In Luke 8:40 there is a kind of “story within a story” that shows us just how quickly and easily Jesus could adapt to meet all the needs of the people who came to Him for help. The first section of this two-part account begins like this…
“Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him” (Luke 8:40-42 NIV).
The “Ruler of the Synagogue” was the person who served as the director of services at the synagogue, the local place of worship where people met to pray and hear God’s Word. This was an important position and someone like Jairus was recognized as a person who held an honored and respected place within the local community.
While many religious leaders of that time showed open hostility towards Jesus (see John 5:17-18), it seems that Jairus was different from the others. Jairus understood that Jesus had the ability to save his daughter from death and this desperate need must have compelled him to break away from the rest of the religious leadership and humbly ask for Jesus’ help.
Jesus graciously agreed to answer his request but while He was on the way, He was suddenly detoured by a mysterious “someone” in the crowd…
“In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had spent everything she had on doctors, but none of them could make her well. As soon as she came up behind Jesus and barely touched his clothes, her bleeding stopped. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. While everyone was denying it, Peter said, ‘Master, people are crowding all around and pushing you from every side.’ But Jesus answered, ‘Someone touched me, because I felt power going out from me'” (Luke 8:43-46 CEV).
The Old Testament listed a number of different circumstances and conditions that automatically caused someone to become “unclean.” For example, anyone who came into contact with a dead body had to follow certain purification rules before they could be considered “clean” again. (1)
Another unclean condition had to do with the kind of external bleeding that this woman suffered from. (2) If that wasn’t bad enough, her condition meant that everyone who was serious about keeping the law also had to avoid contact with her to keep from becoming unclean as well. (3)
So this condition was more than just a physical problem for this woman; it was a social problem that prevented her from having normal relationships with other people. Perhaps this explains why she “…came up behind (Jesus) and touched the edge of his cloak…” in the way that she did. Nevertheless, her bleeding immediately stopped once she came into contact with Jesus despite the fact that no doctor had been able to successfully treat her before.
Now before we go any further, we need to consider something important about what took place here. You see, it’s possible to think about what happened in these verses and conclude that Jesus may be someone who simply serves as a kind of “spiritual power outlet” and that power involuntarily flows from Jesus whenever someone touches Him with faith. While these verses certainly demonstrate Jesus’ power and ability to help people, there are some important things to keep in mind before we try to take this experience and apply it in light of our own circumstances.
For example, we should be careful not to focus more on what Jesus is able to do for us than on Jesus Himself. Instead of concentrating on Jesus’ ability to remove the problems in our lives, it’s usually better to center our attention on knowing Jesus better and deepening our relationship with Him first and then trusting Him to take care of those problems in His own time and way (see Philippians 3:8).
Next, it’s important to remember the idea of context when looking at Biblical events like this. The word “context” means, “the part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.” (4) In other words, the surrounding chapters and verses of the Bible help determine what each individual Bible verse really means. While it may seem as if this woman simply walked up to Jesus, touched His robe and was healed, the Bible -when taken in context- tells us that there are some conditions that apply before we can expect to receive anything from God.
For instance, anyone who wishes to receive something from God must believe that He actually exists first (see Hebrews 11:6). The Scriptures also tell us that we must also approach God in faith. “Faith” is, “a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life.”(5) The Biblical book of Hebrews tells us that, “…faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). Faith is the confident belief that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He’ll do.
It’s also important to make sure that we go to God with the proper motives whenever we ask for something from Him. For example, if our motivation in asking for something from God is wrong then we shouldn’t expect to see a positive answer. The New Testament book of James talks about this when it says,” When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures…” (James 4:3 NIV). So if you want to receive something from God, you should make that sure your motivations line up properly with those things that God has already said in His Word.
So how do these conditions apply to the woman who touched the edge of Jesus’ robe in these verses? Well, Jesus will later refer to this woman as “daughter,” a cultural term that clearly identified her as a believer in the God of the Scriptures. Next, her motivation in seeking to relieve 12 years of suffering was certainly not wrong. Finally, it’s critical to understand that while there may have been many people who came into contact with Jesus, this woman was apparently the only one who actually touched Him. In other words, she was the only person who knowingly and consciously made contact with Jesus in faith. In fact, this woman’s faith was so great that she believed that Jesus could heal her if she only touched His clothes!
So here’s what happened next…