This had been a very full day for Jesus. After a night being tossed in a violent storm on the lake of Galilee, he’d healed a demon-possessed man, crossed back over the lake, and began to teach and heal near his boyhood home. At the bidding of a synagogue ruler, he was on his way to raise a dead girl to life.
But for one woman in the huge crowd which pressed in around Jesus, all of them wanting his attention, his words, his touch, this was a day for which she’d never stop praising God.
She had been plagued with uterine bleeding for twelve years. She was severely anemic, pale, short of breath, and chronically exhausted. She’d been to doctors, trying every cure or incantation or diet or potion available for a price. Now she was not only in worse shape than when she began, she was destitute.
In a world where women had no rights except through the men in their family, this woman seemed to be alone. She’d spent all of her money. There was no evidence of a husband, brother, or father to speak to Jesus for her. She had no kinsman redeemer, the guardian and savior of the clan.
Furthermore, she was ritually unclean (Lev. 15:25, 31), considered on par with a filthy pig. What proper Jewish man would defile himself by touching her? Any law-abiding Jew would shun her. She was alone. No supportive family for her. She was untouchable, as badly off as the Samaritan left for dead by robbers. According to the Jewish Mishna Tamid, she or anyone she touched would have to stand at the eastern gate of the Temple in humiliation for their contraction of uncleanliness.
Public opinion held that she was a sinful woman, who had contracted her ailment as a result of some grave error, because disease was an inevitable consequence of sin. (John 9:2)
But on this day of days, this nameless, desperate woman met God. She wasn’t afraid to approach Jesus. She pushed through the crowd with all her strength. She crawled between the legs of the people who were crushing close to Jesus. She was trampled and dusty, her hands and feet and clothes kicked and trod upon, but she succeeded in reaching Jesus’ feet. She knew that if she only could touch his tassel, that symbol of his constant communication with the Father, that she would be healed.
She closed her eyes, reached out her hand, and focused her heart and mind on God’s ability to create and renew.
Suddenly, the earth stood still. There was no crowd, no noise, no social disfavor, no loneliness, no poverty, no—no pain! In wonder, she knew that she was free, different, strong, energetic. She was healed.
Gradually, she became aware of a commotion. Jesus stopped the forward motion of the people with a question, and she came back to real life. She realized what she’d done: dared to touch a rabbi, to steal his power and to make him ceremonially unclean. This person on whom she’d placed all her hope, and now devotion and gratitude, was now subject to all of her humiliation and its penalties.
She picked herself up, knowing what had happened, and in dread, trembling with fear, she fell at Jesus’ feet and his mercy. In her mute glance, she told him the whole truth of her alienation and shame, the rejection by her family and society because of an illness she couldn’t help, and her boldness in seeking help.
In the woman’s eyes, Jesus saw a reflection of his ancestress, Ruth the Moabite. “I am your servant,” Ruth had said to her employer, Boaz. “Spread the corner of your garment over me,” proposing an intimate, covenant relationship to him.
Boaz had replied, “The Lord bless you, my daughter... Don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask.”
Jesus said to the friendless woman kneeling before him now, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
And with Jesus’ word this woman was restored to the Children of Israel, the daughter of her Creator and Savior. She was honored, protected, cherished. She had a present and a future. No longer alone, no longer a woman without a name or family. Someone claimed her as a relation.
That was more precious to her than her new health, for Jesus bid her “Go in peace,” as Boaz had given Ruth God's blessing over her life.
For the first time, she had peace. True peace. She was loved, she was restored. She was a daughter who belonged to a people, and to God.
“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:42-48 NIV
Published in Women of Spirit magazine (early 1990s) and ASM Bulletin (Oct. 1988)