Humiliation. Isolation. Frustration. Depression. Despite all efforts, every day she saw proof that her curse lingered. The Bible says that she had “constant bleeding,” a reference to a persistent menstrual condition. The law was clear. A woman who was in this condition was considered unclean. That meant she could not worship or enter the synagogue or the Temple. She could not interact with others because if she touched them, they also would be unclean forcing them into a period of isolation as well.
We are told that “she suffered a great deal from doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better: In fact, she had gotten worse” (Mark 5:26). The prescriptions for this condition showed the utter futility of the cures offered by the medical profession of the day. The Talmud records that one suggested cure involved carrying the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in summer and in a cotton bag in winter. Another required the sufferer to carry a barleycorn that had been found in a female donkey’s dung. What non-Jewish physicians might have prescribed can only be imagined.
Jesus was already on a desperate mission when she decided to intercept Him. Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, fetched Jesus to heal his dying daughter. Jesus was on His way to the little girl’s bedside. His path to her was going to take Him within reach of this woman. Despite the requirement that she remain in seclusion, she saw her opportunity. Her plan was simple but risky. Convinced about Christ’s power to heal, she would reach out and touch the border of His prayer shawl. That would be enough, she thought. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Because her condition was well known people moved customarily moved away when they saw her. There would be outrage if they knew she was in the crowd, knew that she was making each one that bumped into her unclean, knew that she intended to make Jesus Himself unclean by her touch. This could backfire badly. So much could go wrong. But she only needed one thing to go right.
She folded herself into the crowd and worked her way closer, closer. Boldly she reached out her hand but not where He could see it. She stretched with the desperation of a drowning man reaching for a lifesaver. In an electric moment the Bible says, “Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition” (vs. 29).
The deed done, she was ready to slink away and enjoy her newfound freedom. But then, the crowd stopped. Jesus looked around, asked what seemed impossible to answer: “Who touched my robe?” (vs. 31). The disciples couldn’t believe the question. There were all sorts of people crowding around, touching Him accidentally or on purpose. Who touched You? Everyone!
But Jesus kept looking around. The woman realized she was discovered. The Bible says, “The frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of Him and told Him what she had done” (vs. 33). Expecting rebuke for the risk she caused others, for touching Him to take something from Him secretly, for shredding all etiquette, manners and customs of the day, she instead heard words of immeasurable kindness and comfort: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over” (vs. 30).
There are several beautiful lessons that we can learn from this story.
1) Our need is never an interruption to God. Although Jesus was on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter (which He did), He stopped and took time to not only heal but console this woman. He did not consider her need a waste of His time nor does He consider your need any less important.
2) We cannot seek Christ without His notice. The sincere whispered prayer of the seeker does not go unnoticed. Jeremiah 29:13 promises, “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.” Just as this woman discovered, we cannot reach out to touch Him without Him touching us in return.
3) Christ’s does not need props. The woman might have thought that the tassel healed her had Christ not stopped to talk to her. The Lord uses tools but the tools have no virtue in themselves. It is the power of God that delivers, not a tassel or tool or ceremony.
4) Only those who seek will find. The crowd was right there with Jesus but no one else was healed. Only the one who sought Him found what she needed. Standing among chickens doesn’t make us a rooster nor does sitting in church make us a child of God. Although we worship in groups, if we fail to seek Him and come before Him with our own personal needs, we will not find the blessing He intends for His own cherished child.
5) The Lord does not condemn us for being needy. This story represents the only instance when Jesus addressed someone as “daughter.” It was a word rich with tenderness and love. She saw need; He saw faith. She saw uncleanness; He saw wholeness. She brought her deficit; He replaced it with blessing. The Lord not only sees us for what we are but what He intends us to be.