“And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of His garment.” Was it not desperation that drove this woman to Jesus too? The woman is nameless, but she is introduced as a desperate case since she “had suffered from bleeding for twelve years,” to which Luke also adds, “No one could heal her” (Luke 8.43). It is important to think about her condition since it so obviously illustrates our own desperate condition due to sin.
First, she was unclean. The words the Gospel writers use are carefully chosen, as we might expect from men who are describing the health problems of a woman. But what we surmise from their accounts is that the woman was suffering from excessive menstrual bleeding. Whatever the source, the bleeding would have weakened her — she would have been anemic as well as subject to further diseases — and she would have been considered ceremonially unclean by the Jews, as was the leper whom Jesus healed in Matthew chapter 8. The condition of a woman subject to such bleeding and how she was to be treated is described in Leviticus 15.25-33.
Second, she was isolated. People could not come into contact with a menstruating woman without being made unclean by that contact. In fact, they could not even lie on a bed where she had lain or sit on a chair where she had sat. No one could touch her, and she was not allowed to touch other people. Sadly, her bleeding would have destroyed her chances for marriage, or, if she were married, it would have precluded all sexual relations with her husband. She must have been very, very lonely.
Third, she was incurable. Luke makes this clearer than the other two writers when he explains that “no one could heal her,” but it is obvious from the other Gospels as well. All three Synoptic Gospels say that she had been ill for “twelve years,” and Mark adds that, in spite of her having seen many doctors, “instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5.26).
When we put the story of the synagogue ruler’s daughter and the woman who suffered from bleeding together, we have an apt picture of everyone apart from the healing grace of Jesus Christ. I am sure these stories are linked in the Gospels because the circumstances of the cures are intertwined; that is, they actually happened at the same time and were remembered together by the writers. But the stories also reinforce one another (and belong together for that reason) since what was true of the woman was true of the girl too, and vice versa. The dead were as unclean as menstruating women and lepers. They could not be touched. That is why Matthew points out that Jesus overthrew the taboo by taking the dead girl by the hand (Matthew 9.25). Again, there is no isolation so utterly complete as death, either for the dead person or for those who have lost the one loved. As far as the woman was concerned, she was bleeding to death even if she was not dead yet. As for being incurable, the condition of the dead girl and the condition of the woman were both clearly beyond hope.
But not for Jesus. What we are told is that the woman’s contact with Jesus healed her “from that moment” and that as soon as Jesus had taken the dead girl by the hand she got up, being raised from the death that held her. None are too unclean, too isolated, or too hopeless for Jesus to save. He can even raise the dead.
The point of these stories is that this is exactly what Jesus does in the case of everyone who is saved from sin. It is what He has done for you if you are a Christian. What does sin do to us after all? Obviously, it makes us unclean. It contaminates us, and none of us can come before the purity of God’s presence until our sin is dealt with. When Isaiah saw the Lord seated upon his throne in heaven he cried out, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Is.6.5). He trembled before God until an angel touched his lips with a coal from the altar, saying, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Sin also isolates. It keeps us from God, which is the worst thing about sin, but it also isolates us from other people, creating hurts, hard feelings, and misunderstandings between races, individuals, and even members of one’s own family. Isaiah also wrote of our isolation from God: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Is.59.2).
Then, too, our condition is hopeless apart from grace. Nothing could be more hopeless than death, and we are described as being “dead” in our sins (Ep.2.1). But the same chapter of the Bible that says we were dead in our sins also says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2.4–7). There is no finer picture of that love, grace, resurrection power, and salvation than Matthew’s account of the healings of the ruler’s dead daughter and the bleeding woman.
Maranatha! (mar-uh-nath-uh – “Our Lord Comes”)
Pastor Steve can be reached at PastorSteve@MaranathaBibleChurch.org