Luke 8: 42 - 48
Have you ever felt so exhausted that you couldn’t go on? This story captured the imagination of the early church. A large tradition arose around this story, including the name of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. In the Greek church her name was Bernice; in the Latin church it was Veronica. Eusebius says that she was a Gentile from Caesarea Philippi and that when she returned home after her healing, she erected a statue of Jesus in her front yard. This is interesting speculation, but is does point out the hold this story had on the early church.
We have a miracle within a miracle. In all 3 accounts (Matthew 9, Mark 5, Luke 8) this miracle takes place within the context of the raising of Jairus’ daughter. As Jesus was teaching in the villages along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jairus came and begged Jesus to come and heal his 12 year old daughter, who was desperately sick. As Jesus began to walk with Jairus toward his house, hundreds of people began to press in upon him, many of them no doubt hoping for their own cure, others listening to his every word, and still others attracted by all the commotion.
The scene must have been chaotic and confusing with Jairus on one side of Jesus tugging at his sleeve (“Hurry, Lord, my daughter is dying”), the disciples forming a moving wave like bodyguards for a celebrity and hundreds of eager people pushing, shouting, stretching out their arms to touch him as he passes by. Totally unnoticed, a frail, sickly woman pushes her way through. Her face is partially covered so no one will recognize her. Her arms are thin; her hands shake as she stretches them toward Jesus. She is only a metre away - he is passing right by her. No one notices as she reaches out to touch the tassel on the corner of his cloak.
An Issue of Blood
The Bible is not very specific about her problem. KJV - “an issue of blood” for 12 years. Modern translations - a haemorrhage of blood. This was some kind of chronic uterine bleeding. Whether continual or periodic, it was not normal, and in those days, there was no cure for that condition.
Mark included a detail that Luke omits - this woman “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.” They simply didn’t have any effective treatments for this kind of chronic haemorrhaging. The doctors had no answers - they could not help her. For 12 years she had suffered from this “issue of blood.” Her prognosis was grim. Without a miracle, there was no hope.
The “Living Dead”
That wasn’t the worst of it. Leviticus contains certain regulations for women with an uncontrollable flow of blood. Such women are to be considered unclean and defiled as long as the flow of blood continues. Anyone who touched such a woman would himself become unclean and defiled. This meant that this poor woman had become an outcast in her own village. She was divorced from her husband, shut out from her family, ostracised by society and treated as a pariah. She had endured incurable illness, social isolation, constant pain, financial poverty and personal humiliation. It is hard to imagine a more pitiful situation. She had been among the “living dead” for 12 long years.
Touching the Tassel
Now Jesus has come to her village. The word spreads like wildfire. “He’s here.” “Who’s here?” “Jesus, that man from Nazareth who heals the sick.” With that, the poor woman makes the decision that somehow, someway she must get through to see Jesus. If only she could touch him.
She did not speak to him because she was embarrassed and ashamed of her condition. After 12 years of public humiliation, she wouldn’t risk exposure and the taunts of the crowd. She thought to simply touch him, receive her healing and then slip away unnoticed. After so many years, she was used to coping with life that way. Now she reaches out and touches Jesus. Older translations - she touched the hem of his garment. Greek word - refers to 1 of the 4 tassels all Jewish men wore on their outer garments. Tassels must be sewn on the 4 corners of the cloak and each must contain a blue thread. The tassels were visual reminders to obey God’s commandments. No matter the design of the cloak, at least 1 of the tassels would always hang from the back. It was this tassel that the woman touched as Jesus walked by.
What happened when she touched the tassel - 2 different words are used - immediately (v. 44) and instantly (v. 47) healed. At the moment she touched the tassel, the bleeding stopped. It was a vast miracle. The crowd is so tightly packed in the narrow alleyway that a person could hardly breathe or move. The disciples are trying to do crowd control, but they are swept along with the flow. No one sees this poor woman off to the side - as she elbows her way to the centre - as she reaches out her hand - no one speaks to her and she speaks to no one.
Here comes Jesus! As he passes by, her hand brushes his tassel. Something like an electrical shock moves from her fingers up her arm and into every part of her body. Only it is not an electrical shock, but the infusion of some mighty power. Her weary arteries, shrunken veins, diseased organs, withered muscles and shattered nerves are filled with health and life and strength. The disastrous decay of 12 years is instantly halted and reversed. She is well again! Healthy again! Whole again! She turns to go, not ungrateful, but fearful lest she call attention to herself and respectful of the greater work Jesus must do. She must not bother him. With a smile on her face, she turns to go home.
“Who Touched Me?”
At that moment, Jesus stops, turns and asks, “Who touched me?” It seems to the disciples like an absurd question. Hundreds of people were milling around and he wants to know who touched him? Everybody was touching him. So many people were crowding around Jesus it could have been anyone. What difference does it make? A touch is a touch is a touch. But that’s not true. In the gospels there are 3 kinds of touches -
1. The touch of hostility. That’s the touch of the religious leaders when they beat Jesus at his trial. 2. The touch of curiosity. That’s the touch of the crowd milling around. 3. The touch of faith. That’s the touch of the woman. If the disciples couldn’t tell the difference, Jesus could. He knew someone had touched him in faith. He felt the faith in the brush of her fingers on his tassel.
