Editor’s note: Our next Online Bible Study is The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi with Kathie Lee Gifford! This summer we are going to be walking dusty and gorgeous roads in Israel with Kathie Lee and Rabbi Jason Sobel (a messianic Jewish teacher) as we learn completely new-to-us concepts about the Bible. The Rock is Jesus. The Road is the Holy Land. And, the Rabbi is the Word of God. The OBS starts August 6th but registration is open now so there’s plenty of time to round up a few friends to go through the study together. We hope you join us!
[Jesus] said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” – Mark 5:34
It’s difficult in our modern culture to imagine what life was like in Israel during the time of Jesus. The Jews experienced terrible suffering under Roman rule — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Romans were brutal, violent oppressors who took every opportunity to whip their subjects into submission. They despised the Jewish faith and saw it as inferior to their polytheistic worldview. The Jews, in return, despised the Romans because of their oppressive taxes and their “unclean” culture and pagan religion. And more than anything, the Jews resented the Romans’ absolute power over their daily life and worship.
Daily living for every Jew was an act of faith. They spent each waking moment trying to keep not only the Torah — the Mosaic law — but also the extra six-hundred-plus man-made laws imposed on them by the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We can’t imagine the weight of such a legalistic burden on everyday life. No one could be pure enough, or holy enough, or without blemish before God under such self-righteous leaders.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees, however, took great pains to parade their intellectual and spiritual superiority before the people. Jesus saved His sternest words for these individuals. In Matthew 23:27, Jesus said:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
Jesus came to ease the burdens on the Jewish people. In Matthew 11:28-30, He said:
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
No wonder the people’s hearts soared when they heard Him teach! No one in their world ever spoke such words of life or hope or compassion to them. Such love! Jesus’ words still have the same effect today on those whose hearts are open to His tender message of grace.
Perhaps no one in the ancient world longed for Jesus’ message of grace more than the women in first-century Israel. It is important to understand the status of women in ancient times. Their freedoms were severely limited by the Jewish law and traditions. They were basically confined to their father’s or their husband’s home and had no authority of their own.
During this time women were considered inferior to men and weren’t even allowed to testify in court trials, as they were not deemed to be credible witnesses. They were considered second-class citizens, excluded from worship among the men, with little more status than slaves.
But Jesus consistently demonstrated that He had a high respect and value for women.
One of my favorite stories of Jesus’ love for women is in Mark 5, when He healed a woman whose menstrual cycle had caused her to suffer for twelve years. She touched the hem of His garment (a major violation of the law as a woman), and He broke the law as well by talking to her in public:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 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.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from Him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched My clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” His disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched Me?’”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at His feet and, trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” – Mark 5:25-34
Rabbi Jason has some beautiful insights about this story of Jesus’ love for the woman with the issue of blood.
Come . . . to Galilee!
More from Rabbi Jason — Jesus and the Woman with the Issue of Blood
Yeshua got up and began to follow him, with His disciples. Just then a woman, losing blood for twelve years, came from behind and touched the tzitzit of His garment.
For she kept saying to herself, “If only I touch His garment, I will be healed.”
But then Yeshua turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” He said, “your faith has made you well.” at very hour the woman was healed. – Matthew 9:19-22 TLV
A woman who had been suffering with bleeding for twelve years reached out and grabbed the hem of Jesus’ garment. Jesus responded by saying, “Someone touched Me; I know that power has gone out from Me” (Luke 8:46). The woman, realizing that she could not hide, “came trembling and fell at His feet,” telling Jesus why she had touched Him and how she had been healed instantly.
The bleeding woman had every reason to be fearful. Among religious Jews, it was — and still is — considered immodest and inappropriate to touch a man, even one’s husband, in public. But even worse, this woman was ritually unclean and could spread her impurity to any person she touched (Leviticus 15:25–27). She could have faced serious consequences for such a bold action.
But this woman was desperate. Imagine not being touched by family or friends for twelve years. She had lived for over a decade in a perpetual state of shame as an outcast who was excluded from the social and spiritual life of her community. She felt she had nothing to lose, so she took a big risk. When she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she was instantly healed! Though Jesus became ritually unclean by her touch, she became clean, and more importantly, whole again.
