13 I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favour; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. 14 Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. 15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. 6 Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. 17 Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble. 18 Come near and rescue me; redeem me because of my foes. 19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. 20 Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.
As Jesus was on His way, the crowds almost crushed Him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, 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. 48 Then He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
This story is often called the miracle on the way to a miracle. In all three accounts (Matthew 9, Mark 5, Luke 8), this miracle takes place as Jesus is on His way to raise Jarius’ daughter from the dead. As Jesus began to walk with Jairus toward his house, hundreds, if not thousands of people began to press in on Him, many of them no doubt hoping for their own cure, many others listening to His every word, and still others attracted by all the commotion.
The streets in those days were very narrow, so the scene must have been chaotic and confusing with Jairus on one side of Jesus tugging at His sleeve, saying, “Hurry, Lord, my daughter is dying,” the disciples forming a moving wave like bodyguards for a celebrity, and the crowd of people pushing, pulling, shouting, stretching out their arms to touch Him as He passed by. Meanwhile, totally unnoticed, a frail, stooped, sickly woman pushes her way through the crowd. Her face is partially covered so no one will recognise her. Her arms are thin; her hands shake as she stretches them toward Jesus. Now she is right there next to Him. No one notices as she reaches out to touch the corner of His cloak.
The Bible is not very specific about her bleeding disorder, but what we do know is that she was desperate, having tried everything else. Isn’t the grace of God amazing? Even when we turn to Him in desperation, even when He is our last resort, He receives us with grace.
In Mark’s version he wrote in 5:26, that she “had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” So, we can only imagine how desperate she was. But living with such an ailment was only the beginning of her misery. We need to remember the Jewish customs of the time. Leviticus 15 contains detailed regulations for women with an uncontrollable flow of blood. Such women were to be considered unclean and defiled as long as the flow of blood continued. Furthermore, anyone who touched her would become unclean and defiled. So this poor woman had become an outcast in her own community.
The English Bible teacher George Campbell Morgan wrote, “By the law of Moses this woman was not allowed to touch any human being, and no human being was allowed to touch her. The law demanded that a woman suffering in this way should be segregated. For twelve years this woman had been excommunicated from the Temple and from the synagogue, from every religious place of assembly. She would have been forced to be divorced from her husband, shut out from her family, ostracised by society, and treated as a pariah.”
This poor woman had been living in a personal nightmare for 12 years. She had endured incurable illness, social isolation, constant pain, financial poverty, and personal humiliation. It is hard to imagine a more pitiful situation. One writer said that she had been among the living dead for twelve long years. And now, Jesus comes to her village.
His reputation as a miracle worker had clearly preceded Him. This is why there was such a large crowd, plus Jarius of course, to meet Him. Even this woman, a social outcast, had managed to hear about Jesus, and so she somehow managed to force her way through the crowd to get to Jesus, believing that if she could just touch His clothing, she would be healed.
She was embarrassed and ashamed of her condition, so she didn’t dare speak to Him.
After twelve years of public humiliation, she couldn’t risk exposure and more taunts of the crowd. She planned to simply touch Him, receive her healing, and then slip away unnoticed. After so many years, she was used to coping with life that way.
And so she reaches out and touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak, and incredibly, the unthinkable happened. Her healing was instantaneous, and it was complete.
Jesus was going the other direction, with Jairus frantically tugging at Him and talking and crying all at the same time. Meanwhile, the crowd was so tightly packed in the narrow alleyway that a person could hardly breathe, much less move. The disciples were trying their best at crowd control, but there was just chaos. No-one saw this woman suddenly appear, and somehow make her way through the crowd to Jesus. No-one noticed as she elbowed her way to the centre, no-one paid any attention as she reached out her hand, no-one spoke to her and she spoke to no-one.
What a thrill it must’ve been for her to feel instantaneous physical healing, her strength returning to her immediately. All of her pain and misery disappeared in the blink of an eye.
I’d like to think that she had a huge smile on her face – her first smile for twelve years, as she tried to slip back into the crowd, but suddenly Jesus stopped, looked at the crowd and said, “Who touched me?” The disciples thought this was an absurd question to ask. Hundreds of people were milling around and He wants to know who touched Him? Everybody was touching Him. So many people were crowding around Jesus it could have been anyone. Besides, what difference does it make? A touch is a touch is a touch.
But that’s not true. In the gospels there are three kinds of touches.
First, there is the touch of hostility. That’s the touch of the religious leaders and Roman soldiers when they beat and tortured Jesus before and during His crucifixion.
Second, there is the touch of curiosity. That’s the touch of the crowd milling around. The autograph hunters and hangers-on who just want to be seen with Him. I wonder how many selfies would have been taken with Jesus that day had the technology existed then? So many people just want to be part of the in-crowd.
And then there is the touch of faith. That’s the touch of this poor woman. If the disciples couldn’t tell the difference, Jesus certainly could. He knew that someone had touched Him in faith. He felt the faith in the passing brush of her fingers on His cloak.
Of course, He didn’t ask the question for His own benefit. He had known for all of eternity what was going to happen, and who would reach out and touch Him that day. He asked not for His sake, but for her sake and for the sake of the crowd.
He asked for her sake so that He could raise and strengthen the level of her faith. If she went away without a further word, she might actually believe there was some magic power in His clothing, and she needed to be assured that it was her faith in Him that made the difference. As Christians, our faith is in the person and saving grace of Jesus Christ alone, and not in religious symbols and trinkets. Jesus also wanted her to know that her healing would be permanent. And He wanted to establish a personal relationship with her. For all those things to happen, she needed to identify herself to Jesus and to the crowd.
