One of the greatest social problems facing the nation today is the challenge posed by rising health care costs. As health care costs increase, the number of people who are able to afford insurance coverage decreases. This combination of economic factors is a recipe for anxiety. Imagine, then, what it must have been like in Jesus’ day when there was no insurance, and the practice of medicine was more superstition than science.
The woman in today’s reading who interrupted Jesus’ conversation with Jairus the synagogue ruler is a good example. Her plight was social as well as physical. The nature of her condition would have meant that anyone who came in contact with her became ceremonially unclean according to the Law of Moses. This woman was not only troubled by a physical affliction, she had suffered at the hands of the doctors to whom she turned for relief. In the process she watched her financial resources shrink as her condition grew worse.
The medical profession in Jesus’ day did not enjoy a good reputation. It was listed as one of the “despised trades” in the collection of Jewish writings known as the Talmud. In fact, physicians are criticized for being more interested in profit than in the health of their patients. A popular saying declared that even the best doctor was destined for hell.
Disappointment and desperation prompted this woman to seek help from Jesus in secret. The measure of her faith is signaled by her certainty that she would be healed, if she could “just touch his clothes” (v. 28). Her attempt to steal away unnoticed through the crowd after being healed was thwarted when Jesus asked who had just touched Him. Although the request of Jairus was an urgent one, Jesus stopped the procession until she came forward and admitted what she had done.
The rabbis condemned the physicians of their day because they favored the rich and powerful. Jesus made Jairus, a man of influence, wait while He pronounced a blessing of peace upon this despised and insignificant woman. Not only did He provide her with the cure they could not, He showed her a compassion they lacked.