The healing of a woman with a flow of blood is found in three of the gospels (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48), a miracle sandwiched between two halves of another miracle, the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. What makes the woman's healing unique is that it was performed without a word being spoken beforehand.
As it interrupted the raising of Jairus' daughter, the woman's healing was probably a test of patience for Jairus. More positively, the interruption had the potential to encourage him, helping to build the faith he had already exhibited, especially since his daughter had become much worse in the meantime. Indeed, she had died.
These two miracles are linked, not only in their parallel occurrence, but also by the number twelve, often used in the Bible to connote government. Jairus' daughter was twelve years old (Mark 5:42), and the bleeding woman had been sick for twelve years (Mark 5:25). However, both needed Christ to heal them. It does not matter how long one has been alive, salvation is always through Christ (Acts 4:10-12). Both the bleeding woman and the girl were about to see God's perfect government at work.
1. How had the flow of blood affected the woman and the Jewish community? Mark 5:25-26; Luke 8:43.
Comment: According to the purity laws of the Old Testament (Leviticus 15:25-27), a person with an issue of blood is to remain quarantined. Also, "Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening" (verse 27).
During the poor woman's ordeal, her incurable disease had drained her, not only of her energy, but also of all her money. Her quest to find a cure from the physicians had solved nothing; in fact, she had gotten worse under their care (interestingly, in Luke's account, he—a physician—omits the phrase, "but rather grew worse"). Her condition, then, was both painful and distressing. The nature of her illness, its prolonged nature, and her fruitless reliance on physicians cost her all her money for expensive remedies, making her a hopeless case.
Nevertheless, she is a determined woman who has faith that she can find relief merely by touching Jesus. In her desperation, she displays considerable faith by risking the consequences of breaking a sacred rule in willfully coming into contact with other people.
2. What kind of faith does the woman show? Matthew 9:21; Mark 5:28; Luke 8:47.
Comment: The woman's genuine faith in touching Jesus' clothing is from a human standpoint, for, in reality, the power to heal is in Christ Himself (Mark 5:30-34). In touching Him, she is not thinking of His merciful and compassionate will, but of a physical healing power passing from His body to His clothing and then to the hand that touched it. She has a material conception of His healing power, a confidence that something magical flows through His clothes.
However, as physical and imperfect as the woman's faith is, Jesus does not scorn her and her limited belief. He uses His supernatural knowledge to identify with her, even though in the Jews' eyes this meant that He had contracted ritual uncleanness. Using what faith she has to glorify His Father, He heals her by an act of His divine will, bringing her to a higher, spiritual faith. Though imperfect, her faith is essentially genuine and accepted by God because, as soon as she touches the hem of Jesus' clothes, her flow of blood dries up, and she feels her diseased body heal.
3. What is Jesus' reaction to the woman's touch? Matthew 9:22; Mark 5:30-34; Luke 8:45-48.
Comment: Jesus is aware of this woman's suffering and of her faith from the moment she touches Him, feeling power leave Him. He asks, "Who touched Me?" to glorify God by bringing this healing out into the open, which also identifies Him as the Healer. Although He puts the woman on the spot to confess openly what she had done, He encourages her by commending her faith. Jesus is thrilled to find faith in this Galilean crowd, since, while most in the crowd thronged Him outwardly, she connected with Him inwardly through her faith. His tender confirmation that her healing was permanent encouraged many, and the revelation that He is the One Healer who had truly made her well produced a tremendous witness.
Jesus says that her faith had made her whole, but faith has no actual healing power. Faith is a required conduit through which healing flows. The same holds true in our spiritual healing: "We believe [have faith] that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved" (Acts 15:11).
His command, "Go in peace!" (Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48), literally means "Go into peace." In other words, Jesus is instructing her to be thankful for her body's healing, but as she moved forward, she would enter into the peace that He had come to impart to all those who trusted in Him.
The restoration of an individual from sin to spiritual health parallels this woman's physical healing. In the same way, sinners cannot purchase the healing of their sinfulness. Christ alone can deal with our corrupt condition and fully and instantaneously restore us by His sacrificial death. Just as this woman's healing is freely given in response to her faith, so does God extend grace to those who believe Him.
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