Many that lived in the days of Jesus had heard of His healing power. So when Jesus came to town this often created quite a stir. Townsfolk would pour out of their houses and come in from the fields in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Him, to hear Him speak, and perhaps to seek healing themselves.
In this episode of Caleb’s Journal we want to focus on what happened on the day that Jesus entered a small town in Galilee and where a bleeding woman pressed through a surging crowd of people in order to grab hold of the hem of His garment, and was miraculously healed.
How can taking hold of someone’s garment heal you of a disease? To our modern ears this all sounds very strange.
The Hem of the Garment
In the First Century the hem of your garment made an important social statement. Its width, embroidered patterns, colour and tassels all said something about you – who you were, to which tribe and family you belonged, and your social standing within it.
Each person’s hem was so unique that it could be pressed into soft clay and be accepted as a signature. It described the wearer’s identity.
Did She Only Touch the Hem of the Garment?
The biblical account tells us that the woman ‘touched’ the hem of Jesus’ garment.
The word touch here is the Greek ἅπτομαι haptomai which literally means “the securing together of two things so that they become one and stay one”. It is an attachment by which one is altered or changed.
The touch of the woman was not merely a passive passing contact as a result of the pressing crowd, it was a deliberate action on her part – she had heard of Him, actively sought Him and then made her way through the crowd in order to reach Him, after which she took hold of the hem of His garment, which represents His identity, and thereby expressed a desire to come into a state of oneness with Him, a oneness in which darkness and disease has no place.
But she did not just grab the hem randomly. She specifically grabbed the part of the hem known as the κράσπεδον kraspedon – which is the tassel, or the corner of His garment.
What is Special About the Corner of the Garment?
Now there is something special about the corner of a first century garment.
In Hebrew these corners are known as the כָּנָף kānāp, a word which literally illustrates the wings of a bird.
Bird wings have two functions:
- firstly they aid in flight, and
- secondly they are used to protect and strengthen the young.
The Hebrew kānāp describes the hiding and enclosing function of a bird’s wings, as something that strengthens and protects – a great illustration of what a garment does.
To these corners the Israelites were commanded to attach tassels for the purpose of reminding them of the source of their protection and strength, namely the Law of God.
“And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them…”
So by attaching herself securely to the kraspedon of Jesus’ hem the woman was expressing her desire to seek refuge in Jesus, under His protective wings. She desired to be secured to His identity as embodied by His Holy Law, as she believed that it was in Him and in His Word, that life, strength and healing was to be found.
Virtue and Wisdom
As the woman took hold of the hem the effect was instant, and both Jesus and the woman “knew” that something of great significance had happened.
The woman was instantly healed, whilst Jesus felt that virtue had left His body.
What is this virtue?
We know that it is something that left His body so therefore it must be connected to His identity, which is defined by the Torah – a most wonderful word that encompasses the Law of God, His Word, but also the concepts of teaching, instruction, and “a guide to life”.
The Book of Proverbs shows us that virtue and the Torah are connected to wisdom – those who seek wisdom will find life, whilst those who reject her are walking along byways of death.
The Restoration of Wisdom
Man rejected wisdom when he ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Wisdom seeks to dwell with man, yet man continues to reject her and as a result wisdom is unable to enter into the heart of man. In the book of Enoch we read:
“Wisdom found no place where she could dwell, and her dwelling was in heaven. Wisdom went out, in order to dwell with the sons of men, but did not find a dwelling; wisdom returned to her place, and took her seat in the midst of angels.”
Through seeking Jesus and His Torah we express a desire to come under His protection, recognising that our strength and life originate in Him. This process opens our heart to receiving the wisdom which was rejected so many years ago in the garden.
“To you, O men, I (wisdom) call; and my cry is to the children of man… I delight in the children of man… for whoever finds me finds life…”
Just as virtue, or wisdom, flowed out of the body of Jesus and healed the bleeding woman, so we will also experience oneness with Jesus, our Lord, when our heart is opened to His Torah – He will enter in and restore our condition of brokenness completely, turning it from sickness to health, from darkness to light.
Your Faith Has Made You Whole
Jesus described the action of the woman as an act of faith. She had come to the end of herself, she had spent all that she had, she was defeated as all her efforts only made her situation worse. From this low point she turned away from all that she knew, the wisdom of man, and sought the One who was greater, realising that only He could save.
This required faith. It was her act of faith in Jesus that initiated the healing. She actively took hold of His garment – she sought to identify herself with Him, to become one with Him.
As a result of this action the woman was made whole. This word ‘whole’, σῴζω sózó, is interesting as it literally means ‘to save’. This word is part of a cluster of words which all carry the meaning of wholeness and soundness. Another word in this cluster is the word σοφία sophia, meaning wisdom.
So it is by faith in Jesus that we are saved, and by acting on this faith that we are healed. As we come into union with Jesus, as we become one, His wisdom can flow freely into our being, changing our condition of brokenness into wholeness.
An Encouragement for Today
Let us be encouraged by this story. Let us identify with the woman in it. Let us not only recognise Jesus as our Saviour, but act on this faith and recognise Him as our King.
Let us grab hold of Him, secure ourselves to Him so that His Virtue restores our brokenness – so that His Virtue, His Identity once again finds a dwelling place in our bodies. Then in turn we will be able to fulfil our destiny as Israelites for the healing of the nations as foretold by the prophet Zechariah:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe (kānāp) of a Judahite saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”