The Bible describes the famous story of Jesus Christ healing a bleeding woman miraculously in three different Gospel reports: Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:42-48. While Jesus was walking toward a synagogue leader's house to help his dying daughter, a large crowd followed him. One of the people in that crowd was a woman who'd been suffering from a bleeding disorder for 12 years. She had pursued healing for much of that time, but no doctor was able to help her. Then she met Jesus, and here's what happened...
Just One Touch
Mark 5:24-29 begins the story this way: "A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. 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.
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, 'If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.'
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering."
An overwhelming number of people were in the crowd that day. Luke says in his report that, "As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him" (Luke 8:42). But the woman was determined to reach Jesus however she could. By this point in Jesus' ministry, he had developed a widespread reputation as a remarkable teacher and healer. Even though the woman had sought help from many doctors (and spent all her money in the process) to no avail, she still had faith that she could finally find healing if she reached out for Jesus.
Not only did the woman have to overcome discouragement in order to reach out; she also had to overcome shame. Since the Jewish religious leaders considered women to be ceremonially unclean during their monthly periods (when they were bleeding), the woman had the added shame of always feeling unclean because her gynecological disorder caused constant bleeding. As someone who was considered to be unclean, the woman couldn’t worship in the synagogue or enjoy normal social relationships (anyone who touched her while she was bleeding was also considered unclean, so people likely avoided her). Due to this deep sense of shame about coming into contact with people, the woman would likely have been afraid to touch Jesus within his sight, so she decided to approach him as unobtrusively as possible.
Who Touched Me?
Luke describes Jesus' response this way in Luke 8:45-48: "'Who touched me?' Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, 'Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.'
But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'
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. Then he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.'"
When the woman made physical contact with Jesus, miraculous healing power was transferred from him to her, so that touch (which she'd had to avoid for so long) changed from something fearful to something beautiful for her, becoming the means of her healing. However, the reason for her healing was different than the means through which God chose to deliver it. Jesus made it clear that it was the woman's faith in him that caused the healing to happen for her.
The woman was trembling out of fear of being noticed and having to explain her actions to everyone there. But Jesus reassured her that she could go in peace, because faith in him was more powerful than fear of anything.