Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Miracle battery

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mk 5:24-34). 

i) This is an enigmatic passage. On the face of it, this might suggest that Jesus is a supercharged miracle battery. You only have to touch him, and there's an involuntary transfer of miraculous energy, like an electrical current. 

ii) One thing to keep in mind is that Mark uses "power" (dynamis) as a synonym for "miracle". So we could translate v30, "a miracle went out from him". It's not that he contains miraculous energy, but rather, he's a source of miracles. 

iii) In the OT, some objects are "sacred" objects. They've been consecrated for sacred use, and there's an automatic cause/effect relation if they are misused. An example is the ark of the covenant. It's that's mishandled, the result is fatal (2 Sam 6:6-10). It's not because there's anything naturally special about the ark of the covenant. It's just a gilded wooden box. But God arranged a cause/effect relation.

An analogy would be the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. God has assigned a particular result if someone ate the fruit. Another example is 2 Chron 26:16-21, where King Uzziah contracts a visible, conspicuous skin disease because he makes unauthorized use of sacred objects. 

It's based on the principle of ritual purity and ritual impurity, where a person becomes defiled by profaning a sacred object. The result is automatic.

iv) Apropos (iii), I think there's an element of that in the Markan account, which views Jesus as a sacred object (so to speak). Merely touching Jesus can produce an effect without his consciously willing that effect, like contact with sacred objects in the OT. 

v) But in the Markan, that's qualified in a couple of respects. Because Jesus is thronged by the crowd, many people are touching him, yet only she is healed. The differential factor is her faith. 

vi) In addition, she is ritually impure due to chronic bleeding. Normally, ritual impurity is contagious. Someone who's ritually impure transmits that on contact. 

But in the case of Jesus, the process is reversed. She doesn't contaminate Jesus by touching him; rather, he heals her by being touched by her. So that's in studied contrast to the OT. Rather than sinners desecrating Jesus by physical contact, it has the opposite effect: they are restored. 

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