A desperate woman once made her way through a throng of people in order to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe so that she could be healed of a twelve year infirmity. Since she bled constantly, she was considered unclean under the law of Moses and would have been ostracized by the people around her. We are also told that she had spent all she had on physicians and so she was in a state of poverty. And being a single woman in a patriarchal society meant she was defenseless and unprotected. When we stop to think about all these conditions, our hearts break for her and how sad her life must have been.
But she had hope. Knowing that she was unclean and shouldn’t touch Jesus or ask Him to touch her, she decided to simply touch his garment. The Matthew account of the story (9:20) tells us she touched the hem of his garment, but that is misleading. Jewish men wore an outer garment, a four cornered white tunic that was later called a tallit. At the four corners of this tallit hung fringes or tassels called tzitziyot which had 613 knots in them and one blue thread. The knots stood for the 613 laws given by Moses—365 “thou shalt nots” and 248 “thou shalts.” This reminded everyone who saw the tassels of the commandments and the importance of keeping them. The blue thread represented the Spirit of God and the authority that came from the Spirit. This talit is the predecessor of the modern shawl worn by Jewish men when they pray.
When we understand the symbolism of the tzitziyot, we recognize that the woman with the issue of blood had a great deal of faith. Not wanting to make the Savior unclean by touching Him, she had decided that if she could merely touch the symbol of his authority she would be made whole. And so she touched one of the tztiziyot she was healed.
And what do we learn from this? When our faith “touches” the power or authority of God, we too are safe.