In this article, I will examine another one of my all-time favorite stories from the Gospels—the story of the bleeding woman—to further demonstrate the depths of Jesus’ love and respect for women.
In my previous article in this series, I delved into the story of the adulteress to share just how deeply Jesus cared for women. As the story shows, Jesus was profoundly interested in the issues that disproportionately affected the women of His time—going as far as challenging the men in power—and made it His duty to uplift and empower the downtrodden and oppressed of society.
In this article, I will examine another one of my all-time favorite stories from the Gospels—the story of the bleeding woman—to further demonstrate the depths of Jesus’ love and respect for women. Prepare to be astonished as you discover how the King of Kings cares even for the outcast and views none of our issues—no matter how messy or embarrassing—as something He cannot touch.
The Bleeding Woman Meets Jesus
Recounted in all three of the synoptic gospels, this story tells of the faith of a woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years and has been forced to lead the life of a pariah (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48). Let’s picture the scene:
The woman hears the commotion of an excited crowd in the distance. She squints to see what’s the matter and notices people surrounding a man.
After a few moments, the woman’s eyes widen in recognition.
She’d overheard stories from passers-by about this man’s wondrous miracles. How He’d cured people of various diseases, like leprosy, paralysis, and blindness, and even raised some from the dead.
Her heart leaps, wondering if He could do the same for her. But how can she—a religious and social outcast—dare approach Him?
For twelve years, the woman has been constantly bleeding. She has been to every doctor, but none has been able to diagnose or cure her, dooming her to a life of shame and isolation.
According to Levitical law, a woman who is menstruating is termed “unclean” and must be secluded for at least seven days (Leviticus 15:19, 28). If her period is irregular or there is a lengthy gynecological problem, the woman remains “unclean” until she is cured (Leviticus 15:25). Anyone who comes into contact with her will likewise be considered unclean and banished from society until the evening (Leviticus 15:21).
Therefore, because the woman has been ceaselessly bleeding for twelve years, she has been banned from interacting with other people. She’s an untouchable, in every sense of the word, condemned to a solitary and sorrowful existence, shunned from all human contact. She can’t even find solace in her faith because her illness precludes her from attending synagogue.
But the sight of the local Wonderworker gives her renewed hope and courage. Slowly, she approaches the crowd, careful no one who knows of her condition notices her. When the throng becomes impenetrable, she drops to her knees and desperately begins to crawl toward the man, drawing herself closer…closer…closer.
Feeling a surge of confidence, the woman then stretches a shaky arm toward the man, catching hold of the hem of His robe.
I’ve been healed!
The woman knows it. She feels it.
Have I done something wrong? she wonders, her heart racing. But why does it feel so…right?
The man stops—and, for a moment, so does the woman’s heart.
“Who touched me?” He asks, looking around (Luke 8:45).
The woman begins to tremble. His disciples look at the man in disbelief.
“'You see the people crowding against you,' they quip, 'and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?'" (Mark 5:31).
The man insists that someone has touched Him and searches the faces in the crowd with His piercing eyes. Feeling convicted, the woman prostrates herself on the ground and starts to sob.
“It was me,” she confesses, breaking down in tears. “I touched you.” She then begins to tell her tale of woe to the man, who listens silently.
At last, the Wonderworker speaks. “Take heart, daughter,” He says softly, lifting the woman to her feet by the shoulders, “your faith has healed you.”
A Story of Faith
The dignity Jesus bequeaths the bleeding woman is stunning. He does not take credit for healing her but asserts instead that it was her faith that restored her. Jesus, therefore, suggests that everyone—including women—have the ability to witness their prayers brought to life.
What a glorious message! Jesus does not condemn the woman for touching Him or breaking Levitical law. Instead, He lauds her for taking a step of faith and boldly approaching Him with the desire of her heart. Here are a few key observations about how Jesus’ interaction with the bleeding woman reveals just how highly God views women:
First, Jesus demonstrates that He is not repulsed by bodily processes or illnesses that are unique to women. Even today—2,000 years after the events of the gospels—conversations about menstruation and other related conditions make people uncomfortable. Even more so, the simple mention of menstruation in some parts of the modern world is taboo. Take India, for example, where menstruating women are still banned from participating in religious and social functions and are secluded in huts outside of their village. Just imagine, Jesus challenged this toxic patriarchal norm 2,000 years ago!
Second, by silently listening to the woman’s story, Jesus illustrates that women can approach and speak to Him without a male companion or permission—and most certainly without shame. There is no need for a go-between. You can come to Jesus as you are—and need not be afraid of being banished, judged, or ignored. He listens to every detail of our stories—even the messy and embarrassing ones—and sits down right beside us, heeding our complaints and laments—and lovingly answering them.
Lastly, the compassion Jesus shows the woman demonstrates that He will always meet us in our suffering—even going as far as taking our illnesses, or “uncleanness,” upon Himself. Though Jesus knows that contact with the bleeding woman will make Him “unclean” according to Levitical law, He doesn’t care. He cares more about the woman’s physical, mental, and spiritual health and relieving her of her suffering. Oh, what a Savior He is!
Walking by Faith
There’s so much that we can learn from this touching biblical episode. But of all the takeaways, this one is my favorite: Faith is power. Even when we are on our last leg, faith pushes us to drop to our knees and crawl towards our Savior. It invigorates us, helping us channel the strength we never knew we had within us, and reminds us that it takes just the slightest bit of courage to defy stigmas and norms to embrace a loving God.
I wonder if the crowd gasped or scrambled away when the bleeding woman revealed herself to be a pariah. But I doubt she would have even cared. For in that very moment, she was redeemed of her shame, rewarded for her faith, and accepted by the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/coffeekai
Roma Maitlall fancies herself a bit of a logophile (from the Greek, meaning “lover of words”). Her lifelong passion for writing—combined with her love of Jesus—inspired her to study English and theology at St. John’s—a university located in Queens, New York, her hometown, where she always dreamed of becoming a writer. Now a full-time writer, Roma enjoys spending time with her wonderful sisters and family, learning everything there is to know about history, literature, art, and Christianity, and using her words to give glory to Jesus.