In today’s lesson, the Gospel writers, Mark and Luke, share a story about a woman who suffered for years with a distressing health problem.  Her name is not included in the narrative, so her identity remains a mystery, but her testimony endures as an inspiration.

 

Concerning this woman, we do not know her history or her heritage.  We only know that she suffered from a lingering health problem – an unspecified, long-term, bloodborne disease. In the First century, diseases could spread throughout a community, wreaking havoc, especially for young children and the very old. Ancient cultures were limited in medical practices and the Jewish sector placed restrictions on those with contagious diseases to avoid spreading. According to Torah guidelines, anyone with free-flowing blood was considered unclean. But after certain days and protocol, the one with free-flowing blood would be regarded as clean and able to return to public activities. The Romans may have also implemented quarantine or some form of it to help control disease. 

 

We must remember that first-century doctors consisted mostly of herbalists and spiritualists.  There were no hospitals, no high-tech imaging machines, no blood tests, and few medications.  The woman in our story possessed an issue invisible to the naked eye. It lay shrouded beneath her garments, hidden within the chemistry of her blood, flowing freely within her veins – a disease that controlled her life.

Troubled by her illness and anxious for a cure, she sought help from doctors for twelve years. If she were of Jewish descent, she would visit a priest and remain isolated until she could be declared clean.  If she were of Roman heritage, the doctors might encourage her to eat lots of cabbage or prescribe drinking the urine of someone who had eaten lots of cabbage. (Oh my!)

Having used all her wealth to pay the local physicians, this woman remained a prisoner by an enemy within her.  She suffered emotional trauma along with the physical pain of her ailment. You and I may identify with her each time we are diagnosed with an undesirable medical issue.  We understand what it means to bear the weight of sickness and disease or take medication with adverse effects. This woman lived at the mercy of those who could only guess for a remedy. No doubt, her pain registered deeper than her blood loss.

Word spread that a Rabbi who could heal disease was coming to the Galilean countryside.  With great hope, this certain woman cast aside every obstacle, determined to meet the Master.

As the Rabbi stepped on shore, the people flocked to see him. Included among the multitude was this woman with an issue of blood.  She knew it would be difficult to maneuver through the crowd, and she also understood that the culture might frown upon a woman approaching a man of such stature, so she was cautious.  Considering every aspect, her task seemed daunting, but she would not be deterred.

Wisely, she covered herself to avoid recognition, then, taking a deep breath, disappeared into the crowd. The roar of many voices and the pressing crowd were uncomfortable, but she desperately wanted to be healed. Her goal was to get close enough to touch the Rabbi’s garment. Remaining concealed, she followed at a distance.

The crowd vied for His attention as they pushed and shoved, moving in succession with Him.  The woman with the issue of blood continued quietly nudging her way among the people. Within minutes, she was no longer part of the outer edge. Amazed, she found herself so close to the Rabbi she could hear his gentle voice. Her heart raced! Then, miraculously, an opening appeared just behind Him. This was her moment!

Drawing close and with humility, she bowed behind the Master. With great fortitude, she lengthened her arm to its fullest degree and extended her fingers to touch the Rabbi. In faith, she whispered, “If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole.”  To her astonishment, she felt the soft threads of the tzitzits that hung from His tallit. Her heart raced as she tightly grasped the fringe in her hand.

Time was standing still. For that moment, she was transported into another dimension. She could not explain it – she was in His presence! Overcome in her spirit by the touch, “straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.” The warmth and wholeness of that moment moved beyond her flesh; indeed, it plunged into the depths of her soul. She was not the same physically or spiritually. She was healed! 

Returning to reality and promptly startled by her boldness, she quickly relinquished her grasp. Retracting her arm inside her cloak, she quietly turned so that she might disappear into the crowd.  But “Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And he looked around to see her that had done this thing.  But the woman, fearing and trembling knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said to her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague.” (Mark 5:30 -34)

No longer a hostage, the devastating plague that had inhabited her blood was gone. She was free from isolation, loneliness, sluggishness, and pain. She had met the Master. He had renewed her blood and given her vitality, all because she had been in His presence.

How about you and me? Is there hope for the person who seeks healing from the Lord? Is it possible to be in His presence?  The prophet Jeremiah wrote: And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Finally, there are many applications concerning this First-Century woman, which we will share in another article.  For now, it is enough to ponder our search to be in His presence.

The Shepherd’s Wife at www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Sheilah Smith © 2024

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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