2011 - Vol. 52
Woman with the Hemorrage
By Jeanne Kun
I touch even his garments, I shall be made well. - Mark 5:28
touched the hem of his garment, she approached him in a spirit of faith,
she believed, and she realized that she was cured. . . . So we too, if
we wish to be saved, should reach out in faith to touch the garment of
Reflecting on the
Ambrose of Milan,
VI, 56, 58
discouraged this woman must have felt! For twelve years she had futilely
sought a cure for her bleeding disorder, only to be disappointed time and
time again (Mark 5:25). She had spent all her money on doctor after doctor,
but had only gotten worse (5:26). Yet what tremendous faith she exhibited
when she reached out to Jesus in her distress!
of the woman with the hemorrhage is one of many instances in which he showed
concern for women. In fact, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all relate that this
encounter occurred while Jesus was on his way to help Jairus’ daughter,
whom he raised from the dead (Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56).
He also healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (Mark 1:29-31), showed
his compassion for the widow of Nain by restoring her only son to life
(Luke 7:11-18), and straightened the bent back of a woman who had suffered
from her deformity for eighteen years (13:10-17). He treated the woman
caught in adultery with mercy and kindness as he encouraged her to sin
no more (John 8:1-11), freed Mary Magdalene from the demonic influences
that plagued her (Luke 8:2), and enjoyed deep friendship with Martha and
her sister Mary (10:38-42; John 11:1-3; 12:1-3). Women were among Jesus’
most dedicated followers (Luke 8:2-3; Matthew 27:55-56), and it was to
them that he first showed himself after the resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10;
Mark 16:1-10; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:11-18).
describe this woman’s physical ailment in various ways. Whatever
its cause, the disorder was chronic—and surely quite unpleasant. Besides
the pain and inconvenience the woman suffered from such steady bleeding,
she probably experienced weakness, weight loss, and anemia. No medical
treatment relieved her symptoms or cured her.
Much more than
this woman’s physical well-being was affected by her condition. According
to Mosaic law, a woman was considered “unclean” each month for seven days
during the “regular discharge from her body” (Leviticus 15:19). The purpose
of this law was not to demean or disparage women; rather, it reflected
the high regard the Israelites had for the sacredness of life, and for
a woman’s contact with that sacredness in reproduction. But the nature
of the ailment of the woman in this gospel scene—a continuous flow of blood—would
have rendered her constantly unclean nonetheless:
a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her
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. Every bed on which she lies,
all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity;
and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness
of her impurity. And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and
shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until
the evening. (Leviticus 15:25-27)
If this woman
was relatively young, it’s quite likely that her condition would have made
marriage and childbearing impossible. If she was already married and had
borne children before the onset of her disorder, its chronic nature would
have severely restricted her contact with her husband and family and curtailed
her activities. Regardless of her age or marital status, her continual
“uncleanness” would have cut her off from her friends, since any contact
with her would have made them ritually unclean, too. Moreover, she was
isolated from participation in the public worship of God.
“had heard the reports about Jesus” (Mark 5:27). Encouraged by stories
of how he had healed so many people of diseases and physical impairments,
she dared to hope the same for herself. Her belief in Jesus’ power made
her bold—she was determined to reach out to him for help. But because she
was legally unclean and embarrassed by her illness, she wanted to slip
through the crowd and touch his robe without attracting any attention.
Just coming in contact with the fringe or hem of Jesus’ garment—a detail
Matthew and Luke tell us (Matthew 9:20; Luke 8:44)— would be enough to
heal her, she reasoned with amazing faith.
Later in Mark’s
Gospel, we read that “wherever Jesus came, in villages, cities, or country,
they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might
touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made
well” (Mark 6:56; see also Matthew 14:35-36). It is likely that Jesus,
a pious Jew, wore tassels called tzitzi attached to the corners of his
robe or cloak, as enjoined by the law: “The LORD said to Moses: ‘. . .
Bid [the people of Israel] to make tassels on the corners of their garments
throughout the generations, and to put upon the tassel of each corner a
cord of blue; and it shall be to you a tassel to look upon and remember
all the commandments of the LORD’” (Numbers 15:37-39; see also Deuteronomy
22:12). Consequently, the popular belief that such tassels had the power
to heal or bring good fortune, especially when worn by holy men, may have
influenced this woman’s thinking.
hemorrhage ceased when she touched Jesus’ clothing, and she immediately
felt that she had been healed (Mark 5:29). She had come up behind Jesus,
unseen by him as she stretched her hand out to his robe (5:27). Now her
hope had been fulfilled—after so many years of suffering, she was well,
her body healthy and free of pain! But when she tried to disappear into
the noisy throng unnoticed, Jesus gave her away.
Jesus was certain
that he had not simply been jostled accidentally in the press of the crowd.
He’d been touched purposefully by a hand reaching out in eager faith, and
he felt energy go out from him (Mark 5:30). When Jesus asked “Who touched
me?” (5:31), he wanted to know who had drawn upon his power with such firm
confidence in him.
The woman must
have trembled, ashamed to admit that in her uncleanness she had dared to
touch the teacher. Yet she was sure of his mercy, for had he not just granted
her healing? So falling at his feet, she told “the whole truth” (Mark 5:33).
Her story, so long one of repeated disappointments, had culminated in joy
and gratitude. She “declared in the presence of all the people why she
had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed” (Luke 8:47).
