I recently preached on Mark 5, which is a stunning chapter encapsulating in miniature the cosmic goal of Christ’s work in history.
The last two episodes of Mark 5, Jesus healing a woman with a flow of blood and raising a little girl from the dead, are quite striking. I think that we often miss what is happening because we expect what happens to actually happen. In other words, because we are Christians, we expect Jesus to heal a desperate woman and we expect Him to raise the dead. I mean, what else could happen? It is Jesus after all.
This sort of thinking is fine as far is it goes, but what is missing from our minds is the four thousand year history of the people of God before Jesus came to earth. For example, having a flow of blood meant that you were ritually dead, unclean. You could not go to Temple, you could not celebrate the feast days such as Passover, everything you touched became unclean, and you lived this way until the issue of blood stopped and you went through purification. Now, for this lady, she had been bleeding for twelve years. For twelve years she had not gone to worship at the Temple, nor did she receive the sacrament of Passover, nor could she hug any of her family or friends because her uncleanness would spread to them. Leviticus 15:25-30.
Then we find out that there is a dead girl. Death also spreads. The spread of the uncleanness of death spreads not simply through physical contact, but also through proximity. If you were in the same room as a dead body, you too would be unclean, that is, ritually dead. Numbers 19:11-22.
This is what happens because of the curse upon human rebellion: everything dies. This is also what is so striking about Mark 5. When an unclean woman touches Jesus, everyone would expect Jesus to become unclean with her. But He doesn’t. Rather than the ritual death spreading to Jesus, true life flows out from Him. Everyone would expect that when Jesus went into the bedroom of the dead girl, He and His disciples would become ritually dead. Mark even goes so far to tell us that Jesus grabbed the little girl by her lifeless hand (Mark 5:41). Jesus stares the effects of the curse in the face and pours forth light and life.
Jesus restores and resurrects. He is the great High Priest of Holiness that has come to reverse the curse. Rather than death and uncleanness spreading to Jesus, life and restoration flow out from Jesus. Jesus is the reverse of Haggai 2:10-13. Jesus is the firstborn, the Captain, of the New Creation. He descends from His glories on high to the muck here below, and He glorifies it. He thrusts His hand into death and burst its bonds. He overcomes the fallout of Genesis 3 by being the New Adam we need. He comes that death might die. Jesus has not simply come to forgive men, but to make men new.