The Stolen Miracle Mark 5:24-34

A brief incident, sandwiched in the middle of a story of another of Jesus’ miracles (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:22-43) is unusual in that it tells of a stolen miracle. Unlike other miracles that Jesus freely gave away for the asking (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, Luke 8:42-48), it was stolen because the woman who stole it was forbidden to touch any man or any object or she would render it unclean. She was a social outcast. It is doubtful that she would appear in public and never in a crowd of men because even if she brushed by a man he would become unclean. Ritual cleanliness was extremely important in Judaism. So this woman could not come out in the open and ask Jesus for a miracle as did the lepers and blind man. (Leviticus 15:25-33) For a woman who was desperate, what were her options?

As the story is told, a woman had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and nothing the doctors tried, healed her. Since women were considered ritually unclean during their menses (niddah) and probably were not allowed to carry on their regular duties until after they had fulfilled the requirement of a ritual bath (mikvah) to restore them to a state of “being clean,” this woman  was effectively ostracized from the company of other women as well. Also, she was forbidden by law to have sexual relations with her husband during her menses so this hemorrhage had to have put a strain on her marital life. Not to mention the fact that without sex she could not have children which was a woman’s duty to her husband. This woman had lived in virtual isolation for twelve years.

Imagine what she must have felt about hearing about Jesus and his healing miracles. Might she have thought something like, “Do you think it might be possible that he could heal me? But how can I reach him to ask him? I can’t leave the house? I can’t go openly like anyone else and beg him to heal me. What can I do?” She had heard he had healed others so it was just possible he could heal her. But how to get him to heal her?

So she hatched a plan. If he ever came through her village she would disguise herself so no one would know who she was. She would sneak in and around the crowd, for she knew everywhere he went he drew crowds. She thought that if she could just touch some part of his clothing, the hem of his robe or perhaps his sandals … She did not dare touch any part of his body. But perhaps, just perhaps, anything that had touched him also had the power to heal. It was worth a try.

She believed that Jesus would heal her if he wanted to. Her faith in his healing abilities was strong. She also believed that anything he touched also had healing powers. So her faith in his ability to heal without knowing he was healing was also strong. But she also hoped with a strong hope, that Jesus would choose to heal her as he had others. He could do it, she knew that, but would he? She hoped so.

So she made her plans very carefully towards the day he might come to the village, or even just walk through the village on his way elsewhere. Which is what happened. One day Jesus and his disciples came through her village and he was surrounded by people clutching at him and clamoring after him. There was lots of noise and confusion. “Wonderful,” she thought “it’s now or never” and she ran to get her cloak to disguise herself.

Just as she thought, the crowd was so loud and so boisterous and so uncaring of anything except getting near enough to touch Jesus that she had little trouble, being a small woman, of weaving herself in and out of the people trying to reach Jesus. Finally, exhausted, she was near enough to touch the fringe of his garment. But just as she reached out she was bumped aside and almost trampled. She struggled to get back up and cover herself again and then desperately surged forward to try again and again. She finally got close enough to try again and did grab a tassel, then frightened at her own temerity let go. “What if he found out? Suppose he felt the “tug” – what would he do to her?” Such shame swept over her for even thinking she could impose on him so, she hung back and let the crowd swell around her.

But something happened. The crowd stopped moving. She heard Jesus call out, “Who touched me?” She tried to disappear, to bury herself in the road. She heard Jesus say, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” He was looking around for who had touched him. His disciples tried to reassure him and Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” Jesus persisted that he had been touched in a special way and kept looking through the crowd.

“When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. (Luke 8:47) The woman knew she had violated the most important laws of Jewry. She knew she had been a sneak. She knew she deserved punishment for her sins. She was desperately afraid and shamed before her townspeople. How much more humiliation could she take?

Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

There was to be no punishment. She had been healed. She was returned to society. She was whole again. Oh joy! Oh thank you Jesus! She had stolen her miracle of healing but Jesus said it was okay. He understood why she felt she had to steal. He understood why she had to come in secret. He forgave her and he had healed her. She could keep her stolen miracle.

