The Bleeding Ninja, Jesus, a Tent, and a Dead Girl – Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, July 12, 2014 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Read Luke 8:40-48 to set the stage for this blog.

As Jesus passed by, the woman who had been hemorrhaging for years had something rise up in her that caused her to do something extremely dangerous in order to be healed. As someone who was bleeding constantly, she was “unclean” and had to be separated from community. Anyone who touched her would be “unclean” so in public gatherings she had to call out “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN!” to alert everyone to stay away from her. If she didn’t do that, she could be imprisoned or stoned for physical contact that would make others “unclean.”

Did God care about her pain and suffering? Did God desire to heal her? Why didn’t he just do it through the doctors? Why didn’t he do it as a result of her prayers? Why wouldn’t God just give her a normal life? Could there be something God was inviting her to that would build her faith, and maybe build the faith of many others? Whatever was going on, something changed inside of her when she saw Jesus.

I imagine her covering her face, and keeping her head down, slipping through the crowd like a ninja. Silently she navigates her way up behind Jesus, and she reaches out and touches the tassel on his “garment.” In that moment, she is instantly healed – she knows it, and Jesus does too. Jesus draws her out of the crowd, and affirms that she has been healed and sends her on her way. But what did we miss in this exchange? Why did she grab the tassel of his “robe” or “outer garment?”

Translators often have a hard time with this because they are not sure what article of clothing this was. Nor are they sure if it is a “fringe” or a “hem” or just an “edge” of his normal every day cloak. So when we approach this moment we simply assume that Jesus, being God, is just so holy that his clothes were saturated with God’s presence and power, and the woman was spontaneously healed. While this is certainly possible, I believe there is more going on here.

All Jewish men of Jesus’ day typically wore a garment called a “Tallith.” This was a fringed shawl-like garment that was worn for two reasons: to remind them of God’s commands, and to cover their heads in prayer. Today it is commonly called a prayer shawl for obvious reasons. It is also referred to as a “little tent.”

This Tallith was designed specifically from the commandments in Deuteronomy and Numbers, where God commanded his people to wear garments with “tassels” on each corner. There is a lot of detail to the prayer shawl that I am not going to go into here. What is important for us to know in this situation is that the Tallith/prayer shawl has a specific number of tassels all along the edge that are knotted in specific ways. These represent the commands of God and were meant to remind the wearer of the Tallith of each command. The tassels in the four corners are also knotted, and they also have a specific meaning – they represent the name of God.

When Jewish men pray, they typically will hold the tassels of the four corners in their hands, symbolically holding on to God and drawing near to him as they pray. So what does all that have to do with our suffering “ninja” outcast who came to Jesus for healing? Look at what she says to herself, “If I could only touch the [hem, corner, fringe, tassel] of his garment…”

This woman had heard about Jesus. She heard of the miracles happening around him, and she knew God was moving powerfully through him. At the very least she believed he was a powerful servant of God. At the very most, she believe he really was/is the only Savior. Either way, she was confident that just touching that tassels that he gripped in his hands during prayer, just coming in contact with these little knotted fibers that were a conduit to intimacy with God, that she would be healed. And as she reaches out and grabs the tassel, she symbolically took the name of God in her hand – grasping onto God for her healing and restoration.

She is healed by God through Jesus Christ – and Jesus validates her healing, restores her in community, and sends her on her way.

If you read on, there were others who were saddened deeply, because her healing seemed to have cost the life of a little girl. Stay tuned next week to see what happens; this Tallith thing is just getting warmed up.

Until next week – let me ask you to reflect on how this encounter relates to you:
- What healing or restoration are you seeking?
- Are you ashamed and avoiding the “crowd” around Jesus instead of pushing your way out to Him?
- Do you believe that God can and does heal – why? Why not?
- What would it look like for you to “take the name of God in your hand” the way the hemorrhaging woman did?