This is part 2 of a 4 part post in which I look at four women, desperate for different reasons, who encountered Jesus. In part 1 I highlighted the woman at the well. You can read that here.
From Mark 5:25-34
This is the story of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. The cause of the blood flow can only be speculated, i.e. menstruation, uterine tumors…we don’t know (although most agree it has to do with menstruation). What we do know is that it was an abnormal, chronic condition that brought her to desperation. To understand just how desperate, we need some background information.
She was a Jewish woman, so she would have been under the law of Moses. Leviticus 15:19-30 deemed her “unclean”. That means that everything and everyone she touched became ceremonially unclean. She would have been shunned by her community, including her family. It is very likely that this woman had not been touched in twelve years. If she had been married, most likely her husband would have divorced her, as any sexual relations would have been unclean. She would not have been allowed to share in the annual worship celebrations that were considered important in Judaism. She was not allowed to go into the temple courts, she could not light the candles for the Sabbath evening, nor could she participate in the Passover meal. It would have been as if she was non-existent in an existing world. She had every reason to be desperate.
And then she heard about Jesus, and her desperation drove her to do the unthinkable. She made her way through the crowd and touched the hem of His garment. Had He been a normal man, her touch would have made Him ceremonially unclean. And to compound it, as a woman she was not allowed to touch a man in public.
An unclean, desperate woman touched Jesus with faith that He could heal her, and the power of God was released.
It is here, in that moment of her touching Jesus that we learn something of the character of God. We learn it as much from how He did not respond, as from how He did respond.
He did not shame her for being unclean. He did not punish or even chastise her for breaking the law. He did not pull away from her. Instead, He called her “Daughter”. She is the only woman in scripture He addressed with that title, so, I have to wonder…why her? Could it be that this woman, untouched for so long, an outcast from her community of faith and her family, desperately needed to know she was still a “daughter of Abraham”?
An unclean outcast who touched Jesus. And in response, He publicly declared her to be clean, and called her Daughter.
I imagine this woman and her desperation. I would have been longing to be touched, to be accepted, to be healed. But having come to Jesus as an unclean woman myself, I know what it is be desperate to be clean.
While this woman lived under the law that said Jesus was untouchable, I lived under the lie that said He was untouchable. Because of the life I had lived, and was still living, I believed Jesus would have nothing to do with me. Coming to Jesus meant coming to “religion”, something I just wasn’t ready to do. Until desperation drove me to Him, and I learned the truth.