And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (ESV)
“Your faith has made you well.” Just as in Mark 2, we have an account of someone going through great difficulty to get to Jesus, but the difficulty here is less obvious. What’s so hard about walking through a crowd and touching a robe? We find the answer in Leviticus 15:19 and 15:25:
When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening...and if a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. (ESV)
This poor woman is like a leper: her condition makes her ceremonially unclean, unable to draw near to the Lord in temple worship (25); and with that, nobody would want to be near her, because to touch her would be to become unclean (19). She is effectively cut off from her people, and she has been for twelve years.
Why would she come to Jesus? She has spent all that she has and still the disease persists, and has in fact gotten worse. Why would she believe another promise of healing? And even if she would believe, what could she hope to get in exchange for her unclean, empty hands?
Do you see yourself in the story yet? In Isaiah 64:6, the prophet laments: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (NIV). Paul tells us in Galatians that “by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16, ESV), so how can we hope to draw near?
With one touch to Jesus's garment, this woman is healed. Instead of Jesus being made unclean by her touch, his power heals her and her twelve years of suffering are over. But it’s not because he has on a magic robe. It isn’t because his physical body has some talismanic element to it. She is healed because “[her] faith has made [her] well.” Why would she come to Jesus? Why would she believe that he could heal her? Why would she come with unclean, empty hands? Because she recognizes what the Pharisees missed back in Mark 2: that the power to heal chronic diseases with a word or a touch is not some common thing. In fact, the power to heal belongs exclusively to a much greater power—the greatest power—the power of God alone. She recognizes that in Jesus all the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. She believes what he can do, because she knows who he is. Her faith has made her well, and the text implies spiritual, as well as physical wellness—that she understands that her need runs deeper than the disease, to her very heart.
As we read the gospel accounts, we see Jesus healing many, feeding many, loving many. But every act of mercy testifies to a deeper spiritual reality, and points to Jesus himself as our only hope in this life and the next. At Good Neighbors, we fix homes in his name. We shower mercy on our neighbors in need, in the hope that they will see their deeper need. We want Jesus to fix not only their earthly homes, but to be their savior. We want them to trust in him alone and his work on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins, for them to bring nothing but their unclean, empty hands, and hold them out to Jesus. We want their faith to make them well.