‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well’ — The Faith of that Woman with an Issue of Blood

Evidence of faithful people is infused within the Holy Bible — throughout both the Hebrew and the Christian scriptures. But how do we describe ‘faith’? What, exactly, is it?

There are many definitions of what is ‘faith’. An online encyclopedia states it is simply a belief without evidence, such as a trust in a person, thing, or concept.1 One dictionary says it is something believed, especially with strong conviction,2 while another states it is something based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.3

But the Judeo-Christian concept of faith is “a constant outlook of trust towards God, whereby human beings abandon all reliance on their own efforts and put their full confidence in him, his word and his promises.”4 And, specifically applied to a Christian, faith is personally depending on the finished work of Christ’s sacrifice as the only basis for forgiveness of sin and a commitment to following Christ in obedience. So, New Testament faith can best be thought of as a combination of two ideas — reliance on Christ and commitment to him.5

Our study begins after Jesus exorcized demons from a man living in an area of ancient Greece and they entered into some pigs (Mark 5:1-20).6 After leaving there and seeing a large crowd of people, Jesus was approached by Jairus, a ruler of a local synagogue, who explained that his twelve-year-old daughter was dying. As Jesus was walking to Jairus’ home, he was interrupted by an extraordinary event.

We will study the event as written in Mark 5, but it can also be found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke (see: Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48).

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 

And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:24-34, ESV).7

Who was this woman?

Not much information is given about this woman, except her condition. But even so, we can get a good understanding about her miserable life. She had a constant issue or flow of blood for twelve years, which was the same length of time as Jairus’ daughter’s life. Coincidence? Could she possibly be the little girl’s mother? After all, the Mosaic Law would have forced her to live apart from her husband as long as the flow of blood continued. “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean.” (Leviticus 15:25).

This mother-daughter idea is just a thought. Maybe her blood flow illness began and continued after she gave birth. I haven’t, yet, found any treatise or academic thoughts concerning this suggestion, but I believe it should be considered. If anyone has a reference on this idea, please leave a comment.

Many people believe the Law of Moses, in relation to discharges pertaining to reproductive organs, were cruel and much too restrictive, but that is not really the case. Like all the other laws, there was function and purpose, especially in the ancient world. And these were not only related to females, but restrictive for males, too.

To read a detailed study on that topic, see the article titled “Menstrual Periods in the Bible and Other Personal Issues”, listed in References & Notes.8 There is, also, another general article related to menstrual periods, which many people believe is a curse from God. That is not true and you can find out more in the article titled “That Monthly Period of Women — Did God Curse Eve?” This is also listed in References & Notes.9

In Jewish law, the woman would have been regarded as a niddah,10 or menstruating woman, therefore ceremonially unclean. Since this was a continuing condition, this state of permanent uncleanness would have brought upon her both social and religious isolation.11 Everyone in the area most likely knew of her condition — she was considered soiled and unworthy — and anything she touched became unclean, too. This story leaves no doubt about how she felt. She had been basically quarantined for twelve years.12

Over that time, she had tried to solve her problem with various physicians and numerous medications, but to no avail. “According to William Barclay’s commentary, the Talmud13 gave at least eleven possible cures for her ailment. I’m sure that this poor woman had tried all of them. But, nothing worked and she even got worse! She was tired, worn out, and intensely lonely.”14 She was also desperate and, assuredly, depressed.

This bleeding problem, which she suffered, is sometimes inaccurately called a hemorrhage in some Bible translations. A professor, in the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, states that the Greek words used, in this biblical passage, are in reference to a steady ooze of menstrual bleeding. So, if not an uncorrected injury from giving birth, it is possible that she had what gynecologists call menometrorrhagia, or heavy, irregular, and unpredictable menstrual periods.15

Now, that is faith!

She had heard about Jesus, so unobserved she came up behind him, through the crowd, and touched his robe. “She believed that he cured, not as a prophet, by virtue derived from God, but as the Son of God, by a virtue inherent in himself. Her case was such as she could not, in modesty, tell him publicly, as others did their grievances, and therefore a private cure was what she wished for, and her faith was suited to her case.”16

She had true faith and said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” Now, when she did, immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. She literally knew17 by a physical sensation in her body that healing power came into her. At the very same time, Jesus realized that some healing power had gone out from him.18 It was a power that belonged to him and, from time to time, proceeded from him.19 In this case, it seemed to occur without overt participation by Jesus.20

Jesus turned around and loudly asked, “Who touched my garments?” The woman was probably in a state of shock. Frightened and trembling, because she had also compromised the ritual purity of Jesus, she fell down before him and admitted her deed. She was also anxious about how Jesus would respond.21 But our Lord didn’t seem to be concerned about correct regulation, procedure, or protocol.22 He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Now, did Jesus not really know who touched his garments? Maybe, maybe not. If not, the action must have been directed by his father, Jehovah, who kept tabs on his son’s activities. Another suggestion is that since his ministry was to publically display God’s power, he wanted to make this a teaching experience, instead of a private healing, therefore announcing the event. Then again, maybe it demonstrates a difference between the touch of physical nearness and the touch of desperate faith.23 And the power of faith is the point he was making.

