The Woman with the Issue of Blood

02 Feb

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While he was on his way to heal a young girl, a woman who had in issue of blood for twelve years (Luke 8:43; Mark 5:27-28) came up behind Jesus and touched him, hoping to go undetected. She believed that by touching Jesus she would be healed, and she thought that going to him among the thronging crowd her presence and purpose would go unnoticed. She was immediately healed, and her bleeding stopped (Luke 8:44). Mark 5:29 says that the woman felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. What she did was reach out and touch one of the four fringes or tassels, which hung from Jesus’ outer garment (Luke 8:44; cf. Numbers 15:38-39; Matthew 23:5). They were there to remind devout Jews of the Lord’s commandments and one’s duty to obey them. It had a set apart or holy significance (Numbers 15:40) that the woman reached out to touch, hoping to be made whole.

Immediately, Jesus knew that healing power went out from his body, so he stopped and turned, looking at the crowd, and asked who touched him (Luke 8:45). The crowd denied touching him, and Peter and those with him questioned the logic of Jesus’ question. How could anyone know about a specific touch among so many who pressed against him? Nevertheless, Jesus continued to inquire of the crowd (cf. Luke 8:14; Mark 4:7, 19) who touched him, because, apparently, Jesus was aware when power left him to heal others (Luke 8:46).

The woman came forward only after she realized she was unable to hide what she had done (Luke 8:47). The Law of Moses declared her unclean, and anyone who came in physical contact with her was unclean until sundown. Anything she touched was unclean, and if a person touched anything the woman touched, that person would be unclean until sundown. Uncleanness was passed on as though it were a germ (Leviticus 15:25-31). If an unclean person defiled the Temple of God, the Law of Moses required that one’s life (Leviticus 15:31). So, in a sense and even though the woman, no doubt, had no such understanding that Jesus was the Temple of God (John 2:19, 21), what she did was a capital offense, according to the Law of Moses.

An important text to consider in order to understand the importance of the woman’s healing is found in the tiny book of Haggai. According to Haggai 2:12-13, holiness (or cleanliness) is not transferrable by touch, but the defilement of that which is unclean is transferable to anything it touches. Anyone or anything the woman touched, therefore, should have become unclean, according to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 15:25-27). However, touching Jesus was different from anything the Law of Moses claimed, and the proof of this is made evident in the woman’s healing. The woman was unclean, but, when she touched Jesus, her uncleanness ceased. Her issue of blood was stopped, and she was healed immediately (Luke 8:44).

The woman, however, needed to come forward and acknowledge what God had done for her, which is behind the idea of bringing an offering under the Law of Moses, after the cleansing had taken place (cf. Leviticus 15:28-30). What had occurred goes against everything the Law of Moses claimed about holiness and what was ceremonially unclean. It is more like what occurred when Moses climbed the mountain to investigate the burning bush in Exodus 3:3. The Lord called out to Moses to say the ground upon which he stood was holy (Exodus 3:4-5). Why was the ground holy? The text implies it was holy because the presence of God was there. The holiness of God is transferable to what he touches. Therefore, the woman was healed because she touched Jesus in faith, and Jesus’ holiness was transferred to her, healing her.

Causing the woman to come forward afforded Jesus with an opportunity to correct the woman’s understanding about how she was healed. Furthermore, not only was the woman assured of her healing (Luke 8:48), but everyone else who might have known about her issue of blood (including Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue), would now understand she had been healed, and she could be welcomed back into Jewish society.

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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Gospel of Luke


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