“Who touched me?” This question asked by Christ in Mark 5:30 indicates that someone had touched Jesus, and that Jesus expected that same someone to speak.
Of course, from our reading of the passage (Mark 5:24-34) we already know what had happened. It is to most of us a very familiar story. But if we are to appreciate its full significance we need to remember that when our Lord asked his question “Who touched my clothes?”, there was only one person in the crowd who knew either the meaning of the question or the answer to it.
It was a very penetrating question, dividing the crowd into two—the one and the rest. So does Christ go beneath the surface where men all look alike, and force them to take sides.
Firstly, the question singled out the individual. In the original Greek the question reads, “What one person touched me?”. The interrogative pronoun “who” is in the singular. For, though a crowd was pressing around him, only one who had touched Christ in the sense in which he meant. (Also, let us learn at once that no matter how big the crowd or the congregation, vital contact with Christ is a personal matter. Each must do it for himself, one by one.)
Second, the question exposed or showed up the rest of the crowd and the disciples. It put them all in the class of those who had not touched him. It indicated a fundamental difference between the one and the many. It made plain that someone had laid hold of an opportunity of which the rest were not conscious. Even our Lord’s disciples did not understand his question. By their comment they virtually said “Many have been touching you; in such a crowd they could not help it. What difference does it make anyway? So why ask ‘What one touched me?’” In other words they were spiritually blind. This, let us note, is a constant peril of the religiously privileged—to be so near, and yet so far; to think we know all, and yet to miss the real thing.
To return to the one who did touch Christ, we can learn from her how to approach him. She came to the place where Christ was not just out of curiosity or from superficial interest, but with deliberate purpose, saying to herself “If I may but touch his clothes, I shall be whole”. She was conscious of her need, and came as one confessing it. She was confident of Christ’s power, and came as one believing he could heal. She was concerned to use the present opportunity, and came as one determined to get his blessing here and now. And difficult and unsuitable as the circumstances seemed, she did it right there on the busy street amid the crowd. She has much to teach us about the way in which we establish vital contact with the present Saviour. God is still the rewarded or those who diligently seek him. Christ still gives to us according to our faith. It is still possible to reach out to him in life’s throng and press.
There is another side to this story. Christ’s words “Who touched me?” demanded that the person who had touched should tell—should openly and publicly say so. Some think the spiritual experience is not a think to be talked about. Here we can see plainly that confession was expected not by people but by Christ. He expected it before a crowd, in the open street, and from a woman.
When the woman spoke, when she told her story, when she showed herself healed and transformed, then everybody saw at once what Christ meant by his question. They were made to realise that right in their very midst something wonderful had happened. Such testimony is still needed. Note, too, that the woman demonstrated Christ’s power to save not so much by what she said, as by what she was. If explanation had been the best answer none could have given it better than the Son of God. But he himself was silent, and let the woman speak, because she provided not a theoretical explanation but a practical proof. Her qualification to testify was not her ability to speak but her experience of Christ.
She trembled to open her mouth in public. But knowing what Christ had done in her, and seeing that Christ himself expected her to speak, she could not keep silent. Christ still looks and men still wait for the testimony of those who have proved him and his power to save.
This woman who was healed did two things: first she reached out, then she told. These are the two great movements of the Christian life—coming to Christ with all our need to receive his life, and then going forth openly before men to make him known. First saving contact, then simple confession. This is the way for Christians to live day by day.
This article was first published in the Australian Church Record on 6 March 1958. In this series we hear reflections on Scripture from the Rev. Alan M Stibbs.