An Empty Well

By James Cornwell

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


The woman with the incurable hemorrhage convinced herself that if she could just touch the hem of his garment, she would be healed. After the power went out of him to heal her, Jesus said, “Who touched my garments?” The disciples clearly found this funny, since a great mass of people crowded around him and pressed against him. The answer was obvious to them: “Several people touched your garments.”

And yet, the evangelist focuses on this one woman. Surely others in the crowd pressing against Jesus wanted something as well. What was so special about her?

The text notes that she had suffered her bleeding for 12 years, sought the help of several doctors, and spent all that she had on medical care. In short, she had been beaten down for 12 long years of medical professionals at a loss, of (we might imagine) “respectable” doctors telling her they can’t find anything wrong, quacks offering the latest snake oil, and “spiritual healers” with incantations, potions, spells, anything to make the bleeding stop. She had no money left; she was completely beyond all hope.

And yet, she believed Jesus could heal her. She believed it so strongly that she said so aloud for others to hear. For 12 long years she had emptied out her well until there was nothing but dry rock left, but this dry rock, it turns out, was the rock of faith, and it is in this state of desperation that we truly touch Jesus. Therefore, when she touched his garment, Jesus’ power filled that well to overflowing.

God has equipped our age with powers of health and healing that prior ages can scarcely imagine, but even our powers have their limit. When your well is emptied out, when your reserves are exhausted, and inside you are only arid rock, do you reach out in faith for the springs of Christ’s love, or turn inward in exhausted despair?

James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their seven children.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Kitale – The Anglican Church of Kenya
Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta, Ga.


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