She was a woman of great faith and great hope. She did what she felt she had to do to get Jesus’ attention. She violated Jewish law to do it but Jesus violated Jewish law on occasion too, when he thought the person was more important than the rule. There are always exceptions to every rule. In this case, since she had been healed of her hemorrhages, all the woman had to do was visit the ritual bath to be made clean again. Jesus had made her clean in body and soul. Now she could return to her proper job of being a Jewish wife. Her marriage was saved and she could return to society. Jesus had given her back her life.


Review of Stanley Corens book called How to Speak Dog

Dr. Stanley Coren has written a remarkable book on “Dogish” or the language of dogs.  (Stanley Coren, PhD, How to Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication. Simon and Schuster.2000.) This isn’t the first book he has written on dogs but it is the one all dog owners should read; especially dog owners who also live with cats. The sub-title, “Mastering the art of dog-human communication,” provides a further indication of the content. Learning “Dogish” is an art form as well as a skill that will help humans understand what a dog is saying whether the dog is a pet or a stranger.

As you might expect, the book covers dog vocalizations as well as body language, and explanations as to what they mean. Just as human body language conveys a message, we don’t always know what the message means unless we have been taught the meaning. When we see someone crying, how do we interpret this behavior? Is the person sad? Are they physically hurt? Have they been laughing too hard? Unless we receive further physical clues, or an explanation, we don’t know what the tears mean. We have the same problem with dogs. They can’t speak to us in words so we have to look carefully at what they are doing.

Dr. Coren begins with an explanation of canine evolution and how our domestic pets continue to signal the same kinds of information, in the same way, as their wolf ancestors. He differentiates between language, speech and talk and whether or not dogs have what we call “language.” He also gives a wonderful explanation of how dogs understand human speech and body language. (For anyone who has tried to train a dog using verbal language as well as body language, this chapter makes a lot of sense.)

Separate chapters are devoted to the messages conveyed by different parts of a dog’s body: the face, ears, eyes, tails, and total body. There are chapters on sex talk, scent talk, and a very important chapter on talking to cats. Each chapter clearly describes just what the dog is trying to convey using different parts of the body. Some body language is well known, such as a wagging tail or cringing, but others are frequently misinterpreted such as the baring of teeth.

Many people mistake cat language interpreting it in the same way they interpret dog messages. In fact dogs and cats frequently misinterpret each other’s signals. Where a wagging tail in a dog signifies happiness, a wagging tail in a cat signals “danger” or “watch out!” The pet owner who thinks their cat and dog are saying the same thing by a wagging tail can be in serious trouble.

An Appendix provides a very useful illustrated guide to Dogish that every dog owner should have.

A must-read early chapter, “A dog is listening,” discusses the way dogs hear and understand human talk. They learn, from constant repetition, what you mean by the different sounds you make. They learn which sound is their name, which means fun, and which means food. Like human babies they learn best when they have a kind and patient teacher rather than from harsh or punitive methods. Dogs respond best to a single word command that follows their name. Calling their name first gets their attention. The next word tells them what they are to do. Amazingly, dogs can learn a large number of words and some can recognize these words even when in a sentence. As Dr. Coren points out, many dogs can hear “walk” in the middle of a conversational sentence and head to the front door.

The next chapter discusses how dogs learn to read, understand and respond to human body language. Dogs learn to respond to human body language just as they learn to respond to the body language of other dogs. They learn the difference in our tone of voice, our posture, and our arm signals and so on. What is it that humans do that signals a threat to a dog? What is it that humans do that signals friendship and no threat? How we approach strange dogs, as well as our own, will make a significant difference in how they react to us.

Throughout the book, Dr. Coren cites the research on animal communication to help clarify language styles in different species. Our knowledge of the “languages” of animals has progressed way beyond the days when we believed that only humans had language and that is what differentiated humans from animals. Animals learn their own language in much the same way human babies learn theirs. The difference lies in the area of speech. Dr. Coren asks and answers the question: do animals have speech or do animals have language? This is a must-read book for people who want to communicate with their pet.