Text: Mark 9:25-34
My mother died when she was only 50 years old from ovarian cancer. With every passing day I would see her getting thinner and weaker. She lost a lot blood which made her anemic and unable to have a normal life. This experience helps me to relate to the story in Mark of the woman with the issue of blood. For twelve years she had to survive a similar circumstance. In the Old Testament women with this kind of problem were considered unclean. In other words, nobody was able to touch them. Even if this woman had children, she could not feel their embrace. Every place where she sat down had to be cleaned afterwards. How can one still have hope living this way, feeling shunned by everyone and not being able to live a normal life with family, friends, and neighbors? The Bible says that this woman spent all that she had seeing different doctors to help her, but nothing seemed to work. Maybe in the beginning she had hope that this would pass, that somehow the doctor would find a cure, but years passed and there was no more hope.
The Bible doesn't say how she found out that Jesus was in her town, but what we do know is that she did not care what she had to do to get close to Jesus, even if it meant touching people in the crowd on her way there. She knew that the only solution was right in front of her. Imagine a sickly woman with no strength or energy, bent over, reaching out to touch the fringe of Jesus's garment. Immediately she appears to feel better, and then Jesus turns and looks at her with eyes of compassion and love. This rabbi doesn't say to her "why did you touch me?" but instead, "your faith has healed you." Jesus said these words in public and out loud so he could not only heal her but restore her standing in the community, making her clean again.
In this story, we are told by that the bleeding woman pushes through the crowd in order to touch the fringe or corner of Jesus’ garment. She does not call out His name or grab ahold of Jesus’ hand, but stooping over, she reaches for the corner of His garment. Now for modern readers, the significance of this might pass us by, but a first century Jewish reader would not miss the reference; this bleeding woman reaches for Jesus’ fringe (“tzitzit”) for a reason. In Numbers 15:37-41 the Israelites are instructed to wear fringes on the corners of their garments as a visible reminder of the commands of God and of his redemptive act in bringing them out of Egypt. In Ezekiel 16:8 and Ruth 3:9 the corners (or wings) of the garment are linked to the marriage covenant God makes with Israel and to His desire to redeem her. So again the Bible links fringe/corner/wing to God’s redemptive act and His marriage to His people. Also the Psalms are full of references to taking refuge under the Lord’s wings or hiding in the shadow of His wings because the psalmists believe they can hide under God’s wings since they are in a covenantal relationship with the Lord (Ps 17:8, 36:7). Finally in Malachi 4:2, God promises that in the future “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings.” Taking all of these passages together, the fringe/corner/wing was associated with God’s covenant promise to Israel to be her redeemer, her groom, her Lord, and her healer.
By grabbing onto the fringe of Jesus’ garment, this woman was linking Jesus with the prophecy about “the sun of righteousness” and with God Himself. Whether she fully comprehended that Jesus was God or not, she certainly believed He was a prophet of God and the promised Messiah. When Jesus turns to her and says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well,” He is affirming her belief in His Messiah-ship. (Jesus goes even farther in Matthew 23:37 when He describes Himself as wanting to bring Jerusalem under His wings, essentially declaring Himself God!) What an amazing story when we understand it all in context. This woman not only longed to be healed but she recognized that Jesus was the Great Physician, the only doctor who could heal her.
When you come to Jesus, do you grab onto the fringe of His garment? Do you come to Him believing He is who the Bible declares Him to be? Are your requests and hopes founded upon ancient Scriptures? May we cling to the corners of His garment and find refuge in the shadow of His wings. May we always find His gentle eyes upon us, calling us His daughters.