(A) Introduction (Read the passage.) See also Mark5v24to34 and Mt8v18to25.

The story of the woman who touched the hem of his garment is very popular with preachers and forms the basis of many great gospel addresses. There are, for instance, three of C.H.Spurgeon's excellent outlines in the Biblical Illustrator. Unlike the healing of the demoniac the account lends itself to a straightforward, threefold division: (1) The needy woman. (2) The effective touch. (3) The required confession.

I will refer in the main to Mark's version of the woman's healing as once again it contains most detail.

(B) The needy woman.

The woman's condition was:

(1) Debilitating.

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. Mt5v25.

The unnamed woman probably suffered from menometrorrhage - irregular and frequent uterine bleeding. It may have been caused by a hormonal in balance or something like fibroids. The result of frequent but not constant bleeding is anaemia with its attendant tiredness, weakness, headaches and depression.

Every man and woman suffers from a fallen nature. This gives rise to some debilitating symptoms: guilt, fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, disgust, discontent, emptiness and weakness. At best, we cannot be all we want to be.

(2) Humiliating.

The law made things very difficult for a woman with uterine bleeding. She was unclean all the time she was bleeding and for 7 days after the bleeding stopped. See Lev15v19to30. Anyone who touched a haemorrhaging woman or came into contact with her bedclothes or whatever she sat upon was also unclean. This made married life, social intercourse and attendance of the synagogue almost impossible. The woman who touched the hem of Christ's garment led a very lonely life. Every time her bleeding stopped she was expected to sacrifice 2 doves.

Serious illness can still be humiliating and lead to loneliness. Certainly our failure to be what we want to be is humiliating -whether it is a failure to be good, successful or happy enough. If we become preoccupied by our faults, failures and unhappiness then it will have an adverse affect on our relationships.

(3) Long lasting.

Mark records: And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. Mk5v25.

Twelve years is a long time to suffer a debilitating and humiliating illness and it is little wonder that the woman was getting desperate.

Many people live with their unease, emptiness, insecurity and discontent for such a long time that they pass through the desperation state into a kind of numb resignation.

(4) Impoverished.

She had ... spent all she had. Mk5v26.

The woman with the issue of blood was not without financial resources and so was able to afford many doctors. She tried a multiplicity of cures. There was no shortage of cures! The doctors of the day may have had limited knowledge but they were not lacking imagination. Here is an example of what was prescribed: A zuzee each of Gum Alexandria, alum and crocus hortensis bruised and added to wine. If this didn't work there were plenty of other potions to try.

The spiritually hungry and thirsty soul has many of this world's doctors to consult: Dr Therapy, Dr Chemicals, Dr Self-help, Dr Pleasure and his attractive assistant Miss Self-Indulgence, Professor Ceaseless-Activity and that well known quack Mr Alternative Religion. Some people, like the sick woman, have tried them all without getting better.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon reckoned it was a hopeful sign that the woman had spent all she had and come finally to the end of her resources. She was like the Prodigal Son in the far country who squandered his wealth in wild living. Lk15v18. It is often the case that when a desperate man or woman has nowhere else to turn that they will turn at last to Jesus.

(6) Incurable

Mark tells us but not Dr Luke: She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors ...... yet instead of getting better she grew worse. v26.

The doctors cashed in on the woman's need but they couldn't cure her because they didn't know what caused her condition. Her bleeding went from bad to worse. I read in the Daily Telegraph only this week of a woman who had been going to doctors for 20 years with a sore throat and painful chest. She is said to have made over 1000 visits. Diagnoses varied from stroke to depression to multiple sclerosis to tonsillitis. None of the prescribed treatments worked because the doctors did not correctly identify the cause of her symptoms. Think of all the raised hopes and the dashed hopes. Eventually a doctor realised that the woman's problem was the result of a rare bacterial infection. So now, for the first time, effective treatment has begun.

The modern cures for man's discontent - his restless hunger and unsatisfied thirst - his relentless desire for security, fulfilment and peace - do not address the cause. They may dull the symptoms and even create a sense of well-being but unless the cause is confronted there will be no real healing.

The cause of man's weakness and great unease is the rift that exists between him and God. All that is wanting in the human conditions comes down to that.

(7) Instrumental in bringing the woman to Jesus.

When she heard about Jesus she came behind him in the crowd .... . Mk5v27.

It was a good thing that the woman with the issue of blood heard about Jesus. She would never have come to him otherwise. This is a reminder of what Paul wrote: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Rom10v13to14.

The sick woman's need drove her to Jesus. He was her last best hope. It was need that propelled the Prodigal home. No-one will turn to Jesus who does not recognise their need. Jesus told the Pharisees: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Lk5v31.

