Summary: Exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity by studying the symbolism of the prayer shawl.
Today we will be finishing our series with the third and final teaching on the Beauty of the Jewish Prayer Shawl.
Though as Christians we do not use the prayer shawl there is much we can learn from it. The shawl (talit) was and is an integral part of the Jewish faith – from which our own faith was born. It contains great meaning and symbolism especially in the knotted tassels (tzitzit) on its four kanaph (corners, wings).
These knotted tassels or fringes are called tzitzit and are the most important part of the entire garment. In Numbers 15 and Deuteronomy 22 we read where God commanded the Jewish men to make these fringes and wear them in a place that was always visible, so that whenever they saw them they were reminded to keep God’s commandments.
Last week we also saw how God revealed His name (Jehovah/Yahweh) through the windings or coils of the tassels, and we examined how He revealed His Word through the number of knots (as well as having a crash course in Hebrew gematria).
This morning we’re going to see how the prayer shawl of the Messiah held the power of healing and the power of life over death in its tassels. We’ll examine how the shawl represented the double-portion power that is bestowed upon every believer. And we’ll see what part the shawl has played in visions of the past and in the Second Coming of Christ.
I. The Power of God Revealed In the Tzitzit
There are several instances in the Bible where God’s power is revealed through the tassels of the prayer shawl, but maybe none so convincingly as in two events that happened is the life of Christ.
In one event God’s great power for healing is revealed and in the other His power over death in revealed.
A. God’s Power to Heal
During the time of Christ there was a Jewish tradition that was associated with the talit and the tzizit of their awaited Messiah. This tradition is based on Malachi 4:2.
The Sun of righteousness (Messiah) was to have healing in his wings. If we look at this phrase in reference to the prayer shawl, the Messiah was believed to have the power of healing in the tassels of his prayer shawl, which are attached to the corners or wings of the shawl.
Basically, the Jews believed that when their Messiah appeared that the tzizit of His prayer shawl would have special healing powers. This is important, because when we turn to the New Testament we find a story in which this belief is acted upon.
Let’s take a look at the familiar story found in Luke 8:43-48.
When we read this passage there are some interesting things happening that we often overlook. First, it says that the woman touched the “border of His garment.” To truly understand what she touched, you have to revert to the original Greek language this scripture was written in.
The word translated as “garment” is the Greek word himantion. We came across this word last week. A himation is an outer garment like a mantle or cloak or vesture which is believed by scholars to also refer to the talit or prayer shawl. So when the woman touched the border of Christ’s garment – she was touching the border of His prayer shawl.
Next, we look at the word “border.” It is translated from the Greek word kraspedon. The definition of kraspedon is a twisted coil, specifically a fringe or tassel often translated as hem or border.
So, now we have an even better picture of what is happening in this story. The woman is not just touching the hem of Jesus’ robe (which the English wording would lead us to believe) – she is specifically touching the tzitzit of His prayer shawl.
And when she does this she is instantly healed. This is a perfect fulfillment of Malachi 4:2 – where the Sun of righteousness is said to have healing in His wings. And she wasn’t the only one who experienced God’s healing power through the tzitzit. Other places in the gospels of both Matthew and Mark we find that Jesus was asked to simply walk through the crowds so that the sick might have the opportunity to touch the tassels of His prayer shawl.
But back to the story of the woman with the issue of blood. After she touched Jesus’ tzitzit and was healed, notice Jesus’ reaction – What does He say?
WHO TOUCHED ME?
Now as we’ve just studied the meaning of the words in Greek that show that the woman touched Jesus’ tassels and not His person, it makes you wonder how He could ask such a question? How did He even know she’d touched His tassel?