But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth. Mark 5:33 NASB
Fearing and trembling – What is the relationship between sin and healing? That question plays a significant role in the gospel accounts. The disciples voice their opinion (John 9). The religious leaders have their ideas (Luke 13). Even the common people seem to believe that the miracle of physical healing requires spiritual purity. If your sins haven’t been forgiven, God won’t take care of the rest of you. This ancient connection between righteousness and physical health continues to exert theological influence today. When it comes to healing, we are more likely to first ask about sin than we are to ask about blindness, bent spines or bleeding.
But the gospels give us a different perspective. It is rarely the case that forgiveness precedes physical healing. In fact, in most stories the idea of forgiveness of sins isn’t even mentioned. The story of the woman who was hemorrhaging for twelve years is a good example. She is healed without even the conscious awareness of Yeshua. Quite clearly, forgiveness plays no role in this miracle. Perhaps that’s why she comes in fear and trembling when her action is discovered. She is afraid that what she has done and the results of her action will be erased, or worse, condemned.
The Greek text uses the words phobeo (to fear) and tremo (to tremble). The first verb, phobeo, carries the sense of fleeing. It is a verb about running away scared to death. TDNT points out that the use of this word always places a human being in an encounter with some force, often a force that cannot be controlled. The Hebrew equivalent is almost always yare, which as we know, has five different senses. This woman is not just scared. She (of all the people in the crowd) knows without doubt that she is confronted with a power beyond her understanding. And she is filled with angst.
The second verb (tremo) adds another component to her emotions – dread. Here the Hebrew is probably hared, a verb which means “to shake,” usually with emotion in the face of unusual circumstances (cf. TWOT #735a). This woman’s physical body, now healed of its impairment, quivers in fright. She can’t get away. She can’t hide. She anticipates the worst. But nothing in the text suggests that she fears because of sin. In fact, just the opposite seems to be the case. She fears because God has blessed her and she doesn’t know what the consequences of that blessing will be.
Yeshua confirms her action calling it a sign of great faith. He never asks about her spiritual condition. He doesn’t ask if she has been forgiven. He doesn’t mention a single word about sin. In His typical manner, He acknowledges faith, not forgiveness.
Perhaps reflection on Yeshua’s approach to healing helps us see that sin isn’t always the issue when it comes to disease or deformity. Sin can cause these problems, but it doesn’t necessarily cause these problems. Sometimes there are other purposes. Perhaps our tendency to connect all things spiritual with sin and forgiveness needs to be revised. Just ask this woman or the man born blind. God’s grace sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Perhaps the real issue is compassion without strings attached.
Topical Index: sin, healing, compassion, Mark 5:33, fear, trembling, phobeo, tremo