as retold by Tanja Cilia
It is a traditional in some communities to touch the priest’s liturgical vestment (the chasuble or phelonion of the Eastern Rite) ever so slightly, as he passes by. Some people bend down to touch the hem. Both customs recall the woman – whose name we do not know – who bent down to touch the hem of Jesus’s garment, and was instantly healed of her illness.
This beautiful miracle happened just after Jesus and his disciples landed at Capernaum, having sailed across the Lake. There was a mass of people waiting for them on the shore – and one of them, whose name was Jairus, moved forward and knelt down in front of Jesus.
Jairus was a very important man at the Synagogue, so the people were surprised at this, and even more so when they heard what he had to say. We must remember that the leaders of the Synagogue did not really like Jesus. But when faced with the death of his daughter, Jairus became desperate enough to seek out the “enemy”. He told Jesus that his daughter was at the point of death, and that he knew that if Jesus visited her, she would be well once again.
Jesus agreed to go to his house – but when they were on their way, with people crowding around Jesus to hear His teachings, a servant came up to Jairus with he news that his daughter had died. Jesus simply said “Don’t be afraid; she will be saved.”
It is at this point that we meet the woman who had been ill for twelve years. The Gospels tell us that she had been to many doctors, but none of them could cure her. She had spent all her money on the cures they suggested, for nothing. Because of her sickness, she was shunned by people. It was partly for this reason that she came up to Jesus “from behind”, because she thought that if people saw her, they would shoo her away from Him and she would never get to see Him, let alone be cured by Him.
The story is told slightly differently in the Gospels; it is said that the woman touched the tassel, the fringe, or the hem of the clothes of Jesus. It does not matter; what matters is that she had unconditional faith – she believed that touching even the edge, or the trimming attached to it was enough for her to be cured.
Some commentaries tell us that it was not the edge of the robe that the woman touched, but the fringe of the talit (the prayer shawl) that Rabbis wear. This fringe represented the Names of God, and this is why the woman wanted to touch it.
Elohim- our Creator
El Shaddai- God of Covenant
El Elyon- Most High God
Jehovah Rapha- My Healer
Jehovah Jireh- My Provider
Jehovah M’Kadesh- My Sanctifier
Jehovah Tsidkenu- My Righteousness
Jehovah Shalom- My Peace
Jehovah Rohi- My Shepherd
Jehovah Sabaoth- Lord of Hosts
Jehovah Nissy- My Banner in Battle
Jehovah Shammah- The Abiding Presence
And she was – the woman realized immediately that she had been healed. For twelve whole years, because of her illness, the woman had not been able to enter the temple to worship, as it was ruled in the book of Leviticus. Touching someone would mean they would be considered ritually unclean, as well. Nobody would have anything to do with her, because they would become “tainted”, like her. Everyone ignored her, and shunned her. She was sad and lonely, and Jesus was her last hope.
Some apocryphal versions of the story say that this woman was none other than Veronica of Caesarea Philippi, who later wiped Jess’s face on His way to Calvary.
She knew that she was not allowed to walk in the streets when there were people there. She could have been killed for breaking the law. But she knew she had nothing to lose – she had already lost her health, her money, and her friends.
Some people may question how, exactly, she “knew” that she was cured instantaneously. Well, the illness of the woman was such that she felt pain and discomfort every single moment of her life. Suddenly, she felt whole again, and she also felt that the bleeding was staunched.
There must have been scores of people milling around Jesus and his Apostles, jostling one another. And yet when the woman touched His garment, Jesus felt the power go out of Him. He stopped, and he asked “Who touched me?”
The reply was one that we, too, might have given him. The Apostles pointed out that there was a big crowd, so they could never, ever, be able to identify one specific person who had touched him. But Jesus knew that something special had happened, and he looked around to search for the woman. He said “I asked who touched me, for I perceived that living energy has come out from me.” She was ever so embarrassed and frightened, because she thought people would accuse her of touching someone when she knew she should not have done it!
But, somehow, she plucked up courage, now that she was no longer “unclean”, to talk to Jesus and admit that it was she who had touched His clothes. He blessed her and said “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. You have been healed.” It is important to note that Jesus used the phrase “go in peace” to show us that it is important to have peace in our hearts as well as healthy bodies.
Jesus did not become “unclean” because the woman had touched him. We have seen Him touch lepers and dead people, and yet he remained holy. Just to make things clear, because there was a superstition that the clothes of a holy person, in themselves, held power – Jesus explains to her that it was not by touching His clothes that she was cured, but because she had believed it would happen.
Jairus was fidgety and perhaps a little angry as well because this incident had made Jesus “too late” to help his daughter. But when they got to the house, Jesus said “She is not dead; she sleeps.” Later, when Jesus brought the little girl back to life again, he asked the people in the house to give her something to eat, to show that for her and her family, life was now back to normal.