“Now, there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’” (Mark 5:25, 27-28, NRSV)
We know several details about the woman described in the scripture passage above, but one crucial piece of information is left unrevealed. It’s her name. I think Mark left off her name because he wants us to find ourselves in the story. For twelve years, this woman suffered from a seemingly incurable disease that left her anemic and weak. She sought out the help of several different physicians and spent all the money she had on treatments, only to find her condition worsening instead of getting better. Finally, she heard stories about Jesus and his ability to heal the sick, so she figured if she could get close enough to touch his cloak, maybe that would be enough for her to be healed.
As Mark indicates, this woman had nothing left to pay for any more services. So, she was going to try to steal Jesus’ healing power by surreptitiously touching the hem of his clothing, hoping that would be enough to heal her. Just as she brushed the edge of his garment, she felt her body healed. Before she could enjoy her newfound health, Jesus immediately called out, “Who touched me?” The woman was paralyzed with fear, thinking Jesus caught her stealing his healing power. Little did she know that Jesus granted healing for nothing more than simply believing that he could heal her. Jesus didn’t want her to miss out on this important lesson, and that’s why he called attention to what happened. She immediately owned up to what she had done, and instead of condemning her, Jesus praised her faith as the real source of her healing.
You may have heard some speculation that the hem of Jesus’ garment the woman touched was one of the tassels of the prayer shawl known as a tallit that Jews wore underneath their cloaks (and some still do today). The tassels, known as tzitzit in Hebrew, dangle from the four corners of the prayer shawl and remind a Jew of their obligation to observe the 613 commandments enumerated in the Law. While the gospel writers don’t specifically say she touched Jesus’ tallit or the tzitzit on it, Matthew and Luke say she touched the “hem of his garment,” which some people interpret as either the tallit or tzitzit. Regardless, it was not the prayer shawl that healed her; it was her faith according to Jesus.
We may get caught up in doing things the “right way” and ensuring that we’re faithful to some predefined healing and saving process, but in the end, it’s our faith in Jesus that makes all the difference. It’s our relationship with God that heals us and makes us whole. So, worship with us this Sunday to learn more about the wholeness God offers to those who love him.