Healing in His Wings
Sunday, February 5, 2023
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention her, but never her name. She is only known as the woman with an issue of blood. No name. Only blood.
Her identity, her dreams, her relationships, her future -everything had been swallowed up and overshadowed by this one issue. This issue of blood.
You may be able to relate.
I think of the brave souls who have battled cancer, enduring months and even years of chemo, radiation, and surgery. Cancer threatens not only to take over the body, but also every waking thought and conversation. To the point that I have had friends say to me, “Deb – I am not my breast cancer. I am a person WITH breast cancer.” There is a difference.
I am a person, not a disease, disability, or an addiction. I have a name. an identity. Value and purpose. See me.
For twelve long years she had struggled. Day in and day out. One heartbreak after another. Luke mentions that this woman spent everything she had on physicians and hopeful cures. But her condition only grew worse.
It wasn’t only her finances that were lost, however.
The Torah taught that when one has an issue of blood, they are ceremonially unclean. If she sat on a chair, slept in a bed, or used a utensil – anyone who then touched those things would also become unclean. She could not hug her children or embrace her husband. She was excluded from family meals, gatherings and celebrations. Nor was she allowed enter the temple nor the synagogue, where her community met. The humiliation and isolation must have been unbearable.
Until the day she heard the commotion in her village. Jesus was passing through. People had been speaking excitedly of this Rabbi Jesus, of teachings and his healing powers. Even wondering if he could be the one… The one they had all been waiting for. The Messiah.
It was against all the rules. If she dared to get near the crowd, it would be a scandal. After all, if she touched anyone, they would become unclean. And the crowd was thick. Men and women with children in their arms, all staining to touch or catch a glimpse of this Rabbi.
But she was desperate. So, she covered herself up. Would anyone recognize her? It was risky, she could be stoned to death for such a violation of the law. But she kept her head low and pushed into crowd. “If only … If only I can touch the corner of his garment – I will be healed.”
She came up behind him and – yes! She touched his cloak.
But then… Jesus stopped. Right there. He turned around and looked right at her.
But rather than harsh judgment – He said, ‘Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.”
Jesus saw her. Not her disease. He stopped. He turned. He looked right into her eyes, a cast-off woman, and called her daughter. And with that encounter she was made whole.
Have you ever wondered why people tried to touch the corners of Jesus’ garment for healing? There are other references in Scripture that mention people doing this. For example:
56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns, or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
It turns out that there is a lot of significance to this act of touching the edge of Jesus’ cloak.
Jews in the first century wore two robes in their everyday dress. An undergarment called a haluk was usually made of linen. Over that was worn a mantel or “tallit” that was heavier and made of wool. The tallit was worn in public, and as protection from the sun and rain. And, if you were caught outdoors at night, you wrapped yourself up in it like a blanket.
It was rectangular and on the four corners were sewn fringes or tassels called tzitzit in Hebrew. All this was done in accordance with the scriptures.
37 The Lord said to Moses: 38 Speak to the Israelites and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner. 39 You have the fringe so that, when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them.
The fringes or tzitzit were a visible and constant reminder to walk in God’s laws. Later, when the Jews suffered great persecution, they began to fasten them to an undergarment instead. You may have seen orthodox Jews with tzitzit or tassels like this.
The Hebrew word for corner in this passage is kanaph. But kanaph has another meaning as well. It can mean wings – like the wings of a bird. In fact, kanaph is translated 76 times as wings in the biblical text.
Okay here is where this gets interesting.
In Malachi 4:2, the prophet foretold in that the sun of righteousness will rise, with healing in his wings (kanaph). Soon the Hebrew sages taught that when the Messiah came, there would be healing in the corners (kanaph) and tassels of his robe.
In Jesus’ day some of the Pharisees made their tassles or tzitzit so long that they dragged on the ground, hoping they might be seen as the Messiah. Jesus criticized them for this and their desire to be seen by others in Matthew 23:5. One of these guys was even known as Rav Joseph Ben Tzitzit Haka-set. Which means Rabbi Joseph, son of the enormously long tassels. Oh my. What people do for attention, right?
When the woman with the issue of blood reached out to touch the corner of Jesus’ garment, she wasn’t only hoping he would heal her, she was proclaiming that he also was God’s Messiah. The one with healing in his wings.
She risked a lot to dive into that crowd. But stepped out anyway, focusing her hope and faith on Jesus – trusting he could heal her. And that courageous act of faith released God’s healing power, changing her life forever.
Life can be hard. Really hard. There are times when the challenges we face are so daunting that they threaten to take over our entire lives. The addiction, the disability, disease, depression, the divorce, or bankruptcy. You may have tried everything to turn the situation around. But it only seems to get worse.
Know this: Jesus sees you. He sees your heartache, your longing, suffering and despair. And is with you in the very thick of it. Promising never to abandon you. That you might be whole, restored, and set free.
Our healing may not come in an instant like that of bleeding woman. But the beginning of healing comes when we entrust ourselves to his care. When take that risk and reach out to grasp the corner of his garment in faith.
And I promise you this. Jesus sees you. He knows your name. He is with you. always. Not matter what. And in him, in his wings, is healing and life. Amen.