I don't believe in coincidences, so when I read about the woman with the hemorrhage in my Bible study and then read about her again in a totally unrelated book, I had to believe God had something to show me. What, though, I wasn't so sure.
To be honest, I have never really thought a lot about that poor woman recorded in the Gospels as having an "issue of blood." I mean, I'm familiar with the story, but it's one of those stories I've skimmed over.
Because this unnamed woman kept popping up yesterday and today, I decided to take a closer look. If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can read it in any of three Gospels: Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; and Luke 8:43-48. Matthew only wrote three verses about this miracle, but both Mark and Luke went into more detail.
The story goes like this from Mark 5:25-34:
A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse - after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak.
For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." Immediately, the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Immediately, Jesus perceiving in Himself that power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?" And His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'"
And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction."
To begin to understand this story in all its context, we have to understand a little of Jewish law. This woman's "hemorrhage" meant she had been bleeding for 12 years. The bleeding was most likely either menstrual or uterine and as such, made this woman unclean.
When a woman was unclean, anything or anyone she came in contact with became unclean as well. This woman's physical ailment isolated her from social interaction. Her infirmity narrowed her life in ways, we as living in this modern world, probably have difficulty understanding. She had gone to various physicians and in Mark 4:26 it said that she had spent all that she had and was not helped at all - in fact, she had grown worse.
While you and I do not live in the world of Jewish law nor do we probably have some kind of physical ailment that separates us from others, I don't doubt we all have something in our lives that makes us feel isolated from others. We all tend to present a facade to other people of what we think they should see.
Church is often the worst place for this, unfortunately. When was the last time you asked someone how they were and instead of "fine," they shared that their marriage was on the rocks or their kids were acting out and they didn't know where they had gone wrong. When was the last time you said, "Hi, how are you?" and a fellow mom shared that she felt like her life was out of control and she wasn't doing any of it well?
Yeah, I haven't gotten too many of those either. We are afraid to show our real selves for fear of what other people will say - thinking that we must be the only one that struggles and somehow, everyone else has it all together.
Like this woman, we have something that makes us feel unclean or unworthy or ashamed. Satan likes for us to keep our shame in the dark and secret because then we become isolated. Like any wolf out to kill the sheep, it's much easier to prey on the lone sheep than one in the middle of the herd.
In Angie Smith's book, What Women Fear, a couple sentences leaped out at me. "We have a very real enemy who thrives on our silence. He doesn't want us to be in fellowship, sharing our hearts and seeking wisdom on how to live lives that glorify God in spite of the darkness we feel."
So, instead of being real with other believers, we try to fix it ourselves, in our own strength - without the accountability of other believers.
If you'll notice, this woman had spent a lot of money to seek out physicians to fix the problem. She had spared no expense and now was broke as well as sick. Not only did the physicians NOT helped her, but now she was worse than before.
How like us as we try to "fix" our problems ourselves. I guess that's why Dr. Phil and Oprah are so popular. Instead, though, we end up depleted and exhausted and worse off than when we started.
At the end of her own resources, this woman took a chance - she went out into the crowd (even though she was unclean) and she touched the hem of Jesus' robe. She didn't directly approached Him - she just crept up and touched His hem with a desperate faith that finally, finally she would be healed.
The woman was immediately healed. In an instant, the problem that had plagued her and made her life so miserable and lonely was gone. I can't imagine how she felt - to be healed after so long. She probably was going to slip away quietly, not noticed, but quietly rejoicing.
So, really, Jesus could have kept going. He could have just let her be healed and not acknowledged her in any way, but He didn't.
Instead, He stopped in the midst of the noisy, demanding, jostling crowd and asked, "Who touched me?" The disciples, quite naturally, looked at Him like He was a bit crazy - with all the people pressing in, how in the world could they know who touched Him?
But Jesus had a purpose - He wanted to connect with this woman, not just heal her physical body, but her heart as well.
At first glance, it seems almost cruel that Jesus would make the woman come forward, make her admit her shame and weakness in front of a crowd of curious onlookers.
Most likely, people in her village knew of her problem - maybe they talked about her in whispers and wondered what sin had brought this plague down on her, or shook their heads in pity.
So, now, He looks right at her. She knows she is found out. She knows now everyone will know about her problem and that she was out among people when she was unclean, and that by touching Jesus, she had made Him unclean, too. The verse said she was trembling, she was that afraid.
But she KNEW she had been healed and what Jesus had done for her, so she threw herself at Jesus' feet and verse 33 says, "and told Him the whole truth." She didn't leave anything out -she just laid it all out at Jesus' feet. The whole ugly truth and then she waited.
Did she think He would condemn her? Or maybe reverse her healing because she wasn't worthy - because her touch had made Him unclean too?
Instead, after she had publicly confessed her shame and told how Jesus was the only one who could heal her, Jesus gave her a new identity. He calls her daughter and tells everyone that it was HER faith that healed her.
Instead of condemning her, He praises her and sends her on her way with a blessing.
So many times, we think if everyone knew who we really were or what our lives are really like when nobody else is around, they would reject us or laugh or sneer. Worse, we think God feels this way about us when He is waiting for us to reach out to Him.
By calling this woman out, Jesus set her free from her prison of shame and secrecy. He can do the same for us. All we have to do is reach out and touch His hem and believe - believe that He is big enough, gracious enough, loving enough to clean us up and remove all of our shame.
"Now therefore there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
So, next time you are in a group, take a chance and just be real.
~ Blessings, Bronte