Monday, April 16, 2012

Woman with an Issue of Blood

Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood by Paolo Veronese

Matthew 8:20-22; Mark 5: 25-34; Luke 8: 43-48

Background:

As Jesus traveled around throughout the country teaching and working miracles He was approached by “a certain ruler”
of the synagogue named Jarius. Jarius knelt before Jesus and begged, “My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.” (Mark 5:23) Jesus went with Jarius right away but “much people followed him, and thronged him.” (Mark 5:24) As He made his way through the crowd a woman with an issue of blood touched His robe. 


Facts About Her:

  • She was “diseased with an issue of blood twelve years” (Matt. 9:20)
  • She had “suffered many things of many physicians” and had spent “ all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.” (Mark 5: 26);
  • She had heard of Jesus and when she saw He was near she joined in the throng of people following Him as He made His way to Jarius’ house. She said within herself,“ If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” ( Matt. 9: 21);
  • She came behind Him and touched the hem of His garment ( Matt 9:20). As soon as she touched Him “the fountain of her blood was dried up” and she “felt in her body that she was healed of that plague” ( Mark 5: 29);
  • As soon as she touched Him Christ "immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him” (Mark 5:30) stopped and asked “Who touched me?” Everyone around Him denied it and Peter asked him “ Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee and sayest thou, Who touched me?” (Luke 8: 45).
  • When the woman saw that she was unable to hide from the Lord she “came trembling and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.” (Luke 8: 47)
  • Christ looked on her and told her, “Daughter be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)
Speculations About Her:

  • Under the Mosaic law a woman with an issue of blood (referring to menstrual or postpartum bleeding) was considered unclean and was “put apart” for 7 days. During this time anything she lay on or sat on was considered “unclean” meaning that if anyone touched one of those things he would have to wash his clothes and bathe in water to become clean again. Also during this time if any man was sexually intimate with her he was also unclean for 7 days and must adhere to the same sort of “setting apart” as a woman (and actually the guidelines for a man who has an issue of blood, or who was unclean were more strict than for women, see Leviticus 15:1-30).
  • The Mosaic Law also specified that if a woman had an issue of blood that lasted longer then 7 days that all the days of her issue were considered unclean and she must be treated as such (Leviticus 15: 25). This means that this woman had probably been unclean for 12 years and that she had to live “put apart” from others for all that time. If she had been married her husband probably would have divorced her as she would have been unable to care for her children or for others without making them all unclean. Her unclean status would also have meant that she was probably unable to attend the temple or other worship services.
  • I did a quick Google search for information about “prolonged menstruation” and I discovered that today this woman probably would have been diagnoses with menorrhagia, which is abnormally heavy and long menstruation that causes enough cramping and blood loss that it makes normal daily activities impossible. The scriptures are right in calling it a “hemorrhage” because the amount of blood lost is significant—enough to fill a maxi pad at least every hour for several weeks (not to mention 12 years!). According to the Mayo Clinic common causes of menorrhagia are:
  • Uterine fibroids, non-cancerous growths of the uterus wall
  • Endometrial hyperplasia, a thickened endometrium
  • A bleeding disorder, like von Willebrand disease
  • Problems with clotting
  • Thyroid functioning
  • Glandular issues
  • Infection
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine polyps
  • Cancer
In the scriptures it say that the woman spent all of her living upon physicians who could not help her. Today physicians are usually able to treat or control menorrhagia with hormone pills but in severe cases hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and endometrial ablation or resection (which permanently destroys the entire lining of the uterus) are used to treat it. It is incredible that Jesus was able to heal this woman with only His touch.

My Thoughts:

I have been thinking about this woman a lot over the last several months. Her story has always intrigued me, but after the little miracle that happened after Abraham's birth this story means something much more to me. As I’ve related before, after Abraham was born I had some complications with my placenta detaching. We were about to head to the hospital to have a somewhat serious procedure done when my midwife asked if Jon would give me a Priesthood blessing. I remember as he laid his hands on my head feeling at peace about things, but also feeling a little doubtful that a priesthood blessing would be able to fix everything. So it was an incredible feeling to feel my body, not even a minute after Jon finished his blessing, give a strong contraction. I felt all the membranes release and felt an amazing flow of placenta come out of me. It was truly a miracle and as soon as it happened I started to cry, not out of pain or relief, but out of gratitude and amazement. I knew that God had just performed a miracle for me and my heart was overwhelmed. I hadn’t thought I had enough faith to have something so miraculous happen to me, but as I’ve pondered on this experience the last several months I’ve come to see that God doesn’t require us to have unshakable, unwavering, moving mountains kind of faith in order to work miracles in our lives. Sometimes, just like the woman with the issue of blood all we need to do is have enough faith to just barely touch the hem of Christ’s garment. If we can do that, then He can use His miraculous power on our behalf.

