You know that part of you that you really want others not to see — that stubborn weakness, humiliating failure, embarrassing illness, horrible past event, or present struggle with sin? There’s very good news for you in the story of the woman with a hemorrhage in Luke 8.
Jesus was now a reluctant celebrity. And a crowd was teeming around him as he made his way toward Jairus’s home to heal the synagogue ruler’s twelve-year-old daughter.
In the crowd was a desperate woman. For twelve years she had suffered from a vaginal hemorrhage. All the medical treatments she sought had bled her savings. Nothing had helped.
But she had seen Jesus’ healing power. When he touched people they were healed. If he could just touch her…
However, she had a problem. Her problem was the problem. Everyone who came to Jesus for healing had to tell him — and thus everyone else — what his or her problem was. Jairus had just done that. But a vaginal discharge? In front of all those men? Even worse, her bleeding made her unclean, which added a deeper shame to her embarrassment.
But maybe Jesus didn’t need to know that he touched her at all. What if she touched him? With that mass of people all trying to get close to him, she could just quickly touch his cloak. Nobody would ever know!
She pushed and jostled her way toward the Rabbi. The closer she got the greater the knot in her stomach. His disciples were trying to keep people from grabbing him. Her desperation fueled her determination. Suddenly there was an opening and she quickly bent down and swept her hand along the edge of Jesus’s cloak.
As she straightened up and stepped back she felt a flash of heat through her abdomen. She knew instantly she was healed. A flash of shocked joy washed over her.
For about five seconds.
Then Jesus stopped and began searching the crowd. He looked concerned and said loudly, “Who was it that touched me?” (Luke 8:45)
A flash of fear washed over the woman. Those closest pulled back from Jesus. Everyone looked at everyone else. There were various declarations of “I didn’t do anything!” But the woman froze.
Peter, with some irritation, said to Jesus, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” For goodness’ sake, everybody’s trying to touch you!
But Jesus, still looking, said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46).
The woman realized she had been caught. It had never occurred to her that she might be stealing this healing.
Meekly she said, “It was me.” She stepped back toward Jesus and the crowd parted. In tears she dropped to her knees in front of him. “I touched you, Master.” And she poured out her shame in front of everyone.
Jesus was clearly moved. He leaned toward her and wiped her tears and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
When Jesus finally got to Jairus’s home and resurrected his daughter, he told her parents not to tell anyone (Luke 8:56). And yet this woman, who tried so hard to keep her healing a secret, was required to tell everyone. Why?
Because this woman believed in him.
What Jesus was exposing in that moment was not her weakness and shame. What he was exposing was her faith. He wanted her faith visible so that everyone who carries a secret shame — which is every one of us — might have hope.
Jesus, the Great Physician, has the power to heal us from every sin, every weakness, every failure, every illness and every evil ever committed against us. And he promises this healing to everyone who believes in him (John 3:16; Matthew 21:22).
Faith is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) and faith is what releases the grace of God in your life (Ephesians 2:8; Luke 8:48). Do you want deliverance from your shame? Come to Jesus believing. Come desperately determined to touch him. And if faith is weak, cry out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) and “increase [my] faith!” (Luke 17:5).
So trust him and take heart! That place of shame will not remain. Jesus is turning it into a showcase of his grace.
This meditation is included in the book Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith.
Trusting Jesus is hard. It requires following the unseen into an unknown, and believing Jesus’s words over and against the threats we see or the fears we feel. Through the imaginative retelling of 35 Bible stories, Not by Sight gives us glimpses of what it means to walk by faith, counsel for how to trust God’s promises more than our perceptions, and the way to find rest in the faithfulness of God.Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight, Things Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.