The Untouchables – The Woman with a Hemorrhage

The Untouchables – The Woman with a Hemorrhage

The Untouchables – The Woman with a Hemorrhage.

“In the crowd that day was woman who had suffered horribly from continual bleeding for twelve years. She had endured a great deal under the care of various doctors, yet in spite of spending all she had on their treatments, she was not getting better, but worse. When she heard about Jesus’ healing power, she pushed through the crowd and came up from behind Him and touched His prayer shawl. For she kept saying to herself, ‘If only I could touch His prayer shawl, I know that I will be healed.’ As soon as her hand touched Jesus, her bleeding stopped! She knew it, for she could feel her body instantly being healed of her disease! (Mark 5:25-29).

Please read Mark 5:25-34. This healing story is told in three gospels: Matt. 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48. Mark’s version has the most information and background, so it’s most helpful to start with Mark 5.

There was a woman who had been suffering from the same ailment for twelve years… a continual bleeding, a menstrual disorder. Imagine the ongoing discomfort, weakness and public embarrassment. This illness would be extremely inconvenient and distressing to manage. According to Jewish law, this woman was ritually unclean (Lev. 15:19-28), which means she was “untouchable,” was excluded from social contact, was shunned by her community, and couldn’t worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. Also, if she happened to touch anybody, or anyone touched her, that person would be unclean as well. This woman went to many doctors for this hemorrhage, but she didn’t get any relief. She spent all her money on these doctors, and in fact her ailment was getting worse. So this unfortunate woman was in poverty as well as isolated and humiliated. The woman heard about Jesus in town, and thought that, if only she could just touch the hem of his outer garment, she would be healed. She was desperate. She would do whatever it took to touch His robe.

There was an old rabbinic tradition that when the Messiah comes, the tassels on His prayer shawl would have healing powers. This distressed woman may have been aware of that. There were many who believed this tradition at that time as the healing fame of Jesus grew. Matthew reports, “The people were quick to spread the news throughout the surrounding region that Jesus had come to them. So they brought Him all their sick, begging Him to let them touch the fringe of His robe. And everyone who touched it was instantly healed!” (Matthew 14:35-36). This tradition was probably based on the prophecy of Malachi 4:2, “For you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings.” The Hebrew word for “wings” here is the same word used in Numbers 15:37-41 when referring to the fringed corners of the prayers shawls of the Jewish men. These ritual fringes on the corners of the outer garment are called tzitzit.

When the woman drew near to Him, Jesus was actually on His way to heal the daughter of a Jewish leader named Jairus. Jesus and His disciples, and a huge, curious crowd, were all walking down the road on the way to Jairus’ house when the ailing woman stepped into the scene. Jesus never seems to be in a hurry, however. He doesn’t give the impression that He is being interrupted. He doesn’t seem to have an urgent agenda, and often lets random people determine His pace and direction. So here He is on the way to do one thing, and something unexpected happens, and He adapts to the change in plans and does another thing. In this case, Jesus is totally surrounded by a throng of people, pressed in on all sides. There was a lot of jostling in this boisterous crowd, and people were all jockeying for position near Jesus. They didn’t want to miss anything. Unsurprisingly, the disciples seemed frustrated by the overcrowding.

Fighting her way through this mob was the suffering woman, desperate for healing. Sure enough, she gets within an arm’s reach and touches the fringe of his outer prayer garment. She was convinced, because of her expectant faith in Jesus, that that’s all she needed to do. She believed by faith that Jesus was the sun of Righteousness from Malachi’s prophecy, and that He would have healing in his wings, His tassels on his garment. Immediately, she knew she was healed. Instantly, after twelve long years, the bleeding finally stopped. The Greek word here for healing is “sozo,” one of those classic Greek words that means more than one thing. Sozo could mean safe and sound, healed, delivered, made whole, rescued, restored, saved. Healed of her desperate situation, this woman was certainly everything implied by sozo. She was healed in every sense of that word.

As mentioned above, it is significant that the woman wanted to touch the fringe of His outer garment. All Jewish men wore an outer garment that was actually a prayer shawl called a tallit (tuh-leet). Most men wore an inner tallit as well, beneath their cloak. According to Mosaic law, men were to tie tassels to the hem of the shawl, attached with a blue cord. These tassels were intended to remind the Jewish believers to obey the commandments of the Lord instead of following their own desires (Numbers 15:37-41). It is that very fringe, those tassels, that the woman touched on Jesus’ shawl. The prophecy from Malachi certainly became true in Jesus’ case, since “prayer wings” did indeed have healing power that came from the Sun of Righteousness Himself.

Time and time again in the gospels Jesus has stopped in His tracks to minister a healing word or touch. In this case, He knew at once that His healing power was used. The word for power here is “dynamis.” Jesus offered spiritual dynamite for physical healing. Jesus sensed that divine energy had emanated from Him. So He turned around to find the person who had been healed. He asked the question, “Who touched my garment?” But most scholars believe He actually knew the answer to that question. He wanted to have a little conversation with this woman, so He wanted her to acknowledge herself to Him. He wanted to confirm the healing with loving words of affirmation. And He wanted to make sure she knew that it wasn’t a magical robe that healed her. It was her faith in Jesus that healed her.

The healed woman was at first frightened, afraid to identify herself. In her mind, she was perhaps healed without Jesus’ permission or intention. And she might be in trouble now, since she touched Jesus and He would be ritually unclean. Her impurity was taken away, but now was He impure instead of her? Jesus touched other untouchables throughout His ministry: lepers, prostitutes, dead people, certain Gentiles. Jesus managed all these untouchable situations with its ritual impurity without a worry. His purity and health overpowered the impurity, His spirit was perfectly clean and much more powerful than anything that was unclean. It turns out that Jesus had a contagious purity, He had a righteous virus that went inside every person and healed the sickness.

Despite the rather impersonal means of healing, Jesus was extremely personal when He addressed her. He used a term of endearment, a very intimate greeting to her… “Beloved daughter.” Her bleeding was certainly healed, but now so was her spirit, after living a spiritually disconnected and socially isolated life for so long. She had suffered a lack of attachment to God and other people. Her inner brokenness was now healed through the loving words of Jesus. She was personally embraced by the Son of God, the very Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. Maybe that was the biggest miracle of this whole encounter. She became a beloved daughter, accepted, and empowered to live freely a life of faith. She indeed, as Jesus told her, could now go in peace.