I can only imagine that after twelve years of constant blood loss that this woman must have suffered from anemia and it probably took most of the physical strength she had to even make it to Christ. I can just imagine her, exhausted and suffocated by the crowd, desperate to make it to Christ. When she knew she couldn’t go any further she fell to her knees saying within herself,“ If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole" ( Matt. 9: 21) and reaching out her hand just as He passed by. That was all it took. She didn’t have to speak to Him, she didn’t have to tell Him what it was she needed, she just had to have enough faith to reach out to Him.

What happens next is my favorite part of the story. As soon as she realized she was healed she tried to hide back into the crowd. She was probably afraid because she had just touched Jesus and made Him ritually unclean, as well as just about everyone else in the crowd. Once they knew she had touched them they would all have to go wash and change their clothes. Yet, she knew that she had been healed and she knew that Jesus knew it. When she saw that she could not hide from the Lord she "came trembling" , fell at Christ's feet, and bore testimony to the crowd of the miracle that had happened to her.

Several years ago our Ward choir sang a song called “Come Touch the Robe” which tells the story of the woman with the issue of blood and invites everyone to come unto Christ-- to touch His robe and be healed physically and spiritually.



It is a beautiful song and I have been thinking about it a lot the last few months. I asked our choir director if we could sing it again this year and after some pondering she said she felt like the Lord wanted me to sing the solo, the part of the woman with the issue of blood. I am not a strong singer. I’ve sung two solos in my life and both times I thought I might die of fright before they were over. Yet I knew, just like the choir director knew, that I needed to sing this song. I had been healed by the Savior and, like the woman with the issue of blood, I knew that I needed to bear testimony of the great miracle that Christ had performed for me.

I sang the song last week in church and even though no one in the audience except for my husband, the choir director, and some of my knew the experience I had and why I was singing the song, it was really beautiful for me to share my testimony. Like the woman with the issue of blood I know that Christ can fix what seems unfixable. His power and mercy know no bounds and all we have to do to access it is have faith to reach out and touch the hem-- just the hem-- of His robe.

Questions to Think About:

  • Why do you think that this woman’s story is included in three of the Gospels? What is it about her story that made Matthew, Luke and Mark think it was important enough to share?
  • We know that God and Christ are in perfect accordance with The Law. This means that they are perfectly obedient to both spiritual and physical laws. This means that even miracles must obey the physical and spiritual laws of the earth in order to occur, and so it intrigues me how Christ healed people (of seemingly incurable thing like blindness) by only touching them. What physical process that we don’t understand did Christ use to heal her body completely through only a touch-- and not even the touch of His hand, merely His clothing?
  • What possible significance do you see in the fact that the daughter of Jarius, whom Christ raised from the dead was 12 yeas-old (around the age when girls start menstruation) and that this woman who was healed by Jesus had been suffering with her “ issue of blood” for 12 years? Coincidence?
  • How can you relate to this woman? When have you “touched” Christ?

22 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Heather! I especially appreciate you pointing out that all those she touched in the crowd, as well as Jesus, would be ritually unclean. The implications of that contrasted with Christ's reaction is just beautiful and emphasizes his care for the one and the "weighter matters" rather than the strict interpretation of Mosaic Law. I hadn't ever connected those dots before.

    In regards to your second question to think about, years ago there was a very interesting conversation in one of my New Testament classes at BYU with Br. Stephen E. Robinson (the author of "Believing Christ"). He mentioned the idea that God has to follow physical laws as one of the most common misconceptions he runs into in his students. By definition, God is omnipotent - all-powerful. He created the laws and as a God of order, He usually works through them, but He is not bound by them and can function outside of them as He sees fit. Otherwise, He wouldn't be an omnipotent God. Anyway, just food for thought.

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  2. I am in tears. I have often found myself drawn to this nameless woman. This tragic and wrenching story of a woman who - through no fault of her own - was shunned by her people. I related to her for so many years. Struggling myself to find answers to what was happening in my body. Visiting doctors, taking medications and herbs, missing out on life.... resigning myself to the reality that I would never have a "normal cycle".