Notice this woman’s fear: “The woman, knowing what had hap-pened to her, came and fell at His feet and, trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33). Notice also Jesus’ gentle response: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Mark 5:34). is underscores how radically differently Jesus dealt with women than did other men of His day. Rather than being upset with her, which would have been the normal reaction from a rabbi or Levitical priest, He commended the woman’s faith.
But of course, there is something more! A key detail often overlooked in this passage is that the woman touched “the edge of his cloak” (Matthew 9:20). She did not just touch the fringe, but rather His tzitzit, the ritual tassels placed on each corner (kanaf, in Hebrew) of every four-corner garment. These tzitzit are described in the book of Numbers:
Adonai spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael. Say to them that they are to make for themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they are to put a blue cord on each tzitzit. It will be your own tzitzit — so whenever you look at them, you will remember all the mitzvot of Adonai and do them and not go spying out after your own hearts and your own eyes, prostituting yourselves. This way you will remember and obey all My mitzvot and you will be holy to your God. I am Adonai your God. I brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God. I am Adonai your God.” – Numbers 15:37-41 TLV
These tzitzit were meant to remind Israel to faithfully follow the Lord by obeying His commandments. It is no coincidence that they were to be placed on all four corners of the garment.
The root of all sin goes back to the garden of Eden. The result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience was exile for them and all their descendants after them. Living in exile means living in a perpetual state of disconnection and separation that ultimately leads to death if not remedied. There are four aspects to exile: spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical.
The promise of redemption from exile is also connected to the number four. At the Passover Seder, there are four cups of wine that correspond to the four aspects of redemption mentioned in Exodus 6:6-7 (TLV): “I will bring you out,” “I will deliver you,” “I will redeem you,” “I will take you to Myself” (see “An Overview of God’s Appointed Feasts” on page 142). At the final redemption, the Lord will “lift up a banner for the nations, and assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12 TLV).
Also, there is a messianic promise that states,
For you who revere My Name, the sun of righteousness will rise, with healing in its wings. – Malachi 3:20 TLV
The word for “wings” in this verse literally means “corner” and is the same word used for the tassels on the four corners, known in Hebrew as the arba kanfot. is woman reached out and grabbed one of the four “wings” of Jesus’ tunic.
This bleeding woman had been living in exile on all four levels. She had no physical contact with family and friends, could not publicly worship in the temple, was isolated and alone, and lived in a perpetual state of physical pain. But she found a fourfold healing by touching one of the four corners of Jesus’ garment, and thus she became an example of the messianic redemption that we can begin to experience right now when we reach out and touch Him!
Like her, we must have the faith to boldly reach out and seize the Lord so that we might find help and healing in our time of need.
Just like the woman with the issue of blood was viewed as unclean, many religious leaders in Jesus’ day viewed the Gentile nations as unclean and unworthy. This perspective was due to the fact that the nations of the world were pagan at this time, and their cultures were dominated by idolatry, bloodshed, and sexual immorality. Despite this, Jesus had a very different view of Gentiles. He did not focus on their sin but on God’s promise of redemption for all people.
Just like the woman who grabbed hold of Him and found personal redemption, one day all the nations of the world will do the same. As the prophet Zechariah wrote:
Many peoples and powerful nations will come to seek Adonai-Tzva’ot in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of Adonai.” Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, “In those days it will come to pass that ten men from every language of the nations will grasp the corner of the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:22-23 tlv)
One day all peoples will grab hold of the Lord by attaching themselves to God’s people. When this happens, exile will end and the world will be healed!
On a more personal and practical level, women were not seen as equal to Jewish men. But Jesus and the New Testament make it clear that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female — for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua” (Galatians 3:28 TLV). This does not mean there are no longer any differences or distinctions between men and women or Gentiles and Jews; rather, it implies a spiritual equality. There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom.
Excerpted with permission from The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford, copyright Kathy Lee Gifford.
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Jesus held women in high esteem in a culture that considered women property, and not very valuable property at that. How does that change your heart toward Him? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
And, be sure to sign up for The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi Online Bible Study right here!