He did not ask the question for his own benefit. He knew before he turned who had touched him. He’s the Son of God. He asked not for his sake, but for her sake and for the sake of the crowd. He asked for her sake so that he could raise the level of her faith. If she went away without a further word, she might actually believe there was some magic power in his clothing. He wanted to assure her that it was her faith in him that made the difference. He wanted her to know that the healing would be permanent. He wanted to establish a personal relationship with her.
He also asked “Who touched me?” for the sake of the crowd. So that Jairus would know what Jesus could do. So that the curious onlookers would see his power fully displayed. He wanted the crowd to know that he wasn’t ashamed to be touched by the untouchable.
This woman had taken a real chance by touching Jesus. According to the law, her touch could make Jesus unclean. Because he was the Son of God, his power of healing overcame her uncleanness. But she did not know that when she touched him.
Crucial point - Our Lord Jesus was not ashamed to be touched by the untouchable, and he was not embarrassed to be publicly identified with the outcasts of this world. He was at home with publicans and sinners, he ate supper with gluttons and drunkards, he welcomed the prostitutes, he touched the lepers and he is not ashamed to be touched by an unclean person. Not ashamed? But delighted to identify with her. Delighted that she had the courage to reach out and so that he could heal her. He didn’t care who knew. He wanted the whole crowd to know what he had done.
“Go Into Peace”
When Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” the woman knows he is talking about her. She came trembling and fell at Jesus’ feet. Then she publicly declared what Jesus had done for her and how she had been instantly healed. I imagine there was clapping and cheering all around and Jairus saying, “That’s good. Now come on, Jesus, my little girl needs you.”
Jesus looks at her and says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” Affectionate term - like “Little girl” or even “Sweetheart.” Then he said, “Go in peace” -“Go from this place and walk in good health. You are healed physically and spiritually.”
Two Enduring Pictures
1. The Sensitivity of Jesus
The most sensitive man in all history is Jesus Christ. No one ever cared about people like he did. No one ever gave of himself like he did. No one ever felt the pain of others like he did.
As he walked down a crowded street, hundreds of hands reached out to him. Yet he felt the thin, sickly hand of faith. He felt it! He felt her touch ... He stopped ... He turned ... He spoke to her. He was not offended or angry. Nor was he too busy or too tired to bother with her. Think of it. He whom all the forces of hell could not stop was diverted by the touch of a sickly hand! This woman did by her touch what Satan himself could not do. She stopped Jesus in his tracks. He spoke to her as if she were the only person in the crowd. When he turned, it was just Jesus and her. No one else mattered.
He loves you as if there were only one person in the universe to love. He hears you as if you were the only one speaking to him. He attends to your needs as if yours were the only needs in the universe. What a Christ!
All that touches you touches him. If it is pain, then he feels the pain. If it is sorrow, then he feels the sorrow. If it is rejection, then he feels the rejection. If it is loss, then he feels the loss. If it is failure, then he feels the failure. Whatever it is that hurts you, he feels it. If it touches you, it touches him. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4: 15). Thank God it is so. If it hurts us, it hurts him.
2. The Power of Feeble Faith
She didn’t have a huge amount of faith, and what she had was partially misdirected. But she had a mustard seed and through it God moved the mountain of her illness. We don’t have to agonize over the “correct” way to come to God. You don’t have to worry about crossing all your “t’s” or dotting all your “i’s." You don’t have to know all about the Bible before you come to God and you don’t have to have a degree in theology. You don’t even have to be a member of a church. Those things are good, but they aren’t the main thing. If you come to Jesus Christ in simple faith - even though your faith is as feeble as this woman’s was - he will not turn you away.
Do you ever feel as if your problems keep you from coming to God? Do you ever feel so dirty and unclean that you think Jesus would not have anything to do with you? Do not despair. Jesus is not offended by your problems. He’s seen it all before. He will not turn you away.
How simple it is to come to Christ!Only a touch and this woman is healed. Not by her toiling, not by her promises to do better, not by an offer to do something for Jesus if he would do something for her. No deals here. She reached out a trembling hand and in an instant she was healed. It was not a long process. It happened so fast that it could only be called a miracle. Coming to Christ is not difficult. The hardest part is reaching out with the hand of faith. If you want to touch Jesus, all you have to do is reach out to him.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. Thank you for taking all my sin away. I believe you are the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. I gladly take you as my Saviour. Come into my life and make me a Christian. Please help me to live a life that will be pleasing to you. Thank you for hearing this prayer. Amen.
How simple it is to come to Christ! Just a touch, that’s all it takes. If you have the strength to stretch out your hand to him, his mighty power will flow into your life.