- Pete Souza was the Chief Official White House Photographer for President Ronald Reagan (from 1983-1989) and President Barak Obama (2009-2017). Many of us would recognize numerous photos of his which have appeared in the news media.
- Souza estimated he and his staff took about 2,000,000 photos during President Obama’s two terms! This included those in the Oval Office, and during official functions, international trips, disasters, plus private family moments.
- In the Gospels we have many such “snapshots” of Jesus, most of them when He was with people. These images are word pictures rather than photographic, but they are graphic and well focused all the same.
- In these various photogenic moments with the Lord, teachers and preachers have usually focused on Him. But in this series we are trying to do what Jesus did – look at the people in the picture!
- We return to the scene of our previous snapshot, as Jesus has just met Jairus, a synagogue ruler in Capernaum.
- Capernaum was very familiar to Jesus for He had made it the base of operations for His public ministry.
- It is here, or nearby, he had living quarters, had healed many, taught some of His most famous lessons, and even called His apostles to follow Him.
- The series of images we see today are found in Mark 5:24-34; Matthew 9:19-22; and Luke 8:42-48. The fact that three of the Gospel writers record this one story probably emphasizes the importance of it to the early church.
- Jesus and His disciples are on the way with Jairus to heal his daughter. As the pressing crowd moves along with them, someone suddenly reaches out from the faceless multitude and touches the Lord.
- It was a woman who touched Him. While her name is not revealed, her need and malady is. For 12 years she has suffered from bleeding or hemorrhaging. It is not specific in the text whether this was connected to her menstrual cycle, though most scholars believe it was. Nor do we know if it was continuous, or cyclical; again most have the impression is was a non-stop issue.
- She had spent all she had seeking medical relief, but her condition continued to worsen
- Luke (remember, he was a physician) says, “She could not be healed.” (Luke 8:43)
- Such suffering on her part had many repercussions:
- First, it had been constant for 12 years! So it dominated her life.
- Next, physically it would have produced anemia, with constant symptoms such as weakness, paleness, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, and headaches.
- Further, if she was part of the Jewish nation (and there is no indication she was Gentile), according to Leviticus 15:19-28 she was ceremonially unclean! She was barred from visiting the Temple, very restricted in any synagogue activities, and anything she touched during this time became ceremonially unclean as well. Thus, she was cut off from most spiritual and community contact for these 12 years.
- She was economically devastated.
- Because of false concepts, many women in her social circle would consider her a “sinful woman” being punished by God for some hidden sin! See passages like John 9:2, 34 and Luke 13:1-4.
- Last, if she was married, she and here husband were required to be sexually abstinent, and both the abstinence and the nature of her malady would mean she could not bear children (an important social desire of all Jewish women).
- As an aside, in Jewish culture, women were not to publicly approach, speak to, or touch men. Moreover, in her case, to touch Jesus was doubly forbidden since she would then make Him unclean.
- But desperately needing healing, and knowing that others had been healed by Jesus, Mark says she “touched His cloak.” Matthew and Luke add that she touched “the edge of His cloak” (NIV) or “the fringe of his garment” (NASB, ESV).
- The hem or fringe of a Jewish man’s outer garment bore the blue tassels described in Numbers 15:38-40 and Deuteronomy 22:12. Called the Tallit or Tallith, it is still worn by Orthodox Jewish men today on both the hems of their shirts and on their prayer shawls. The tassels represented their commitment both to obey God’s commandments and to be holy.
- It was her perhaps hastily concocted plan to secretly touch just His garment if possible. In her desperation she hoped this might be enough to receive some healing benefit without either the Lord or others knowing what she had done! She must have imagined she would not then be exposed to public embarrassment about her situation.
- Two things then happened in a single instant:
- Immediately she felt her body change! And she knew she was healed!
- Jesus knew she had touched Him and His power had gone out to her, even though she had initiated the contact and not Him. “Who touched my garments?” (Mark 5:30) or, “Who is the one who touched me?” (Luke 8:45) There is no indication of anger, irritation or rudeness in His question. Almost surely He already knew who it was, but it was for her to come forward and confess her faith now.
- “But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.” (Mark 5:33) Even though she had hoped against hope for a miracle, the instant reception of it was overwhelming and almost incomprehensible for her. Gone is her terrible suffering. Gone also is the shame and fear of being a social and spiritual pariah. But perhaps she feared that He would be angry that she had covertly taken that which He would have gladly given.
- “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace…” (Luke 8:48) Jesus graciously blessed and commended her for having a faith which believed she could be healed by such a small expression of confidence in His power – merely touching the tassel attached to His clothing!
- How many of us today bear secret burdens, hurts, wounds or even physical maladies which we have borne for a long time without any hope of being released or healed from them? But there is One who has asked us to bring Him our burdens and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). In His infinite wisdom and eternal purpose, physical healing may or may not be given, but even if we still must bear up under our bodily weaknesses, He assures us that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). Are we willing to trust and believe Him no matter which He may choose to do?
- But there is still more to this story, according a tradition from the early church. While we cannot know if this tradition is true, it says that this woman (St. Veronica) was from Caesarea Philippi, a city north of Capernaum some 35 miles. After her healing she eventually returned home telling all of what Jesus had done for her. A few years later, when the gospel reached her city, she became part of the church that began there. She was credited with having erected a statue depicting her healing by Jesus; the statue was supposedly still standing in the 4th Century according to one witness. In some versions of the story she also accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem and wiped the blood and sweat from His brow as He passed by on the Via Dolorosa. True? Not likely all of it. But is quite possible some parts of it are based on reliable oral traditions.
- Wall art in the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter beneath Rome also depicts this healing. The art probably dates from the 3rd or 4th Century.
Our image comes from the Lumo Project and made available through www.FreeBibleImages.org.