Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Hem of His Garment

“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
And had suffered many things of many physicians,
and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind,
and touched his garment. For she said, if I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.”
(Mark 5:25-28)

Do you believe that faith heals?

In a survey conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians, 99% of doctors questioned believe a relationship exists between faith and physical healing.

Doctors’ faith in faith was also supported by a California study on the effect of prayer on people recovering from heart problems. About 200 heart patients were assigned to Christians who prayed for them, while an equal number, a control group, received no known prayers. Neither group knew about the prayers, yet those who received prayer developed half the complications that were experienced by those in the control group.

A similar study by the Dartmouth Medical School examined the effect of prayer on healing when the patients prayed for themselves. The death rate six months after bypass surgery was 9 percent for the general population but only 5 percent for those who prayed for their own healing. The study also indicated that none of the deeply religious patients died during the period of the study (The Associated Press, quoted in “Religion in the News,” Signs of the Times, March 1997, p. 4).

The Bible gives us many examples of how faith heals, however there is one in particular that stands out.

In the book of Mark, chapter 5, we learn of a woman who was in great distress. She was a woman who risked everything to find a cure to a seemingly incurable disease. This is the story of her desperation, determination, deliverance, and declaration.

From the text we learn that Jesus had just returned from a journey. He was welcomed back by a great crowd of people who had expected his return. A man named Jairus, who was the ruler of the synagogue, came to Jesus and pleaded with him to come to his house because his only daughter was at the point of death.

Jesus does not hesitate. He immediately starts towards the house of Jairus. The people follow him, and the crowd is so thick that they push up against him. Suddenly a woman comes up behind Jesus and touches his garment.

Her Story of Desperation

So what is so special about this woman that her story has been preserved throughout the ages? After all, she was just one of many people who were in the crowd that day.

In verse 25 and 26, we learn that this woman is physically, financially, and spiritually desperate. She has been sick for 12 long years, she had suffered greatly from the treatment she received from all of the doctors she had gone to, she had spent all of her money, and she was growing worse.

This woman was physically desperate. She was chronically ill. Her health was gone. None of the doctors she had been to could cure her. She was getting sicker. It is certain that each and every day she woke up desperate to be rid of her affliction. She could not live a normal life because she was consumed by her illness and her need to be rid of it. On top of that her illness classified her as an “unclean” person. People would avoid her because according to the law of that day contact with her could make them unclean as well.

Financially she was desperate. She had become poor by spending all she had on doctors. You can imagine that she was probably the target of every snake oil salesman around. Verse 26 reads that she had suffered many things of many physicians. The reason she was getting worse might have been traced to some of the so-called cures she was buying from those doctors. In biblical times healing practices often involved the use of amulets and charms, bloodletting, magical spells, incantations, and even exorcisms.

Granted, her situation was difficult, but it was not unusual. You may know someone in a similar circumstance today. Someone who is sick all of the time, who goes from doctor to doctor and never seems to get better. However, the worst aspect of this woman’s situation was the fact that she was spiritually desperate as well.

In those days there was a belief that disease was divine punishment and therefore a mark of sin. Her condition, according to the religious law of her day, made her ritually unclean and it barred her from all religious services. This meant she was cut off from the most important activities of the her people. She could not enter the temple courts. Nor could she participate in any of the annual feasts. Her illness had separated her from God.

Her Story of Determination

Verse 27 tells us of this woman’s determination. She had spent all of her money, did everything she could do on her own to be cured, but in the end she was still sick.

She had heard about Jesus. She had heard about this man and all of the miracles he had performed. She had heard about all of the people he had cured. If she could just get close to him she knew she could be healed too.

There were plenty of things that could have discouraged her from coming to Jesus that day. The great crowd of people surrounding him might have discouraged her. It was probably very difficult for her to squeeze through the crowd. After all, he had the following of a modern day pop star.

Another thing that could have discouraged her from coming to Jesus was the importance of his mission. Jairus had just begged Jesus to come to his house to help his daughter who was dying. Did this woman dare do anything that might delay Jesus in getting to that girl? Certainly the life of a child was more important than hers?

Finally, the woman’s own appearance could have discouraged her from coming to Jesus. She was probably pale and poor looking from her illness. She may have even feared being recognized by one of the people in the crowd as being an unclean person. A woman in her condition had no business mixing in the crowd, much less reaching out to touch a man.

However, something inside of her pushed her that day and drove her forward. She was determined to be healed regardless of the consequences. Mark 5:28 gives us her thoughts, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.”

