We don’t even know her name. Her story is told in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8. We know her only as the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus is in the midst of a crowd. With all these people pressing in around Jesus, he suddenly stops and asks, “Who touched me? I felt the power leave me.” His disciples are incredulous. How could he know if just one person touched him?
I often imagine our modern-day celebrities in large crowds of fans pressing in on them. Would any one of them be aware of just one person touching them? No, but this was Jesus, and he felt the power leave him. Jesus knew. He started scanning the crowd and asked again who had touched him.
Do you think she was afraid to fess up? I think she was. She could be stoned to death for daring to touch him in her condition. Seriously.
As women, we understand menstrual issues and how debilitating they can be, but in Jesus’s time, it was far worse. In Deuteronomy 15, the Law stated that when a woman was menstruating, anything she sat or laid on would be considered unclean. Anyone who touched a chair or couch she had used was regarded as unclean and must wash themselves and their clothes and still be considered unclean until evening. Her husband was not to have relations with her or even share her bed. She slept alone; as long as she had any discharge, she was considered unclean.
Even after the discharge stopped, she was to wait seven days and, on the eighth day, bring to the priest two doves to be sacrificed to make atonement for the time she was unclean.
Just the word “unclean” brings to my mind the fate of a leper who was to be separated from all society and was commanded to cry out to anyone he met on the road, “Unclean, unclean!” as a warning to stay away.
The woman with the issue of blood would have spent twelve years unable to be held by her husband, forbidden even to touch his clothes or sit beside him. She could not prepare his meals or touch anything he might touch. She lived her life isolated, a lonely outcast, a pariah, on top of suffering greatly from the physical discomforts of her ailment.
If that were not enough, Mark 5:26 tells us she had spent all she had on many doctors, but her condition only worsened.
There are artists’ depictions of her crawling on the ground to reach out and touch the hem of his robe. In truth, it was not his robe or the bottom of his cloak she reached out to touch. It was the fringe on his prayer shawl.
Because we no longer wear prayer shawls, we have lost some of the powers associated with the prayer shawl. A prayer shawl was, and still is, worn every day by devout Hebrew men. Jesus wore a prayer shawl every day, as did his disciples.
Her actions actually make more sense if we know that she was reaching to touch the tassel on his prayer shawl. Verses in Numbers and Malachi illustrate the belief that there was healing power in the fringe, the tzitzit, of the prayer shawl. First, in Numbers they are instructed to put tassels, tzitzit, in the corners of their prayer shawls.
38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.Numbers 15:38 NKJV
Then we go to Malachi. Wings is the key word here.
But to you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.Malachi 4:2 NKJV
The same Hebrew word used for corners in the Numbers verse is used again in Malachi, but interpreted as wings. Now consider the imagery of these verses if wings refers to the corners of his prayer shawl.
Psalm 17:8 NIV Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings
Psalm 36:7 NIV How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 91:4 NIV He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Our modern translations might give us the impression of a baby bird under its mother’s wings, but for a Jewish reader, the image is of the prayer shawl on his shoulders, his arms spread wide to enfold us in his embrace, to wrap his prayer shawl around us, in the shelter of his wings.
This woman was standing on Malachi 4:2. She believed Jesus was the Sun of Righteousness referred to in Malachi; the Messiah, and there would be healing in his wings, in the corners, the fringe, of his prayer shawl.
She knew that touching his prayer shawl in her present condition would have made him ceremonially unclean. But this was Jesus. She recognized that he could not be made unclean because he was the Messiah, the son of God. This was the faith that saved her.
Jesus said to her in Luke 8:48 Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.
It wasn’t her faith in the prayer shawl that healed her. It was her recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of Malachi 4:2
She was redeemed from all that had made her unclean. The atonement was complete. Jesus made clear that she was now part of the family of God. She could return to her family, her home, and begin her life anew. She is symbolic of all sinners who have suffered loneliness, disease, isolation, and separation.
There was a day when I reached out to touch the hem of his garment, when I repented of all my failures, and begged God to heal all my wounds. Like her, I wasn’t sure I dared believe the promises of the people who were guiding me to that decision.
I thought I was unclean, not physically, but morally and spiritually. Like her, my bleeding was in secret, unseen. It was the bleeding of my sorrowful and guilty heart.
I wanted to be loved, accepted, received into a family and a society I thought had no use for me. I looked to Jesus, his promises, and his sacrifice on the cross to make that happen. And he did.
Suppose you have never given Jesus the opportunity to forgive you and heal all your wounds. In that case, you are as the woman with the issue of blood, and you too can be cleansed and made whole by the simple act of acknowledging the Messiah, Jesus, the one who came to take away the sins of the world.
Romans 10:10 tells us that if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved from hell and the burdens of our sins.
This is how we reach out and touch the hem of his garment today. This is how we are saved from our old lives and released to live a new life in Christ.
Now, imagine if this woman went home and continued to live in isolation. Why would she? She was healed. She had received the healing power of the Messiah in her body and the sweet approval of God when he called her daughter.
But we so often do just that. We keep the old labels the Self Help industry has given us.
We fall back into a victim mentality and believe we are still wounded and in desperate need of healing. We don’t fully acknowledge that we have already been healed and made whole.
We just have to receive it, believe it,
live like it, and act like it.
This woman would not want to dwell on her past or be ashamed of it or continue to claim it. She would want to tell everyone what Jesus did for her. She was no longer unclean. She was no longer that pariah in her home and in her society. She would want to dance in the streets, hug her loved ones, return to her husband’s embrace, and tell all her neighbors what Jesus had done for her.
Whatever was wrong about your life before Jesus is a done deal. You are forgiven, healed, and made whole. The power that he said had left him became part of her and a part of you. The Holy Spirit remains in you to give you the power to live a new life. Live the new life God decreed for you when you reached out and touched the hem of his robe.
He said it to her and he says it to you now. No turning back. Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.
Why Doesn’t God Just Heal Me
If you like what you’ve seen here, please consider picking up a copy of my book
Why Doesn’t God Just Heal Me – available on Amazon.com
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Having endured an undiagnosed illness for thirty years, I prayed daily for healing and diligently searched the Bible to answer the questions we all ask when faith does not seem to be enough.
With a comprehensive and balanced application of scripture, I address the topic of healing and answer the questions that test our faith.