He also asked, “Who touched me?” for the sake of the crowd. Jairus needed to see what Jesus could do, because by the time they reached his house, his daughter was no longer ill, but had died.
The people needed to see His power too, but even more importantly, they needed to know that Jesus wasn’t ashamed to be touched by the untouchable.
This woman had taken a real chance and broken all kinds of social taboos by touching Him. According to the law, her touch would make Jesus unclean. But because He is God, His power of healing overcame her uncleanness.
This is such an important point for us to see. Jesus was not ashamed to be touched by the untouchable, and He was not embarrassed to be publicly identified with the outcasts. He was comfortable with sinners like you and me. He sat around the dinner table with the outcasts of society, He welcomed prostitutes and tax collectors, He touched the lepers, and, in this story, He is not ashamed to be touched by an unclean person.
Jesus was not ashamed to be touched by the untouchable.
In fact, He would have been delighted that she had the courage to reach out to Him and touch Him.
Our sin has made us outcasts. Because of the stain of sin, we have been driven away from God and have no way of getting back to the God who created us, except through Jesus. Don’t ever think that God will not accept you when you reach out to Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said in Luke 15:10, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-6, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.”
You will never be so far away from God that His grace cannot reach and save you. With God there are no untouchable people. In Jesus’ eyes, everyone is touchable.
Verse 47 is important in our story today. “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, 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.”
When Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” she came trembling and fell at Jesus’ feet. Then she publicly declared what Jesus had done for her and how she had been instantly healed.
So many Christians are reluctant to share the truth of God with non-believers. If this is your struggle, just do what this woman did:
“In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched Him and how she had been instantly healed.” Just tell people what Jesus has done for you. You don’t need to become some deep-thinking theological boffin.
In John 9 Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath. This really annoyed the religious elite who were furious that Jesus would do such a thing, so the man who was healed was grilled by the Pharisees. They even tried to put him on the spot by asking if he agreed that Jesus was a trouble-making sinner because He healed on their precious Sabbath. Just listen to his simple, yet profound reply: “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” You don’t need to defend God. He can do that Himself. Just tell others that once you were blind, but now you can see.
And so Jesus looked at the woman and says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” The word He used for daughter in the original Greek is unusual. It’s the only time the gospels record Jesus using this particular word, and it means more than a female child. Strong’s Greek Lexicon describes it as a “daughter of God, acceptable to God, rejoicing in God’s peculiar care and protection.”
Then He said, “Go in peace,” or quite literally, “Go into peace,” meaning “Go from this place and walk in good health. You are healed physically and spiritually.”
This story gives us a wonderful picture of the character and nature of God.
As He walked down a crowded street, hundreds of hands reached out to Him. Yet He felt a weak hand of faith. He felt it. He felt her touch, He stopped, He turned, and He spoke to her. He was not offended or angry with her. Nor was He too busy or too tired to bother with her. Just think about that for a moment. This woman did what even satan couldn’t do. She stopped Jesus in His tracks.
And He spoke to her as if she were the only person in the crowd. When He turned, it was just Jesus and her. No one else mattered. He loves you as if there were only one person in the universe to love. He hears you as if you were the only one speaking to Him.
All that touches you touches Him. If it is pain, He feels the pain. If it is sorrow, He feels it. If it is rejection, He feels the rejection. If it is loss, He feels it too. If it is failure, He feels your failure. Whatever it is that hurts you, He feels it. If it touches you, it touches Him. That’s what Hebrews 4:15 means. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses.”
God has not left us to our own devices. He didn’t set the world in motion and leave us to figure it out for ourselves. Even when we rejected Him, He did not leave us. He came Himself to redeem us. God is intimately involved in your life, and He cares for you much more than you or I will ever know or understand.
This story gives us a wonderful picture of the character and nature of God, and at the same time it gives us a glimpse of the amazing power of feeble faith. The woman didn’t have a huge amount of faith. All she had was a mustard seed, and through it God moved the mountain of her illness.
We don’t have to agonise over the right or wrong way to approach God in faith. There is no right or wrong way – when you come through Jesus, you simply come to Him, just as you are. He sees your pain, your sin, and all your heartaches. Be like that woman, and just touch the Master.
You don’t have to know the Bible off by heart and don’t need a doctorate in theology. Just reach out and touch Him. He will not turn you away.
Do you ever feel that your problems keep you from coming to God? Do you ever feel so dirty and unclean that you think Jesus would not have anything to do with you? Jesus is not surprised at your sins. He knows them all. And He died for those things. This is why He invites you to reach out to Him.
He will not turn you away.
All it took for this woman was to touch Jesus. She didn’t promise to do better. She didn’t promise to do something in return. She didn’t need to strike a deal with God. All she had to do was in her misery, to reach out a trembling hand and in an instant, she was healed.
Jesus did it for her, and He longs to do the same for you.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Luke 8:42-48
One of the central doctrines of the Christian faith is the incarnation of Jesus – the fact that God took on human flesh and entered the world in search of lost sinners.
The plan of salvation is God’s plan, and in the words of one commentator, the only thing we bring, is our desperate need of salvation! This is illustrated in how Jesus healed the sick: in most cases He reached out and touched those who needed healing, yet in this case the woman touched Jesus.
Discuss the uniqueness of this particular miracle.
What does it teach us about putting faith into action?
We often hear that we don’t have to “do” anything, as God has done it all for us through Jesus, so what are the things we need to guard against when reading about this miracle?
The woman had been used to keeping to herself and avoiding attention, yet her reaction to being identified by Jesus in verse 47 is important.
What are we able to learn from a) her humility in falling at Jesus’ feet, and b) her willingness to tell others about why she touched Jesus, and what He did for her?