WEEK 5: Who touched Me?
Luke 8:43-48 “As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed Him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against You.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from Me.’ Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at His feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched Him and how she had been instantly healed. Then He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’”
and Mark 5:25-34
The Greek word haptomai (ἅπτομαι lit. to modify or change by touching) is used in this Biblical account when Jesus is touched by a woman suffering for 12 years from uncontrollable bleeding. The New Testament Greek term refers to her as the haemorrhoissa (ἡ αἱμοῤῥοοῦσα, “bleeding woman”).
Although the medical diagnosis of this woman is unclear, she was considered a ceremonially unclean woman and, according to Jewish law, would have been labelled as a Niddah נִדָּה (menstruating woman) of low status. In order to be regarded as clean, the flow of blood would need to stop for at least 7 days (cf. Leviticus 15:28-30, 2 Samuel 11:4). Because of the constant bleeding, this woman lived in a continual state of ‘uncleanness’ which would have brought upon her social and religious isolation.
In the Hebrew language, one often finds idiomatic nuances operating behind a seemingly ordinary verb. To touch נָגַע Naga in Hebrew can be translated as ‘to reach [out to],’ ‘to draw near,’ ‘to cast’ and is often followed by the preposition ‘in.’ The Hebrew translated version of the New Testament literally reads, ‘Who touched in Me?’ In such a crowded situation, it was inevitable that many rubbed past Jesus and bumped into Him and yet, this woman’s touch was of a much deeper essence — it was a touch that brought on change; it was intentional and focused and spoke to Jesus’ very core.
In its Semitic root, Naga is of Persian origin, used to denote a leper touching someone else, resulting in the latter person becoming a leper. It was all about passing the leprosy onto someone else. Jesus was — in a sense — subtly prophesying to His role as a scapegoat, pre-crucifixion. Not only did this holy transaction between Jesus and the woman result in her being healed, but it disadvantaged Jesus (the power flowing from Him). Here, within this passage, a pre-crucifixion demonstration occurred! The woman — drowning in debt, sickness and at a loss of her identity — reaches out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and is not only healed, but reinstated as a daughter of the Most High King (vs 48: “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”).
The fact that this woman touched Jesus deeply is one thing; but where did she touch Him? Scripture tells us in Luke that the woman touched the “hem” kanaph of Jesus’ garment:
In Numbers, God instructs His people to “make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner” as a reminder that they were set-apart peculiar people called to keep His commandments (Numbers 15:37-41). It seems like a strange instruction until we learn that in the Ancient Near East, the corner of a person’s garment represented his identity — it was a symbol of who he was and what he stood for. In the book of Ruth, Ruth asked Boaz to spread the corner of his garment over her (Ruth 3:9). This is seen as nothing less than a request for him to identify with her. The same Hebrew word can mean “wing.” Therefore, many translations render Ruth’s request as, “Spread your wings over your servant.” Ponder even further on the horrendous symbolic significance that this understanding brings to the story of when David cut off the hem of Saul’s garment.
This symbolic reference is of such significance, that the Old Testament even closes with a prophecy of the Messiah and the corners of His garment: “But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings [כָּנָף kanaph ‘hem’].” (Malachi 4:2, KJV, the same word refers both to “wings” and “corners of a garment,” emphasis added)
As a devout Jew, Jesus may very well have worn tassels, though His would not have been as elaborate as those of the Pharisees. When the woman reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, it was in many cases more than a grab for the most accessible part of His person: it was a sign that she wanted to identify with Him and vice versa.
Perhaps Malachi 4:2 was even in her mind as she reached out and thought, “This is finally the one with healing in His wings.”
Thank You, Jesus, that I can trust in You to reinstate me to what You have called me to be. Thank You, dearest Saviour, that You have chosen to identify with Your children by climbing down from Your most deserved, blessed position and humbly ministering to the most lowly souls. Show me, Jesus, how to identify with others in a similar way and to point them to the One with healing in His wings. Amen.
Bible Hub Commentaries. [Online]. Available at: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/8-45.htm [2019/12/01].
Bible Mesh. 2013. [Online]. Available at: https://biblemesh.com/blog/why-were-people-healed-from-touching-jesus-clothes/ [2019/12/01].
Brown, Driver & Briggs. 1882. Hebrew Lexicon of the Old Testament. Boston, New York.
Chaim Ben Torah. Hebrew Word Study. [Online]. Available at: https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2018/04/hebrew-word-study-anointed/ [2019/12/01].