The story in Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8:43-48, and Mark 5:25–34 presents a woman with a blood disorder which she suffered through for twelve years. She attempts many treatments, draining her resources and going bankrupt in the hopes of being healed (Mark 5:26). She reaches a certain level of desperation where she has only her faith and hope to hold on to.
At the time of this story, Jewish women did not have an identity independent from a man. A woman was bond to the identity and service of her father as a child and her husband after she was married. In addition, the Jewish culture viewed blood-related illnesses in women as a mark of uncleanliness.
As a result, it was a tragedy to be a woman in the Jewish culture. It was a double tragedy to be a sick, Jewish woman. Worse still, however, was being a sick and bleeding Jewish woman.
Subsequently, the woman described in the passages in Matthew, Luke, and Mark is more disadvantaged than most. She has been separated from her husband, children, extended family, and community for nearly 12 years because anyone who comes near her would also be considered unclean.
She has been isolated from society for twelve years, forced to be away from everything that is familiar to her. She loses everything, including the little identity she held as a wife and a mother. She is left to rot alone.
Can you imagine being in a similar situation?
The woman is left nameless in this story. Even the Gospels refer to her as “A woman who had a flow of blood” (Luke 8:43; Mark 5:25) and “A woman who had been suffering from haemorrhage” (Matt 9:20). In place of a name, she is identified by her problem.
How often do we call people by their problems, challenges, deficiencies, crosses, weaknesses, sins?
Fortunately, this disadvantaged woman refuses to be forgotten and pushed aside to die. She hears about Jesus and decides to take her destiny into her own hands. She trumps all of the boundaries constructed to isolate her by following her faith.
“For she said to herself: ‘if I can touch the fringe of his garment, I shall be made well.” Matthew 9:21
This woman makes a simple yet ambitious act of faith. Since she is a ritually unclean woman she should not be out among the people, least of all in close proximity to a reverend rabbi. She reaches out and touches the tip of Jesus’ clothes anyway, though.
Instantly, she feels a healing sensation within her and the bleeding stops.
Simultaneously, Jesus acknowledges the subtle contact the woman made with his garment, an act that should have gone unnoticed. Jesus feels this act on a deeper level, however, because she actually touched his heart, the heart of God.
This nameless and helpless woman takes a bold step to change her life, and even though she has every reason to be angry, vengeful, and hostile, she is not. She humbly professes her faith the moment she reaches for Jesus’ garment. Her simple act of faith touches the heart of God and things begin to shift in her favor.
Jesus insists on finding out who touches him in the story because he recognizes the significance of the woman’s deed. Jesus then addresses her as “Daughter,” unraveling all of the injustices she has suffered.
He gives her an identity as a child of God, offering her a place in his heart because she touched his heart. He restores her dignity as a human made from the image of God.
Jesus publicly reintroduces the once nameless woman back into society, reuniting her to her family and community. He gives her new life because of her faith.
Our profession of faith must also touch the heart of God so that things can turn around in our favour. When facing challenges, difficulties, crosses, and persecution we should not focus on who is to blame for our suffering. We should seek instead to profess and act on our faith in simplicity and humility in order to touch the heart of God.