(C) The effectual touch.

There were many in the crowd around Jesus who made outward contact without the effectual touch. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. Mk5v24. We can imagine how Jesus' progress was slowed in the narrow streets by the crush of people around him.

Jesus is subject to many ineffectual touches - the casual touch, the curious touch, the unintended touch, the professional touch, the critical touch and the compulsory touch - to name but a few.

So let us examine the characteristics of the effectual touch. It is:

(1) Intentional

The woman's intent is summed up in these words: She thought if I just touch his clothes, I will be healed. Mk5v28. She took hold of 1 of 4 blue tassels sown onto the corners of Jesus' cloak. These tassels were worn as a reminder of God's Law. It was a deliberate act. The sick woman showed a great deal of determination to get to Jesus in the crush. It wasn't easy to reach the Saviour but we can imagine her pushing, elbowing and squirming her way to within grasping distance.

No-one is saved unintentionally. There has to be intent. We must reach out to him, call out to him, ask him for help, cry to him for salvation. Sometimes a sinner has to struggle to get to Jesus. There are a lot of hindrances crowding in on him: misconceptions, preconceptions, prejudices and pride.

(2) Sincere.

The woman really wanted to be made whole. It is likely she was unclean as she pushed through the crowd. She was making all she touched - including Jesus - unclean, but she didn't care.

If we want to be saved our request must be sincere - we must desire from the heart to be changed. Who can doubt the sincerity of the Philippian jailer when he cried out to Paul and Silas: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Acts16v29. See exposition on Acts16v25to40.

(3) Humble.

The invalid had nothing to offer Jesus. She had no money left. All she could do was reach out to Jesus and hope for the best. The woman did such a small, insignificant thing; she stretched out a trembling hand and took hold of a blue tassel. There is a huge disparity between what the woman did and what Jesus accomplished on her behalf.

We have nothing to offer Jesus for our salvation. It has to be requested humbly. He has paid the price to heal the rift between God the Father and us. It never ceases to amaze me that so many are saved through doing so little - by just crying out, "Help me Jesus" or "Save me Jesus" or "Change me Jesus". These very small evidences of submission and faith result in a man or a woman receiving forgiveness of sin and new life in Christ Jesus.

            Nothing in my hand I bring,
            Simply to Thy cross I cling.

(4) Product of limited knowledge.

The woman with the issue of blood thought: If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed. She didn't know much about Jesus. She wasn't prepared to ask Jesus for healing which suggests that she believed in his power but not in his love. Indeed there is an element of superstition in her conviction that Jesus' cloths had healing properties.

Many folk have experienced Christ's saving power who knew very little about him. I have heard testimonies where a person has reached out to Jesus knowing barely more than his willingness to help people who have made a mess of their lives. I heard a young man give his testimony recently who cried out to Jesus in a dark place because he recalled what his Christian headmaster said in a school assembly: "If you are ever in trouble remember Jesus is there to help you."

(5) Expression of faith.

The woman said to herself: "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Mk5v28. Jesus said to her: "Daughter, your faith has healed you." Mk5v34.

The invalid had faith enough to struggle through the crowd risking the condemnation of those who knew that she was an unclean woman in order to take possession of Christ's healing power.

Essentially that is what in the first instance faith does - look to Jesus, reach out to Jesus and trust him for salvation and new life.

(6) Revealing.

Immediately the bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. Mk5v29.

As soon as the woman grasped the blue tassel on Christ's cloak she knew that she had been made whole. She was left in no doubt whatsoever that all was well and her debilitating condition had been dealt with.

A person knows whether he or she is a Christian or not. Saving faith often results in an immediate sense of well-being. Some, like Cornelius, receive God's spirit suddenly and dramatically. Even Christians like myself who become believers gradually and almost unconsciously are given assurance of a changed status. Paul puts it like this: God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given us. Rom5v5.

(7) Identifying.

Not only did the woman know that she was healed but Jesus knew too. At once Jesus realised power had gone out of him. Mk5v30. I think it is likely that Jesus had identified the woman who touched him in the crowd. Matthew records: Jesus turned and saw her. Mt9v22. Luke puts it like this: Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed ..... . Lk8v47.

Jesus knows everyone he has saved. He said: "I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep." Jn10v14. He knows us by name: He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Jn10v3. One of the downsides of working for a large organisation is that no-one at the top knows who you are. There is no bigger organisation than the church. Its head, Jesus, knows intimately everyone in his employ. See exposition on the Good Shepherd.

(D) The required confession.

I wish to make four points about the request of Jesus. It was:

(1) Embarrassing for the woman.

The woman ..... told him the whole truth. Mk5v33.