In reply, Jesus commended and affirmed her: “Daughter, your faith has made
you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34).
up the significance of this woman’s encounter with Jesus, biblical scholar
George Montague, S.M., noted that the account has much to teach us:
healing is a personal encounter with Jesus. It is not a magical or mechanical
event, though physical touch may be involved. The healed person must meet
Jesus, even if the meeting takes place after the healing. Second, a public
confession of Jesus is part of the healing process. Others may thus come
to faith through this woman’s witness. Finally, even though the physical
event of her healing has taken place already, Jesus’ word of healing completes
the action. He further personalizes it, and teaches that her touch would
have been meaningless without faith. (Mark: Good News for Hard Times)
Not only did
Jesus restore this woman’s health, he also restored her place in society.
When Jesus called the woman forth from the crowd to publicly acknowledge
her healing, he established her as clean in the eyes of all. By Jesus’
gracious affirmation of her, she was given full and abundant life.
Lord and My God: A Scriptural Journey with the Followers of Jesus,
by Jeanne Kun (The
Word Among Us Press, © 2004). Used with permission. This
book can be ordered online.
Kun is President of Bethany
Association and a senior woman leader in the Word
of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
have no words
pray to you.
being in your company,
in the fragrance of your presence
stretching out my hand to touch your garment’s hem,
verse by Jeanne Kun
The Scene: Mark
crowd followed [Jesus] and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman
who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much
under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better
but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came
up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If
I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” 29 And immediately the
hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her
disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth
from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched
my garments?”31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing
around you, and yet you say, `Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around
to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had been done to
her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him
the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made
you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
also Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48
1. List all
the verbs in this story that describe what the woman with the hemorrhage
did and what she experienced. What do they indicate about this woman’s
2. What does
Mark’s account reveal about Jesus? How would you characterize Jesus’ response
to this woman? What does this suggest to you about how he regarded and
treated all women?
3. Why do you
think Jesus wanted to know who touched him?
on these other instances in the gospels in which Jesus said, “Your faith
has made you well”: Luke 7:36-50, Mark 10:46-52; Luke 17:11-19. What do
these scenes indicate about the importance of faith? How did those in need
respond to Jesus?
5. Jesus told
the woman whom he healed, “Go in peace” (Mark 5:34). In what ways do you
think she experienced peace because of this healing? Describe how you think
her life changed after she was freed of her long-standing and troubling
6. Read Mark
5:21-24, 35-43, the account about Jairus and his daughter. What similarities
do you see in this story and in that about the woman with the hemorrhage?
Living the Word
yourself in this scene with Jesus. What is the one pressing need you would
bring to him? How do you imagine him responding to you?
2. In what
ways do you identify with the woman in Mark 5:24-34? Do you have a need
that is so long-standing—like the woman’s twelve-year problem—that you
feel discouraged and have little hope of any solution? How does this gospel
story give you hope?
3. What are
some concrete ways that you can reach out and “touch” the garment of Jesus?
Are you willing to take a risk, like this woman did, to try something new
(perhaps fasting, asking others to pray with you, attending a healing service)?
4. When have
you felt Jesus’ power healing you physically or spiritually? What was your
reaction to this healing? How did it change your life?
5. Can you
think of any situation when you felt that Jesus honored or commended you
for putting faith in him? How did you respond?
6. Do you know
someone with a chronic illness? What might you do to show them love and
Rooted in the Word
The Woman with
the Hemorrhage: A Portrait of Faith
The woman who
suffered from the bleeding disorder for so many years heard the reports
of those who had been healed by Jesus (Mark 5:27), believed them, and cast
herself upon his mercy. Faith in Jesus’ compassion and power gave her the
courage to approach him with the confident expectation that she would be
healed simply by touching his garments.
later the great Carmelite reformer St. Teresa of Avila mirrored the faith
of this woman of the gospels when she wrote, “God is full of compassion
and never fails those who are afflicted and despised, if they trust in
him alone.” Writing in a very similar vein, St. Jane de Chantal, founder
of the Congregation of the Visitation, encouraged her sisters, “With the
confidence of a son, rest in the care and love that divine Providence has
for you in all your needs. Look upon Providence as a child does its mother
who loves him tenderly. You can be sure that God loves you incomparably
is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,”
the author of Hebrews wrote (11:1). He then describes the faith of Noah,
Abraham, Moses, and other heroes. We can add to that list the faith of
those in the gospels—like the woman with the hemorrhage, Jairus, the centurion
of Capernaum, and Bartimaeus—and the many holy men and women throughout
the history of the church, who make up the “great cloud of witnesses” that
surrounds us (12:1).
Read and prayerfully
reflect on these additional Scripture passages that illustrate faith and
its fruits and teach us how to grow in faith:
brought the boy to [Jesus]; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it
convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming
at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And
he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into
the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us
and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible
to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and
said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came
running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb
and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.”
And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the
boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus
took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. (Mark 9:20-27)
answered [his disciples], “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever
says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not
doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it
will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:22-24)
apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If
you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine
tree, ‘Be rooted up, and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke
hope [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father
of many nations; as he had been told, “So shall your descendants be.” He
did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good
as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered
the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the
promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18-21)
know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness
have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in
nothing. (James 1:3-4)
the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter