Recently I was reading the story of the women with the issue of blood. I was thinking about how that issue of blood had been such a heartbreaking condition for the woman. It’s helpful if you can understand that during that time and culture a person was declared unclean if they fell into certain categories of physical or situational misfortune. One of those circumstances included bleeding, which was especially significant for women during child bearing age, due to menstration. If anyone so much as touched something a woman on her menses sat on they would have been considered unclean. The law required that they wash their clothes and bathe in which case they would remain unclean until evening. The law required an action that was an entire day commitment. This was something that would have been a time consuming task. It would have taken the effected individual away from their usual activities, and made their day more difficult. Washing clothes in those days didn’t take a few minutes in a laundry room, and bathing wasn’t just a matter of turning the shower handle. These would have been carefully thought out encounters in which family members and society would have taken precautions to avoid.
In those days a woman who bled was not only unclean while she was bleeding, she was also unclean for an additional seven days. I know menstruation is not a hot topic but I think it appropriate to mention that it is a natural monthly cycle that can last from three to seven days. If you’re still following me here that means a woman in those days would have been unclean for at least ten days every month and up to fourteen or more. The problem for the woman with the issue of bleeding was…well … she had the issue of bleeding. In fact her bleeding went on for twelve years. For twelve years she was unclean. For twelve years she was untouchable. For twelve years she could not participate in religious ceremonies, she would not be able to have a relationship, she couldn’t participate in society, she would have been seen as hindrance to the daily life and routine of those around her. It would have been difficult for her to have even a close friendship because of the potential of her uncleanliness.
This goes much deeper than the condition she suffered. This cut straight to the womans core. She was a reflection of the condition of the human heart. In her uncleanliness she quietly suffered the humiliation of childlessness, the heavy heart of loneliness, the desperation of hopelessness, the unspoken pain of an inexplicable condition, the awkward whispers about the shame she carried. This was about the diverted eyes that avoided seeing her. She was nameless. She had become her condition, it had become her identity. She was “The Woman with the Issue of Blood”. Her condition said more about society and community than it did about her. She suffered the mental anguish of someone unable to change circumstance. She had spent all of her savings on doctors and treatments only to have each attempt bring a hope that would result in the same dreaded end. She was broke and she was broken.
Can you feel her anguish? Can you at all relate to her feelings of shame, hopelessness, desperation, and a mind and soul in an inexplicable condition? At the very least can you find compassion for her? I can. My hope is that if we were there we would have payed attention, looked her in the eye, and risked our own cleanliness for her. My hope is that if we were there we would have said, “Hey, I know you have this issue, but more importantly what’s your name? Well, I can relate and you’re not alone.” I hope that we would have taken that time to connect and share our own stories. I hope that we would have found compassion for one another to live the lives we were given and to stop whispering about where she was at and instead met her there. I hope we would have found the courage to reach out to others and let them know we were struggling too.
Eventually the woman with the issue of blood took action. Nameless still. Eventually, so desperate that she pushed her unclean, shame filled, embarrassed self up to Jesus. She was so sick of being sick. She was tired of being tired. Mostly she was ashamed of feeling ashamed. The sickness, fatigue, and shame had come to a breaking point. She could no longer stay in that state. Something had to change and she was desperate to change it no matter the cost. She no longer cared about rules. She was willing to suffer the consequences because she couldn’t stand the consequence of suffering. She pressed into the crowd, her unclean skin bumping against others, perhaps she battled mentally over her impact on them. Ironically worried for those who hadn’t taken the time to worry about her. The people surrounding her were respected citizens, government officials and influential leaders. Here she was in the midst of them. They were gathered together because of a very important man, a ruler of a synagogue, who had traveled a long way to find the one man he hoped could save his daughters life. The procession included Jesus who’s reputation rumored to be a Great Prophet had travelled througout Judea and all the region. Clearly this was an event of grave importance, time was of the essence. Jairus’ twelve year old daughter lay dying, he did not have the luxury of Jesus so much as hesitating. There in that crowd, the woman with the issue of blood crept, the nobody with nothing to offer, on the verge of tears, she reached out with the last shred of hope and stretched her hand to the hem of His garment. That one act of faith changed her life forever.
