What is the meaning of the story of the woman with the issue of blood?Question: "What is the meaning of the story of the woman with the issue of blood?"
Answer: The story of the woman with the issue of blood can be found in Mark 5:24–34 and Luke 8:42–48. Though neither account is very long, Mark’s account provides a few more details than Luke’s.
The story of this woman takes place within a larger story. Jesus is on his way to a synagogue leader’s house to heal his dying daughter (see Mark 5:21–24) when an unnamed woman causes an interruption to His progress.
What we know about the woman is, first, she had a bleeding condition, and the issue had continued for twelve years. That’s a very long time. Second, she had spent all her money on treatments from many doctors, and nothing had helped; in fact, the blood issue had only grown worse (see Mark 5:25–26). We also know that Jewish Law declared her to be ceremonially unclean due to her bleeding issue (Leviticus 15:25-27). This meant that she would not have been permitted to enter the temple for Jewish religious ceremonies. According to the Law, anything or anyone she touched became unclean as well. The fact that she was in the crowd pressing around Jesus means that each person who bumped into her would have become unclean, too—including Jesus. But, after twelve years of suffering, she was obviously desperate for a miracle. “When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’” (Mark 5:27–28).
As soon as the woman touches Jesus, her bleeding stops and she knows she’s been healed. In an instant, Jesus does what no doctor in twelve years had been able to. This proves the power of Christ, of course, but it also illustrates an important point about Jesus and the Law. In Leviticus 15:31 God says, “You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” In the Old Testament, the temple was where God dwelt among the Israelites, but in the New Testament, God dwelt among men in the person of Jesus Christ (see John 1:14). Through Jesus the penalties of the Law are reversed, and the contamination of this world had no effect on Christ. The woman did not make Jesus (God’s dwelling) unclean—He made her clean!
Jesus immediately responds to the woman who touched His clothing and was healed. People were pushing and pressing into Him from all over, yet He stops, turns, and asks, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30). The disciples were incredulous, but Jesus knew that healing power had gone out of Him. We can’t “steal” a miracle from God. After the woman comes forward and explains herself, Jesus clears up any misconceptions about her healing, saying, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). God is moved to action by our faith, even when He’s in the middle of doing something else!
Jesus could have healed the woman and kept on walking to His original destination. Only He and the woman would have known what had taken place. But He didn’t do that. Jesus stopped what He was doing and acknowledged the result of this woman’s faith: her complete and instantaneous healing.
Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum
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Questions about Mark
What is the meaning of the story of the woman with the issue of blood?