I was raised in a Mennonite home and consequently the Mennonite culture was ‘home’ to me. If someone mentioned 'Faspa' in a conversation no one needed to explain that it was the Sunday evening meal and that it consisted of home made buns, jam, cold cuts and lots of baked goodies. There is so much built in to a culture that needs no explanation to the one who is part of the culture but certain expressions or customs are very foreign to someone who has grown up outside of that culture.
So it is with the Jewish culture of the bible. We miss so much simply because we do not understand it, for much of the explanation we Gentiles need was omitted for obvious reasons since the bible was written primarily by Jews to Jews.
So to fully understand scripture sometimes a little digging into historical records will reveal details that open up our understanding of the words of Jesus.
I learned something the other day that I found very enlightening.
We all know the story of the poor woman with the ‘issue of blood’. We sympathize with her having to suffer those 12 long years during which time the doctors were quite willing to take her money even though they could not give her any medical relief.
Finally, when her money was all spent they were no longer interested in helping her. I can sympathize so much with her devastating debilitation. Not only did it affect her health but it affected her entire social life. She was unclean and by Jewish law given by God forbidden to go out into public.
Her whole story is told in six short verses.
We are not even given this woman’s name but what we know about her is very revealing about who she was.
She was , or had been, a woman of means. We are told that it was HER money that she spent.
I think we can conclude that she was also an independent woman who made her own decisions. She was in control of her finances and seemed to be seeking out the physicians according to her own will. It would follow, considering the fact that she was unclean, that she would not have been married and must have learned to live her life in seclusion.
And yet she seems to have had ways of keeping up with what was happening in her world. She could not ever have seen Jesus before the day that imprinted her story onto the pages of scripture – unless she saw Him from afar which would probably have been too far away to hear what He was saying.
And yet this woman believed something that made her dare to mingle in a crowd that she knew would immediately turn on her if they found out she was ‘unclean’.
Her single minded purpose? To touch the ‘hem’ of Jesus garment.
What gave her that idea? This was fairly early in Jesus ministry. Even His disciples had not yet figured out who Jesus was.
I have often wondered about this woman and the details that are NOT included in Luke 8:43-48.
If one does a little digging… going a little deeper than the surface information given, it gets rather interesting!
Every Jewish man at the time of Jesus would wear what was called a prayer shawl. At the ends of this shawl were 'tassels' which in the original is the word for ‘wings’ - this word is translated ‘hem’ in our bibles.
Why is this significant?
I believe that this woman had a curious, intelligent mind and filled her long days studying the scriptures. The little she learned about Jesus from overhearing conversations enabled her to come to some amazing faith that was far beyond the ordinary people that followed Jesus. She knew something they did not know !
In Malachi there is a promise about the Messiah. The verse is in chapter 4:2..”The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings !”
His ‘wings’ ? This woman, being Jewish, immediately thought of the ‘wings’ on a Jewish man’s prayer shawl. Her limited observation was enough to be convinced that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah and as the Messiah was the Sun of Righteousness that Malachi prophesied would come.
The thought formed in her mind, perhaps slowly or perhaps in the rush of revelation!
If she could but touch the ‘wings’ of Jesus' prayer shawl, she would be healed ! Is that not what Malachi’s prophecy said?
Her faith grew as she lay awake, perhaps night after night.
But the day came when she heard Jesus was going to be in her neighbourhood and a decision needed to be made.
Did she dare? How could she not dare ? This might be her last chance.
Full of quivering courage and determination this woman slipped out of her house that day – I’m sure with her shawl covering her head to avoid being recognized.
She pushed her way through the crowd and then - her moment was there !! Jesus was within her very reach !
Ohh! How her heart must have pounded as she contemplated whether or not she dared !
She decided in a heartbeat ! She MUST !! She had no choice ! If Malachi was true then she would be healed and no longer condemned as unclean. If Malachi was not true then nothing would be lost .. Jesus would never know she had even touched Him.
The moment her hand and her faith brushed ever so gently against the ‘wings’ of Jesus' shawl she felt the rush of sensation surge through her weak body and strength rushed in where sickness had been! She was HEALED !
Ohh… the joy !!!
but wait ! Jesus knew ! She pulled back into the crowd hoping that yet she may remain undetected. But Jesus stopped and would not be deterred. Trembling she came forward and fell at Jesus feet confessing what she had done.
Jesus did not condemn her but rather lifted her up with words of praise and familiarity! “Daughter! Be of good cheer ! Your faith has made you well ! Go in peace!”
Can you imagine the joy that filled that woman’s heart ? To be not only healed physically but restored publically to a ‘normal’ social life? And to have her faith rewarded by Jesus the Messiah ? I know that she never forgot His eyes when He turned to look at her ! At HER, an unclean woman, now healed by His power !!
I think her 12 years of suffering suddenly paled against the miracle of restoration. Would she give up the 12 years? I think not.
As we think about this woman may she be an encouragement to us . Maybe we feel isolated, or condemned by society or someone in our life, maybe circumstances have destroyed our sense of well-being, maybe we feel crushed or helpless where we are …. maybe life has left us in the place of hopelessness…. But remember this woman… and let her example prove to us that nothing is hopeless when we look to God. Trusting Him with the broken , worthless pieces of our life will allow Him to weave them into a miracle. He can take our life and fill it with Himself and His purposes if we but believe that it is possible !
If we but touch the ‘wings’ of His garment we too shall be made whole !