Summary: This sermon explores the experience of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and her dangerous, desperate, daring approach to Jesus for healing.

Hillsborough Reformed Church at Millstone

Pentecost III June 5, 2005 Matthew 9:9-13,18-26

¡§The Dangerous Touch¡¨

Have you ever yearned for something, wanting it so much that you were willing to go beyond law and decency for it? For most of us, something we wanted that bad would have to be something very, very important. It would be something like the healing of one of our children. Or an emotional or mental healing for ourselves.

We meet a woman like that this morning.

We know about her because she comes to Jesus.

There is something wrong. This is not how she wants it to be. She doesn¡¦t want us or anyone else to know about her. She wants to keep it a secret.

And no wonder.

Life was a total embarrassment for this afflicted woman. She had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. That is a polite way of saying her period never stopped.


This would be a hardship for any woman today, but it was far worse for a Jewish woman in the ancient world. During the menstrual cycle, a woman was unclean. Unclean didn¡¦t mean dirty, even though it SOUNDS dirty. Unclean meant you couldn¡¦t worship, you couldn¡¦t touch another person, and all your bedding and every chair you sat in had to be ritually purified ¡V until it was purified, it was off limits to anyone.

Imagine now this woman is living in a single room house with her husband and family. The house would be about the size of most of our living rooms. She had to have her own bed, she could not sleep with her husband, she had to have her own place to sit. It would have been forbidden for her children to sit there. She would have to go through the humiliation of scolding her children if they came near her seat. She would hear their plaintive protests, ¡§Why momma?¡¨

Imagine every time she left the house, having to be prepared for the flow of blood. With the primitive hygienic methods of the day, she probably seldom ventured out into the daylight.

The gospels of Mark and Luke also tell the story of this unfortunate, sad woman. In them, we read that the woman had visited every doctor and specialist in the region. Not only could none of those doctors help her, she had bankrupted her family in the effort to be healed.

Here are some cures for menstrual problems from the ancient world ¡V. A dressing with a mixture of chopped onions, mash and pine sawdust should remedy this. you should expose her eyes to the vapor of oriole thighs, then you should see that she eats fresh donkey liver. ¡§To carry about a barley-corn which had been found in the dung of a white she-ass.¡¨ Adding to the woman¡¦s humiliation is to have to walk around in society smelling of animal dung from this bizarre treatment ¡V administered as every woman here would guess, by male doctors!

Jesus healed man people ¡V the blind and the deaf and the lame, but this woman¡¦s case may well have been the most crushing. Women were considered lower than men as it was ¡V imagine being an eternally unclean woman.

She comes to Jesus in secret. She has to. She has hopes from what she¡¦s heard that if she comes into contact with him, she will be healed by his power.

Do you see her problem? She cannot touch a man in public. Jesus is walking by with his disciples ¡V surrounded by men. Jesus is surrounded also by the crowd ¡V who would have all been men too ¡V where were the women? Working! Look at Friday¡¦s New York Times and you¡¦ll see the picture of a very happy Indian man walking along the road by the fields. In the fields are a dozen laborers stooped over planting rice in the muck. Every one of them is a woman. It has been estimated that women do 85% of the physical labor in the world and get ten percent of the wages. According to the UN, the average woman in the Third World must walk two miles a day for water for her family ¡V a trip most make more than once a day.

To reach Jesus, she must get through the gauntlet of men, not touching any lest she make them unclean and gain their scorn and perhaps punishment. And if she is successful in getting to Jesus, she wants to touch his garment ¡V and if she succeeds, she¡¦ll make HIM unclean! Yet she yearns so much for this healing so she can love her husband again like a wife, and sit and laugh with her children again, and go to hear the Torah read again, that she is willing to go beyond law and decency for it.

