God’s People, part 188: Bleeding Woman

Read Mark 5:25-34

“When the woman’s bleeding stops, she must count off seven days. Then she will be ceremonially clean. On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Through this process, the priest will purify her before the LORD for the ceremonial impurity caused by her bleeding.”  (Leviticus 15:28-30, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

woman-touches-clothes-of-jesus-mediumPart 189: Bleeding Woman. When the accounts of Jesus’ healings are read, they are most likely read with a certain “wow” factor in place. Most people, I would imagine, are not aware of the social, economic, or spiritual implications of the afflicted in these accounts. At best, they are most likely looked at as unfortunates whose fortune changes for the good when they encounter Jesus.

In the account of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years we learn a number of things. First, we learn of what it must have been like in Jesus’ time. So many desperate people were trying to be in the right place at the right time in order to receive healing. Every where Jesus went, people were coming to him seeking to be healed.

We also learn that these people were the “untouchables” in society. While these were the people who NEEDED to see Jesus, the crowds gathered around Jesus completely unaware and apathetic to the plight of the afflicted. In one such story, a paralyzed man had to be lowered down through a roof by his friends in order to get to a place where Jesus could see and heal him.

In this account of the bleeding woman, she too was crowded out by the apathetic mob following Jesus. She had to fight through the to reach Jesus and she could only do so from behind. There was no chance she would have an opportunity to talk with him and explain her affliction. “She thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’” (Mark 5:28, NLT)

Before we can fully understand her plight, we need to truly understand the full weight of her condition. The Bible tells us that she was “bleeding” for twelve years. What this meant was that she basically had her menstrual cycle, non-stop, for twelve years. This condition would have rendered, and anyone who came in contact with her, ceremonially unclean.

In Leviticus, the law was laid out clearly. The bleeding from childbirth made a woman unclean for 33 days afterward (Leviticus 12:4). Any woman with her menstrual cycle was ceremonial unclean for two weeks, the week of her period and the week after (Leviticus 15:19). As for a woman experiencing bleeding unrelated to her menstrual cycle, which is exactly what this woman in Mark was experiencing, the law stated: “…she is ceremonially unclean. As during her menstrual period, the woman will be unclean as long as the discharge continues” (Leviticus 15:25).

That means that this poor woman had been ritually unclean for 12 long years, cut off from society and from spiritual nourishment and care. 12 years of isolation and rejection, not to mention the physical effects of it, including pain. Priests wouldn’t go near her, and the doctors were ineffective at curing her. In fact, her condition only worsened.

So, this woman was desperate and in her desperation she wasn’t going to be ignored, even if it mean that she would reach out and grab Jesus’ robe. She was going to do whatever it took to receive healing. Just her touching Jesus would have defiled him in the eyes of the religious leaders. But that didn’t stop Jesus from seeking her out when he felt her touch.

Ignoring the disciples jeering him for wondering who in the crowd touched him, and ignoring the crowd itself, Jesus turned his attention to this woman and, when she presented herself before him, he let her know that her faith had healed her. This woman became an example for us all in the power of faith.

The challenge for us is to have the faith of the bleeding woman and to separate ourselves from the judgmentalism of religious people and people in society. We all struggle with something and our faith can be a healing foundation for us. What’s more, we all have the Holy Spirit given power to be a healing presence in the lives of others; however, we have to take the time to be aware and notice the people who need healing. As God’s people, let us not get distracted by the mundane, but open our eyes to the REAL NEEDS around us.

“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.” – Henry David Thoreau

Lord, thank you for the faith you have nurtured within me. May it grow to move this mountain into service of others. Amen.

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