    I often marveled at her determination to be out seeking the Master, knowing the willpower it took many days just to go about menial tasks in my home. I have been amazed by the faith it took for her to actively seek the Priesthood for this matter; it is such a personal plight, yet even in modern days we feel a detachment {albeit, mostly imagined} from those around us during our time, feeling in our own way "unclean" and mocked for it. I sought the advice of doctors, researched possible causes... plead with the Lord for understanding and remedies, perhaps if I had been married I might have turned to the priesthood sooner.... perhaps, in that respect, I felt 'unclean' myself and therefore 'deserving' of this problem. It seems ridiculous to say it like that, but in the midst of it, I can imagine the thoughts {self loathing, even} this woman might have had. It tears my heart apart... thinking that some time, some where.... other women have gone through what I have.... most certainly even more. And then I read this:

    "What possible significance do you see in the fact that the daughter of Jarius, whom Christ raised from the dead was 12 yeas-old (around the age when girls start menstruation) and that this woman who was healed by Jesus had been suffering with her “ issue of blood” for 12 years? Coincidence?"

    And I lost it. I had a hysterectomy two years ago, my "issues" are remedied. I am no longer anemic, no longer suffering from abdominal cramps and migraines. No longer worrying about whether I have my purse or extra clothing or what activities we might be doing. But I also have a 12yo daughter now. She has just began her menstrual cycles. She has been experiencing terrible cramping and headaches.... fatigue, digestion issues... the poor girl. On top of it all, she is not at all "regular" - I know that is normal.... but some of it doesn't feel normal to me. Her first two cycles have been 41 and 61 days in length and she has had medium to heavy bleeding for 5, 7, and 10 days respectively. Could it be my own imaginings? Yes. Could it be her body working with itself slowly? Quite possibly. But could it also be that I have experienced my issues, in preparation for helping my daughter understand and celebrate her own in ways my mother never could have? With the blessings of the priesthood and the understanding that the Atonement includes the pains spiritual, mental, AND physical? As I read this post, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my sweet daughter, her laughter, her joy, her confusion, her tears.... all of these mixed emotions that come during these years. There is so much about life, about womanhood, that we can teach our daughters. So much that is only now becoming readily understood and accepted. How blessed we are to live in an age when we no longer have to be "put apart" but can seek knowledge and embrace the beautiful complexities of our womanhood! Perhaps the significance of this woman was not only to illustrate her humble circumstances, her eminence faith or her miraculous healing.... perhaps she was put there, in that moment, to help the wife of Jarius better understand how to help her daughter. How to teach her daughter to turn to the Lord in her infirmities.... not only spiritual, but physical as well. We often say that the Lord puts a person in our path at exactly the time He means too, for our good. Perhaps this beautiful woman is in fact, the essence of that sentiment.

    I have rambled enough.... thank you for this post, you have given me much to think about and to be grateful for. I love the song as well.

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    1. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. It is incredible. I was really touched by your thoughts and your testimony. The more I learn about the women in the scriptures the more I find that the problems and challenges they faced and not very different from the ones we face today. It really brings a feeling of kinship and such power knowing that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and that his love for all women stays the same. Thank you so much!

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  3. Love your blog!thanks for another excellent post. I love this story.
    Jesus could so very easily have let her slip away again discreetly into the crowd. So much of his healing was done without drawing attention to the miracle that had taken place. This time he drew attention to her and let her and the whole crowd know that she was indeed healed. Some in the crowd may have known her and known her unclean status - to them as well as her Jesus pronounced her healed both physically (and as such - socially) and spiritually. The hem of the garment was probably the tzitzit - the fringes/tassle on Jesus' robe. He fulfilled the prophecy in Malachi that he would rise with healing in his wings (more correctly translated as the edge feathers on a birds wing - like a hem or the tzitzit)

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    1. Oh, I love the insights about the tzitzit, I hadn't thought of that. And how incredible that this woman fulfilled a prophecy! Awesome

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  4. Thank you so much for this essay. I have loved this story for many years, but without knowing the historical details to make it come alive.

    One aspect of it I find very interesting is the use of the word "virtue." The word virtue in the Young Women Theme has often been used as a synonym of chastity, but there is more to its definition than that. I doubt that the Saviour's *chastity* went out of him when the woman touched the hem of his robe... other definitions of virtue include moral excellence; goodness; righteousness. "Taken in its widest sense virtue means the excellence of perfection of a thing" (from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15472a.htm).