The Bible tells us she wants to touch ¡§the fringe of his cloak.¡¨ The Greek word is kraspedon¡Kthe Hebrew is zizith¡KThese four tassels of hyacinth blue worn by faithful Jews on the corners of his outer garment. The Torah, the Old Testament law said they must wear them. They stood for the Law. The kraspedon had two purposes. One was to identify the wearer as a Jew. The other function was to remind the wearer, when he took off the garment, that he was one of God¡¦s people, no matter where he was. The woman wanted to touch only these tassels, the outer-most part of his garment, hoping thereby he would not feel her touch, nor would he know he had just become unclean.

Like a skilled football player, she watches for a break in gathering of men, then makes a dash for it. She comes up behind him so he won¡¦t see her and will never be the wiser ¡V he won¡¦t know she in her desperation has made him unclean. She succeeds and touches his garment. (Mark and Luke tell us she touched it ¡V Mk. 5:27, Lk. 8:44)

But Jesus sees her.

She has broken every convention, she has violated God¡¦s law in the Bible, arguably she has interfered with the spiritual life of any disciple she may have touched as well as any man in the crowd touched by her.

She deserved a searing reprimand and scolding from Jesus.

What she got was health and wholeness.

Her bleeding stopped.

She deserved a stern tongue lashing (some men would have beat her like a dog) what she heard was, ¡§Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.¡¨

Doctors could not cure her. All the money she had could not cure her. The priests could not cure her.

Only one person in the whole world could give this woman the thing she yearned for.

Jesus Christ.

He did not give her pills to take.

He did not put her on the cold stainless steel examination table.

He did not take a biopsy.

He did not order an MRI.

By her touching him she was healed.

Its the same for all of us.

There was despair and suffering before Jesus. Hope and health after touching Jesus.

There was legalism and fearsome religion before touching Jesus ¡V heavy burdens to carry ¡V repression of her because she was a woman, before Jesus ¡V after Jesus, she was liberated. She was not a brutalized, scorned ostracized second-class citizen now.

Now she was a daughter of the Son of God. This is the only instance of Jesus calling a woman ¡§daughter¡¨ in the gospels. The word he uses, in Greek, thugater (promounced, thu ¡V ga ¡V tear), is the word used for a friendly greeting to girls or women, much as a daddy will call his little girl, ¡§sweetheart,¡¨ or ¡§honey.¡¨

There is a profound intimacy here. Jesus has linked up with this woman ¡V unclean, ostracized, a pariah to the world and a burden even to her own family. Jesus draws her close in his heart and makes her what? He makes her HIS family. He doesn¡¦t ostracize her, he accepts her. He doesn¡¦t upbraid her, he heals her. In so doing he elevates every woman then and now. Jesus smashes the social ordering that puts men on a high level and women beneath them.

Do you see why Christianity still to this day races around the world like electricity?

Because people need Jesus and people are yearning more than anything else for what Jesus has to give.

Have you ever yearned for something, wanting it so much that you were willing to go beyond law and decency for it? For most of us, something we wanted that bad would have to be something very, very important. It would be something like the healing of one of our children. Or an emotional or mental healing for ourselves.

If you have that yearning, thank God for it, because if it brings you to Jesus, you will find satisfaction and joy beyond your dreams.

Fred D. Mueller

The Call of Matthew

9As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ¡§Follow me.¡¨ And he got up and followed him.

10And as he sat at dinner„T in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting„T with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ¡§Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?¡¨ 12But when he heard this, he said, ¡§Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ¡¥I desire mercy, not sacrifice.¡¦ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.¡¨

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue„T came in and knelt before him, saying, ¡§My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.¡¨ 19And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. 20Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, 21for she said to herself, ¡§If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.¡¨ 22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ¡§Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.¡¨ And instantly the woman was made well. 23When Jesus came to the leader¡¦s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24he said, ¡§Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.¡¨ And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26And the report of this spread throughout that district.

(Add something about context ¡V the bringing back to life of the little girl, and how it was an important man who asked him to heal the little girl, but he interrupted THAT mission to help the bleeding woman, and the preceding, ¡§I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.¡¨)