Daily Devotions are published Tuesday-Saturday during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Luke 8:43-48 (NRSV)
Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, “Daughter your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
This passage is not in today’s lectionary, but it is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. It is included in all of the synoptic Gospels, and is the story of a woman who has endured an illness for 12 years without relief. This type of illness would have made her ritually impure and she would not have been able to participate in the religious life of the community. Moreover, anybody who touched her would become impure and would have had to purify themselves and wait until sundown before they became pure again. Such an illness must have been extremely isolating and discouraging. I am sure it dragged her down physically, depleting her body of iron and causing anemia and fatigue. The story reports that it had also depleted her financially. She must have been desperate for help. In the same story in Matthew (9:21) she says to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” The fringe was an important part of an Israelites cloak. It was a symbol of God’s law and covenant. Numbers 15:39 says “You have the fringe so that, when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them….” She touches the fringe of his cloak, and is immediately healed.
Her story is set in the middle of the story of Jairus’s daughter. Jairus is a leader of the synagogue and, in the midst of the crowd, comes falling at Jesus feet, begging for him to heal his daughter who is near death. How different for this woman. She approaches quietly, undetected, hoping to be cured and to leave quietly without being noticed. It must have been so difficult to approach, and then even more difficult to come forward and acknowledge her affliction and her action. I imagine that not everyone in the crowd viewed her with sympathy. Not so with Jesus. He recognizes her faith, claims her as a daughter, and sends her forth with his peace.
I think this passage resonates with me because over the years I have taken care of many people with illnesses that isolate them from their communities, family, friends, and coworkers. I sometimes share this story with them. But it also resonates with me because it reminds me of how I sometimes approach the Lord. Creeping up, afraid to own my failings, and sometimes just plain fearful. On those occasions, the image of reaching out and touching the cloak of the Lord is very comforting to me, as it must have been for this unnamed woman.
Dear Lord, all praise, honor and glory are yours. For when we are ill, you heal us, and when we are fearful you comfort us. You are always beside us, so that we may take hold of the fringe of your cloak as often as we need. Amen.