It was another Sunday when I started thinking up reasons not to go to church ... too much school work to get done, the yard needed mowing, other chores that needed to be taken care of before the start of another work week. But, as always, I was so grateful I went. There was a powerful lesson for me -- that of the woman who suffered for twelve years from bleeding.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.In those days, a woman with such a bleeding disorder, probably caused by a hormonal imbalance or a common uterine disorder that nowadays is easily cured, would have been unclean -- an "untouchable" who was a cast-off from society. People would not be allowed to touch her. Imagine: a life with no human physical contact. Unclean.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
But, let us be clear about the meaning of "unclean" -- translated from the Hebrew "tumAH." It does not mean evil. Here's how The Jerusalem Perspective explains it:
The Hebrew expressions tohoRAH (cleanness, purity) and tumAH (uncleanness, impurity) are technical terms that have no positive or negative connotations. Scripturally, one is either in a state of purity, or not in a state of purity. Uncleanness is a human phenomenon, almost commonplace, and one must view the contrast between clean and unclean as a contrast between that which is holy and that which is not (Lev. 11:47), between that which is divine and that which is human. Ritual cleanness and uncleanness should not be thought of as a contrast between good and evil.So, imagine being this poor woman, unclean for twelve years -- i.e. no physical contact. No hugs. No kisses. No holding of your hand. No pats on the shoulder. For fear the person would be made unclean by the woman's disorder.
"If I touch his clothes, I will be healed", thought the woman. Undoubtedly, the common verse from the Hebrew scriptures must have propelled her forward: "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall." (Malachi 4:2) Here's where the Old Testament interweaves so beautifully with the New when one looks at the original Hebrew in the text. From www.followtherabbi.com:
As a Jewish rabbi, Jesus probably wore tassels on the corners of his garment. The Jewish practice of wearing these tassels developed from God's command in Numbers 15: "You are to make tassels on the corners of your garments?so you will remember all the commands of the LORD" (v. 38-39).
Later in Jewish history, the tassels were incorporated into the Jewish prayer shawl, called the tallit, which is worn by many Jews today. On each corner of the prayer shawl are long tassels, or tzitzit, knotted five times to remind Jews of the five books of Moses. The four spaces between these knots represent the letters of God's name, YHWH. And the knots along the prayer shawl edges use exactly 613 knotted strings, representing the 613 laws of the Torah.
Ezekiel prophesied that the Messiah would come with healing in his "wings." But the Hebrew word for "wings" could also be used to identify the tassels that Jewish men wore on the corners of their robe. Based on this prophecy, the Jews expected the Messiah to have healing in his tassels.
During his ministry, one woman demonstrated her faith in Jesus by seeking healing in his tassels. Matthew 9 tells us that a sick woman, whose disease had probably left her untouched for twelve years, thought to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed" (v. 21).
When she touched the Messiah's tassels, the woman was healed. And Jesus commended her for her faith.
Healing in His tzitzit ... Healing in His wings ... Healing in His tassels. The Messiah would have healing in His wings ... tassels. The ill woman knew in her very soul that she needed to reach out and grasp the tassels of Jesus' prayer shawl. "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed."
Imagine being the woman ... an outcast, yet daring enough to push through the crowd to grasp the tassels that dangled from his prayer shawl ... to instantly feel healing within your body ... the old, familiar flow of blood stopping ... maybe, too, any accompanying pains and anemic exhaustion dissipating into nothingness. You are restored -- physically, spiritually, and communally.
Then, to hear Jesus question His companions and the crowds: "Who touched me?"
"Yikes! He knows! How does He know? Will He know it's me? Of course He will! Yikes! What do I do?!? Do I run? Will I be punished for being unclean and daring to touch the robe of a rabbi? What will they do to me for my brashness?"
Jesus looks at the faces of those in the crowd ... surely reading the very hearts, souls and minds of each person. Your eyes lock. There is an instantaneous connection ... "You're the one" He speaks to your being.
But, rather than derision, you receive love ... praise ... acceptance ... inclusion ... such foreign and forgotten things in your lonely twelve years of isolation. His words permeate your entire existence: "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
What is your suffering? What do you need to be healed from? What isolation are you existing in? Will you be so bold, as that woman was, to push through the crowd ... through the derision ... through the emotional and spiritual blockade ... will you push through and grasp the tassels of the Rabbi's prayer shawl?
"Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."