Isn’t that powerful? Isn’t that a picture of the human condition? How many times have you felt completely alone in your circumstances? Whether it was an issue at work, or an issue with a spouse, an issue with a parent, or an issue with a health condition. There are too many issues to name. Why do we let our issues become our identity? We become the drunk, we become the drug addict, the failure, the sexual deviant, the fake, fat, depressed, angry, mentally unstable, broke, unqualified and all the other issues we label ourselves. We become hopeless, alone, tired, embarrassed, and ultimately unimportant. We sometimes find comfort in being this label because at least we’re something, and we can count on continuing to be that. On our best days we find some level of confidence that allows us to be partially qualified yet we still never measure up. There were times I’m sure when other women would experience their uncleanliness and would connect with the woman with the issue of blood. But then they would become clean again and return to their lives leaving her more alone, reminding her once again of her emptiness.
It all seems so hopeless. Where is the good in any of it? The womans’ life changing moment didn’t come because she reached out for help. She had been reaching out for help for years. She had gone to experts, doctors, and practitioners of alternative methods. She spent her life savings trying to find answers and gain relevance. All her efforts had failed. Her help came only when she was able to put everything on the line, her help came when she laid down her life in a last ditch attempt at healing. When she released the control she had attempted to hold onto, the control of her fate and strand of dignity. Her help finally arrived when she put her faith where it should have been all the time. She turned to Jesus. We don’t know if she really believed that he was The Great Prophet he was rumored to be. But we do know she acted in Faith. The slim chance that he could heal her was a possibility she hadn’t considered before. When her hand touched his garment, the Bible tells us, she was immediately healed. Jesus knew her touch was different than the others that were bumping and shoving to be near him. There were throngs of people surrounding him and yet he felt her touch his garment! Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” He begins looking around for the one he knows reached out in an act of faith. I imagine that the crowd had closed back in around him leaving the woman standing three or four people behind. I imagine she froze in disbelief as the healing entered her body and she instantly knew she was clean. All of those years of suffering uncleanliness, hopeless, anguish over the life she hoped for but never dared to believe she could have, was gone. “Who touched me?” the voice carried over the crowd. “I can feel that virtue has gone out of me.” he says. Oh that word! “Virtue. Virtue. Virtue.” she thinks. “Moral excellence. Goodness. Righteousness. Conformity to moral and ethical principles.” Suddenly the realization that she is all of these and she needs to come forward. To admit her daring disruption. Was her selfish drive for personal healing when this mans daughter lay dying about to be exposed? She knew it was. She knew and yet she would not go unnoticed now. The Bible says in Luke 8:47-48, “She 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 made you whole. Go in peace.”
She didn’t know it but her reaching out was an act of faith. It was a small faith. Jesus said we only need a little faith. Mustard seed sized to move mountains. When she reached out with faith she was healed. The good part is that we can reach out too. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, sickness, and significance. It was already done. We don’t have to wait for his procession to go by, we can reach out to him right where we are. When we accept Christ as our Savior he takes all the bad of our past and all the bad of our future and exchanges it for his virtue. He makes us good, righteous, moral, respectable and pure. It’s up to us to recognize that virtue and when we do it makes us want to be better than we were before. It’s up to us to come forward trembling, fall at his feet and accept our fate in Christ. If you aren’t convinced, he can still work in your life. Just try a little faith. His act of redemption, His death on the cross for us doesn’t get the same attention on Good Friday as the resurrection gets on Easter, but they are equally important. Without death there could be no resurrection. Without the resurrection there is no hope for faith to work. Because of His death and resurrection we have both hope and faith that works. In this life we have to let our worries, fears, and harmful beliefs die so we can reach out for the life we were meant to live. A faith filled life that makes us whole.