In Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8 is the story of an unnamed woman who bled for twelve years.
Considering this fact alone, this woman’s story is tragic. According to Levitical law, because of her issue of blood, she was considered ceremonially unclean, and her activities were extremely restricted. Among other things, she could not enter the temple to worship, and she could not even touch another person, lest they become unclean as well.
According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, “An unclean person in general had to avoid that which was holy and take steps to return to a state of cleanness.”
The Scriptures say that the woman had indeed done everything she could to find a cure for her illness and become clean again. Imagine how difficult it must have been for her, during such a time, to isolate herself from her friends, family, and place of worship, unable to give or receive a tender touch for more than a decade.
And yet, it seemed that her struggle was to no avail. After twelve years of expense and effort, her physical, emotional, and financial resources were drained.
And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. – Mark 5:26
Thus, we meet this woman at the end of her rope—until she learned of Jesus and his miraculous acts of healing.
We often note—and justifiably so—the great faith of this woman, who believed that if she could just touch Jesus’ clothing, she would be healed.
When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. – Mark 5:27, 28
But there’s so much more to be seen through her thought process and actions. For example, she did not cry out to Jesus and draw attention to herself as did others wanting the Master’s healing touch. She remained silent.
She did not forge through the crowd, but allowed herself to be pulled along with it until she was behind Jesus. She still made no attempt to attract his attention. Then, lowering herself, she made sure to touch just a bit of his clothing, the bottom edge of his robe. She was humble.
Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. – Luke 8:44
I imagine she must have fretted about touching any part of Jesus, unclean as she was. Perhaps she had debated within herself if she should try to touch his hand; casting that aside, she could try to touch his feet. Deciding she must not touch him at all, she would touch his clothes instead.
Perhaps she hoped that by touching the already dusty hem of his garment with her fingertips alone, she would keep as much of her uncleanness to herself as possible.
No matter her thoughts at that time, we can see that she came to a point of such great faith that she knew what would happen before she approached Jesus at all.
I shall be made whole. – Mark 5:28b (emphasis mine)
Along with this woman’s great faith and humility, I see a daring sort of courage. Despite her great care to touch just Jesus’ hem, she also touched many other people as she was carried along by the throng around Jesus, and that action was contrary to all that she knew to be right according to the law. But her desperation and faith led to courage, and because of it, she was healed.
And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. – Mark 5:29
At this point, her story still could have been denied its happy ending. Yes, she was healed, but Jesus (of course) sensed the use of his power, and he also knew everything about this woman, including her unclean condition and unlawful actions.
But the merciful Master spoke to her as he does to all who come to him in faith, with empathy and compassion.
But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague. – Mark 5:33, 34
What inspires you about this story? What other Bible characters inspire you? I’d love to hear from you.