    I think the wider interpretation of virtue helps us understand what went on between Christ and the woman, and also helps us to understand why that word was added to the Young Women motto. May we all be virtuous, in every sense of the word!

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  5. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I feel like I got a spiritual uplift today by reading this post. What a beautiful example of Christs love for everyone!

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  6. The woman with the issue of blood is by far my favorite story of a woman in the scriptures. I ♥-ed reading your take on it, along with your personal story. I have also appreciated the comments that have been left. Thank you so much for sharing that we don't have always have to have faith to move mountains...sometimes it can be as small as reaching out towards the Savior. What a powerful message. Thank you!

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  7. What a beautiful post. I love these insights into this woman's struggles and her faith to be healed. I am proud of you for being brave enough to sing a solo at church. I wish I had been there to hear it.

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  8. I wish I could have heard you sing!

    I really needed this today: "God doesn’t require us to have unshakable, unwavering, moving mountains kind of faith in order to work miracles in our lives. Sometimes, just like the woman with the issue of blood all we need to do is have enough faith to just barely touch the hem of Christ’s garment." Thank you for once again speaking with the tongue of angels, straight into my soul. Love you.

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  9. I really love this story, too, and one of my favorite parts is what it teaches me about "virtue." So often it is tied to sexual purity (which is an important part), but this story points out that virtue is a tangible power that can be drawn upon by faith in and drawing nigh unto the Savior. I love that.

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  10. I needed to hear this too, that even reaching out for just a hem of his robe can be enough. This give me hope!

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  11. i wanted to share this print "woman with an issue of blood." i was so overwhelmed when i first saw it--i purchased it right away--it's now framed in my bedroom. i like to call it "whole." .http://www.etsy.com/listing/10332709/woman-with-an-issue-of-blood?ref=sr_gallery_1&ga_search_query=woman+with+an+issue+of+blood&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=ZZ&ga_min=0&ga_max=0&ga_search_type=handmade

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    1. Wow, that is a beautiful depiction. So unique. I am so glad you shared it with me!

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  12. Does her touching Jesus make him ritually unclean? Is "uncleanliness" of menustarting women still a Christian belief or did Jesus conquer that by this miracle? I ask because I recently left a relationship with a man who would not see me for 14 days because of my cycle. I feel very confused about it as a Christian and hope that women would not have to deal with such today but I am not sure.

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    1. Under the law of moses her touching Christ does make him unclean, but because Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses after his death woman are no longer considered unclean. I wrote some more about this in this post, if you are interested.

      http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2009/01/first-sorrow-of-mary.html

      I know that there are still some orthodox Jewish groups that do still consider women unclean during their menstruation, but I am unaware of any Christian churches that do. To do so would be to deny that Christ had power to fulfill the law of Moses.

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    2. Thank you Heather. I too have had personal experience as a younger woman that caused me to relate to this precious woman. As a midwife of 34 years, I have witnessed many sacred miracles, and was especially touched by your sharing a sacred and personal experience. I'm blessed to have found your blog and am grateful for your spirit.

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  13. I found this blog recently and LOVE it, and I'm glad you included a link to this post in your year-end top five. It reminds me of an article from Christianity Today that I came across when I was researching maternal mortality a couple years ago and that I think you would love.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/january/17.48.html

    The article was written by a Christian man who is a professor of obstetrics/gynecology AND anthropology (seriously smart guy), and it goes into possible biological causes of the issue of blood and what that would have meant in cultural context, especially because of her likely inability to have children. Then he discusses Christ's reaction to her and relates the whole situation to the "epidemic" of obstetric fistula in developing countries today.

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  14. Ah, wonderful article. Thanks so much for sharing your insights on this scripture, friend. :) xx
    ( the alcove )

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  15. Wonderful story, thank you so much.this is the third time in my life once I was 20, 24 and now I am 27 and for 3 months now till today I have been bleeding. ...I have prayed and have been on hormone drugs still delayed....I know God can heal me.i dunno when but I know he can

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  16. I am going through the same situation at the moment I believe God can heal me..I don't know when but I believe he can...

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  17. Does anyone have the lyrics to the song, "Come Touch the Robe"? I can't understand what's being sung, but I would love to have the words. I'm researching this woman. Thanks for your help!

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