In those days there was a popular belief that a person’s dignity and power extended to what he wore. She believed with all of her heart that if she could just touch Jesus’ clothes she would be healed. That belief is what gave her the strength to press through to Jesus. The scriptures tell us she, “came in the press behind and touched his garment.”

Her Story of Deliverance

It was this woman’s determination that led to her deliverance, and her deliverance came from contact with Jesus. Verse 34 tells us that her touch of his garment was the touch of faith.

Now remember that there was a large crowd around Jesus. Verse 31 reads that the people thronged him. In other words there were so many people that they were physically being pushed up against Jesus. But, it was only this one woman’s touch, one motivated by faith that stopped Jesus in his tracks.

When the woman touched Jesus’ garment he asked, “Who touched me?”

The disciples seemed to express annoyance that Jesus would ask such a question considering the fact that there was a great crowd all about Jesus and any one of them could have touched him. They may have even concerned that this delay might prevent Jesus from being able to save Jairus’ daughter.

What they did not understand is that when the woman touched Jesus he became immediately aware that God had exercised his power through Jesus. This woman’s faith moved Jesus and he did not want to let her get away unnoticed. He wanted her to know that it was not his cloak that healed her, but her faith.

This is a lesson he felt was important for her and for others. That is why he asked out loud, “Who touched me?” He could have simply gone to the woman and quietly whispered in her ear that it was her faith that healed her, but he wanted others to benefit from her example.

That is how Jesus works in our life. When we take the time to reach out to Jesus he does not simply walk away. Instead he takes the time to let us know he cares, and many times he uses our faithfulness as an example to others.

Her Declaration

Finally, it was her deliverance that led to her declaration. Upon being discovered the woman fell to her knees before Jesus. She was afraid and trembling as she confessed that she was the one who touched him.

Notice her simple testimony. She told why she had touched Jesus and how she was healed immediately. The fact that she admitted touching Jesus indicates that she not only cared about her physical health, but she wanted to be right with Jesus himself. Her faith, not the grasp of her hand, brought restoration to her. So powerful was her testimony that we still hear her story today.

And, what was Jesus’ response? He was full of gentleness and compassion towards her as he told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

As I read this woman’s story I cannot help but think that she is a picture of all people. We all have problems. These problems do not have to be limited to health issues, but may include additions, financial difficulties, troubled relationships, or one of many things that steal our peace.

Some of our problems may start out small. We may try to fix them on our own, but the problem just gets bigger. Then we go to the “so called” experts seeking a solution. However, many times we find our problem has just gotten bigger and our wallets have gotten lighter. Why does it seem that it is only when we are at our lowest point that we think of going to God for help?

We must remember our frailty as humans and know that there are many things (even in today’s world) that only God can fix. No amount of money can guarantee health and comfort, just as no amount of money can buy happiness. Only Jesus can provide the security and wholeness that we seek.

We can buy pills to ease our pain. Drink to forget our troubles. We can buy material things in an attempt to divert our minds from our woes. But in the end we are still left with our pain and our problems, unless we seek help from the One True Healer.

Just as the woman’s uncleanliness separated her from God, our sin separates us from God. Rather than take our problems to him we take them to other people. We complain to our friends about our situations. We convince ourselves that we will eventually get our act together. We tell ourselves that our problems are too small to bother God .

Or, our problems might make us feel unclean. We may feel people are avoiding us, as if somehow contact with us could cause problems for them as well.

Don’t be like the rest of the people who were in the crowd that day. They pressed up against Jesus, but never really touched him. Christ is so available to us, but even today many do not reach out to him.

Instead, we need to be more like that woman. She was desperate, but full of determination. Her determination led to her deliverance. Her deliverance led to her declaration. We need to follow her example and reach out and touch Jesus. She reached out to Jesus and he responded.

Know that things will be different as soon as you press through the crowd and touch Him. He knows the things that you feel. He is listening for the faintest cry from any of His lost lambs. He will meet your every need and send you away in peace.

Faith does heal. Just don’t be afraid to touch the hem of His garment.

God bless you!


  1. Lovely...One of my favorites! I love how outcasted she was, yet Jesus accepted her touch, and let others know that He accepted it!

  2. I absolutely believe faith heals, not only the body but the broken spirit/soul as well. Sometimes God has to heal the brokenness inside before He can heal the outside. Good lesson here! Thanks for sharing it.