“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” (Matthew 9:20-22)
Sounds like just a simple encounter with Jesus, doesn’t it? But we need to know a bit of background here. Let’s go back and find out what the Levitical law had to say about her situation. In Leviticus 15:25-27 we read:
“When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. Anyone who touches them will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening,” emphasis added.
You see, she should not have been in the crowd to begin with. Everything she came in contact with, every person she touched, or who touched her—even a passing brush against her—became ritually unclean. That meant they could not go to the temple to offer sacrifices. And anyone they touched would then become unclean as well. They would have had to perform their own ritual of cleansing to become clean again. In a sense she was Typhoid Mary!
This entry from the Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women helps us understand the Jewish thinking about menstrual bleeding:
“In this verse [Ezekiel 36:18], menstrual impurity is regarded as so severe that it is used to emphasize the gravity of Israel’s sin. The image of menstrual impurity transferring to the surface on which the menstruant sits reflects the idea that sins contaminate the land, a notion also found in Leviticus 18.”
So, when this woman dared to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak, she should have rendered Him unclean. But an astonishing thing happened! Rather than the woman transferring her uncleanness to Jesus, Jesus transferred His cleanness to her!
Isn’t that a great picture of what Jesus did for us on the cross? “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:22). On that cross Jesus became unclean. But His death conquered sin, and He is now in Heaven, at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. He stands willing to exchange our uncleanness for the cleansing He secured for us through His own blood!
- Levavi Feinstein , Eve. “Menstruation in the Bible.” Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 23 June 2021. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on May 31, 2023) https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/menstruation-in-the-bible, emphasis added. ↑