only will she render Jesus unclean by coming into contact with him, she will compromise the purity of the whole group. Read more