He calls the woman ‘daughter’ to signify a new relationship with him,24 and tells her to ‘go in peace’, which is the usual Hebrew blessing at dismissal.25 His delay here, caused his next miracle to be even more important for his demonstration of faith in God. The little girl, whom he was going to see, died. But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” (Mark 5:36, NLT). And Jesus brought her back to life.

Hebrews 11

If you want more evidence and examples of what faith is, look no further than the Book of Hebrews. The authorship of this book is generally attributed to the Apostle Paul and he goes into the details of faith in the eleventh chapter. One author described Paul’s descriptions this way, “Here a tapestry is unfolded, depicting great examples of faith from the record of Old Testament heroes.” This chapter also shows the importance of faith, because God’s people are overburdened with weakness, poverty, and difficulty.26

The two most important verses of that chapter demonstrate that the point is not that faith creates the things we hope for, but that it receives from God his blessings; God gives forgiveness, peace, and spiritual provision.27

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

And the best part about faith, is that if you are faithful to God, God will be faithful to you. If you have faith, you can draw near to him, and in return, God will faithfully reward you. Faith is a two-way street. Like the poor woman with the flow of blood, she had faith in Jesus, and Jesus faithfully rewarded her.

This thought brings us to the song selection for this discourse. It is “She Laid Hold on the Word” by Donna Carline. Selected lyrics are below. See References & Notes for a link to the music video.28

One day the Word came walking down the road
On His way to Jairus’ house
And a certain woman with an issue of blood
Heard that He was healing, doing good

She said with her mouth, “If I can touch His clothes
I know I will, I know I shall be whole”
She crawled thru the crowd, ever so bold
She touched Him and she was made whole

Copyright © 2020, Dr. Ray Hermann
OutlawBibleStudent.org

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Reference & Notes

  1. “Faith”, (Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation Inc., 19 July 2020), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith
  2. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
  3. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed., (USA: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  4. Manser, Martin H., Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies, (London: Martin Manser, 2009).
  5. Youngblood, Ronald F., et al. (Eds.), Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995).
  6. Hermann, Ray, “Demons, Jesus, and the Pigs”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 13 August 2019), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/demons-jesus-and-the-pigs/
  7. Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), ©2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The text has been used by permission. All rights reserved.
  8. Hermann, Ray, “Menstrual Periods in the Bible and Other Personal Issues”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 8 March 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/menstrual-periods-in-the-bible-and-other-bodily-discharges/
  9. Hermann, Ray, “That Monthly Period of Women — Did God Curse Eve?”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 16 December 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/that-monthly-period-of-women-did-god-curse-eve/
  10. נִדָּה, impurity: (as abhorrent, shunned) — impurity: of ceremonial impurity, esp. of menstruation.
    Whitaker, Richard, et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, [based on the Lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius], (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906).
  11. MacArthur, John, “Matthew 8-15″ in MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1987), p. 80.
  12. Isai-Díaz, Ada María, “Women of God, Women of the People”, (Drew University, presentation at the Tenth ICWF Quadrennial Assembly, retrieved 22 July 2020), https://users.drew.edu/aisasidi/cd/flow.html
  13. Talmud: the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend comprising the Mishnah and the Gemara.
  14. Heeren, Jennifer, “What Can We Learn from the Woman with the Issue of Blood?”, (Crosswalk, 27 January 2020), https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/the-woman-with-the-issue-of-blood.html
  15. Wall, L. Lewis, “Jesus and the Unclean Woman”, (Christianity Today Magazine, 13 January 2010), vol. 54, no. 1, p. 48.
  16. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), vol. 5, p. 388.
  17. Strong’s Greek #1097: knew or felt: γινώσκω ginōskō, to “know” (absolutely) in a great variety of applications and with many impl. (as follow, with others not thus clearly expressed):— allow, be aware (of), feel, (have) know (-ledge), perceive, be resolved, can speak, be sure, understand.
  18. Grassmick, John D., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 2, pp. 124–125.
  19. Swete, Henry Barclay, (Ed.), The Gospel according to St. Mark. The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes and Indices, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament, (London; New York: The MacMillan Company, 1898), p. 104.
  20. Grassmick, John D., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (see above).
  21. Barry, John D., et al., Faithlife Study Bible, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mk 5:30 & 33.
  22. France, R. T., The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), p. 237.
  23. MacDonald, William, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, (Ed.) Arthur Farstad, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1333.
  24. Walvoord John F. and Zuck, Roy B., (Eds.), John D. Grassmick in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 2, p. 125.
  25. McLaren, Ross H., in CSB Study Bible: Notes, (Nashville TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), p. 1567.
  26. Phillips, Richard, “What Is Faith? The Answer from Hebrews 11″, (Ligonier Blog, 13 April 2016), https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-faith-answer-hebrews-11/
  27. Ibid.
  28. “She Laid Hold on the Word”, Artist: Donna Carline; uploaded by son channel, 11 May 2018, (no album, author, licensing, or copyright listed; used under ‘fair use’ copyright for teaching under Section 107 of Copyright Act of 1976) – MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/HGS6ctTYET0?list=RDPUIa674GGCo
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