All those around Jesus heard the woman describe her humiliating affliction, her experience with the doctors and consequent impoverishment, her determination to touch Jesus and her miraculous deliverance. She had to own up to taking advantage of Christ's wonderful power and deciding to sneak off without even thanking him! We can well imagine her acute embarrassment.

Sadly many never confess Jesus because they find the prospect just too embarrassing. Large numbers of Christians in Baptist churches never get baptised by immersion because they are acutely self-conscious.

(2) Pressing.

He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?'"

But Jesus kept looking to see who had done it. Mk5v31and32.

Confession was not an optional extra. Jesus expected the woman to acknowledge what he had done for her.

Jesus is still pressing! He expects everyone who has benefited from his saving work at Calvary to confess him by going through the waters of baptism. Baptism is part of the Great Commission. Jesus wants men and women to be his disciples and to obey everything he commanded and to be baptised. His will is not being fulfilled in your life if you haven't witnessed through baptism to all that Jesus has done for you.

(3) Daunting.

The woman ..... came and fell at his feet and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. Mk5v32.

Jesus was not prepared to spare the woman the ordeal of confessing all that he had done for her. No, even though the poor woman trembled with fear at his feet, Jesus did not spare her.

I am afraid that Jesus will not accept that we are too frightened to confess him by baptism and word of mouth. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said in his inimical way: Are you going to be mere bats, fluttering out when none will observe you, and hiding from the light? Are you going to be mice, which only come out at night to nibble in the pantry? Quit yourselves like men?

(4) Necessary.

Jesus' request was necessary because:

    (a) It gave the woman an opportunity to obey. She could have made many excuses for continuing on her way. She could have said:

    "I'm a very insignificant person and my confession is neither here nor there."

    "People will see I'm a changed woman so there's no need to tell anyone about it."

    "I've been healed whether I make confession or not. That is all that matters."

    I think these excuses might be familiar to any reader who has not openly confessed Jesus.

    It was vitally important that the woman obeyed Jesus because in so doing she was not only affirming that he was her Saviour but also her Lord.

    (b) It was an acknowledgment of what Jesus had done. Jesus gave the woman an opportunity to give him the glory. Surely it was the least she could do - come forward and describe what a great thing Jesus had done for her.

    If we have been saved and given new life by the gift of God's Spirit surely the least we can do is publicly confess it.

    (c) It was a witness to others. What the woman had to say must have been a tremendous help to Jairus as he waited for Jesus to attend his sick daughter. It was a powerful testimony to Christ's saving power to the disciples and numerous other bystanders.

    Christian if you have not born witness to the saving power of Jesus you should. You owe it to your minister, church, family, friends and neighbours. There is no more effective way of proclaiming the gospel than letting others know what Jesus has done for you. One of the reasons I love 'Songs of Praise' on BBC TV is because quite often during a program people testify how Jesus has changed their lives. It gives me so much pleasure and encouragement to hear men and woman speak of Jesus with gratitude and devotion.

    (d) It brought the woman additional blessing. Jesus called the woman forward for her own good. Consider what she received:

  • Confirmation of her relationship with Jesus. He addressed her as "Daughter." This suggests the woman was younger than Jesus and had probably been suffering her conditions since puberty.
  • A commendation of her faith. "Your faith has healed you."
  • A word of reassurance: "Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." Christ's benediction must have given the woman confidence that her condition was dealt with once and for all.

    Many blessings flow from confessing Christ not least a blessed confidence in him and a wonderful sense of belonging to his church. The joyful welcome I received into the local family of God at my baptism meant a great deal to me.

    C.H.Spurgeon told this story to illustrate the benefits of confessing Christ: A dear lady, who has long since gone to glory, was once an honoured member of this Church: it was Lady Burgoyne, and when she wished to unite with us she said to me, "Dear sir, I cannot go before the church. It is more than I can manage to make a confession of Christ before the members." I told her that we could make no exception for anybody, and especially not for her, who was so well established in the faith that she could surely answer a few questions before those who were brethren and sisters in the Lord. She came bravely, and spoke most sweetly for her Lord. Some of you may remember her, with her sweet countenance, and venerable bearing. When she had owned her Lord, she put both her hands on mine, and said emphatically, "With all my heart I thank you for this; I shall never be ashamed of Christ now. When aristocratic friends call upon me I will speak to them of my Lord." She did so constantly. You never found her slow to introduce the gospel, whoever might be with her. She frequently said to me, "Oh, what a training that was for me! I might have been a timid one all my days if I had not made that confession before the Church."

    It is wrong to think that to confess Christ is an optional extra. Paul wrote: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Rom10v10. Belief and confession should go together like love and marriage.