A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
This story in Luke’s gospel is a story within a story. Jesus was on his way to visit the house of Jairus because Jairus’ daughter, aged 12, was dying. On the way, a woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years, touched his cloak, and was instantly healed. Jesus stopped in his tracks and asked who’d touched him. The woman was too scared to come forward, but knowing she was going to be found out, eventually admitted that it was her. Jesus then spoke to her the comforting and reassuring words, “Daughter, go in peace, your faith has made you well.”
Before we go on, it’s probably worth noting that Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old and that the woman had been bleeding for 12 years. It seems that Luke includes this specific detail for a reason. For example, Jesus chose 12 disciples because there were 12 tribes of Israel. We know that there’s often other symbolism behind the miracles of Jesus – that these miracles are a sign of something bigger. In this case, I wonder if the 12 years signifies God’s healing of the 12 tribes of Israel – the whole Jewish nation? Anyway, back to the story.
Like me, you might be wondering why the woman was afraid to come forward. You see, she’d committed a religious crime. In a culture before disinfectants and soap were invented, there were a whole heap of purity laws that helped maintain public health. Touching a corpse or someone with internal bleeding made you ‘unclean’. So, when this woman touched Jesus, she was, according to the law, making Jesus unclean. The poor woman was anxious and worried that she’d be told off for what she’d done. This made Jesus’ words to her even more powerful. He stopped and insisted that she came forward, not to berate her but to look into her eyes, reassure her and show her that she was loved. Jesus had, once again, crossed social and religious boundaries to help transform a life.
Like the woman in the story, some people, despite being desperate for a touch from God, don’t feel worthy to approach God directly. Some feel that they need to be clean before they can approach God, that somehow God won’t accept them until they get their act together. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is the one who makes us clean!
Our culture is different to that of the woman that approached Jesus. Today, our bodies don’t make us ‘unclean’, but you’ll probably still be in a place of uncleanliness. I don’t mean that you won’t have washed, although that might also be true. I mean you’ll have stuffed up or messed up. You’ll have thought, said or done things that make you ‘unclean’. No, you’re not worthy to come to God and you never will be. That’s why Jesus came. But turn to him you must, and when you do, you’ll find him compassionate and loving. He’ll want to look into your eyes, reassure you, and show you that you are loved.
Today, spend a moment trusting in God and welcoming his presence in your life. Let him in.
You know me inside out
and you know me better than I know myself.
Forgive my mess ups and the times I’ve turned away from you.
I want you to be at the centre of my life
and so I reach out to you.
This day and for ever.
Why was it important for the woman to know that it was her faith that’d made her well?