The Hem of His Garment
Last week, I heard the passage from Luke, chapter 8, three times. In particular, it was the story about the woman who touched Jesus’ garment and was healed of the issue of blood after 12 years (see complete passage in side bar or below). I heard this story in the morning as I watched a sermon online, then later, on the radio there was a special segment about this story. I noticed then, how strange it was to hear this particular story twice in one day, when most people don’t like to talk about this awkward passage. Later that night, at dinner, we were reading Bible trivia to each other, and sure enough, I was asked a trivia question about the exact same story. I put down my fork and smiled because I knew the Lord was trying to tell me something. I love it when He does that. Thus the research began, and I am truly amazed at what the Lord revealed to me through this story.
This passage is listed three separate times in the gospels: Luke￼￼ 8:40-56, Matthew 9:18-26 and Mark 5:22-43.
I like the passage in Luke the best, because he goes into the most detail, and he was a physician himself, giving a unique perspective. In this gospel, Luke stresses that the woman￼, with the issue of blood,￼ had spent all her living on physicians but no one could heal her.￼ Turns out, there is more to the story than a woman being healed.
Unfortunately, the messianic message in this passage is lost upon us Westerners. The Hebrew word tzitzit is defined as “fringes,” and refers to the tassels attached to the four corners of the tallit – the Jewish prayer shawl. Jesus would have worn a tallit.
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”
The tassels on this garment, have a deeper meaning than just decoration. They are long tassels that are placed on each corner (2 per corner), consisting of 8 woven threads per tassel, which are each knotted five times. These five knots represent the five books of the law (Torah). The five letters that comprise the Hebrew word for tzittzit add up to 600 (each Hebrew letter has a numerical value). When you add the eight strings and five knots of a tassel to the 600, it totals 613, as in the 613 commandments (mitzvahs) of the Torah. Let’s see where these tassels are referenced in the Bible.
You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.
The word ‘corners’ is the Hebrew word Kanaph, meaning edge or wings.
The word kanaph is also used in 1 Samuel 24:4:
And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
Cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe would have symbolically shown that Saul’s authority was being removed. Another popular verse that mentions Kanaph (wings) is Psalm 91:4:
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
And again in 1 Kings 8:7:
For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles.
This last verse is talking about the cherubim on top of the arc of the covenant, giving it a covering. Now, I know these scriptures make things a little complicated, but isn’t it cool how knowing these different scriptures add more depth to this story? Back in Jesus day, many understood that the Messiah’s tallit would contain healing. In the book of Malachi it prophesied that the sun of righteousness would rise with ‘healing in its wings’. The ‘wings’ were understood as the corner of His garment.
Those who knew their scriptures well were able to recognize that, by touching the fringe, or corner, power would go out and they would be healed, if this was indeed the Messiah￼.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
The Significance of Wearing a Tallit
Before we dig any further into the story, let’s talk a little bit about the tallit in relation to marriage. Most men did not wear a tallit until their wedding day. Wearing this garment was an honor for a Jewish man. Not only that, but there is an older Jewish tradition that a tallit from the family would be used as the covering of the chuppah (a square canopy structure that the bride and groom would stand under during the wedding ceremony). This tallit would have the tzittzit hanging down and would be a visual reminder that the couple is being married under the law of God. Traditionally, this covering was a reminder of what God did on Mount Sinai, covering His people with His glory and bringing the commandments.
But Wait, There’s More!
These amazing correlations of the tallit are not only in the Old Testament. There is a strange connection even after Jesus had ascended to Heaven. In Acts 10, Peter has the strange dream about clean and unclean animals and the great ‘sheet’ being brought down. He had this dream 3 times.
And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
The wording of great ‘sheet’ could indicate a linen garment and represent a tallit as the corners are being highlighted in this story. The tallit represents a covering and protection.
Unclean v. Clean
If we look a little further, we can see all the different pieces of the woman touching the edge of Messiah’s garment.
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.
Not only did the unclean woman have faith, she also acted boldly. Because she was considered unclean, she was not allowed to touch anyone. According to the book of Leviticus, a woman is impure for seven days from the beginning of her menstrual flow (Lev. 12:2; 15:19). Anyone who touches a menstrating woman becomes unclean until evening (Lev. 15:19). Whoever touches anything that belongs to her, such as her bed or anything she sits on during this time, is unclean until evening and must wash his clothes and bathe with water (Lev. 20-23). However, since this woman was in this continuous state, she was considered ritually unclean and was basically exiled from her community. She was in a desperate situation. Touching a Rabbi, while being unclean, could have resulted in harsh judgement from her community. She had given everything she had to be healed. She listened to worldly advice, but no luck!
But where man had failed, Christ succeeded.
The irony is that many people were touching (or pressing in on) Jesus in the dense crowd. However, power went out of Him when a desperate woman pushed her way through and grasped for His tallit.
Healing didn’t come without a strong faith from the woman, believing that if she only touched the Messiah’s tallit, she would be healed. Not only that, she had to confess openly to all, what she had done. Once she had, the Lord blessed her in a very loving way. Her public announcement confirmed that the scriptures they knew, were indeed, about Jesus. He was the Messiah! Additionally, her actions allowed Jesus to publicly announce that this persistent woman was now considered clean.
And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
This is a perfect example of a believer who kept seeking after the Lord. Jesus refers to the woman as daughter, using a loving and endearing term, showing His compassion and mercy.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
The woman with the issue of blood was not the only one who understood the power in Messiah’s tallit:
And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Jesus was subject to unclean acts and offered healing anyway. He never shamed anyone or the situation. An unclean woman touched Jesus – a Rabbi! That would have been one of the worst things you could do in that time. However, Jesus also touched a dead girl which was frowned upon. Rabbis were not allowed to touch dead bodies without a purification period.
Raising the Dead
The other interesting thing about this passage is that the woman, with the issue of blood, is on the fringes of society and interrupts a Ruler’s request. This woman is healed in the midst of the Messiah raising a little 12 year old girl from the dead. Right around the time this little girl was born, the woman’s issue began.
And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
They Laughed at the Messiah
Jesus did things differently, even though people did not always understand. He used mercy and love as his guiding force, not the fine print of the law and not people’s opinions. In fact before he raised the dead girl, they laughed at him (Matthew 6:56). How often I have worried about being laughed at when praying for healing. I would worry that no healing would come and would worry about disappointing people. However, Jesus healed ALL who came to Him. The townspeople saw the healings Jesus performed, with their own eyes, and they still laughed at him. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼This story should give us more confidence in praying for the sick. The enemy loves to point the finger and laugh to bring discouragement to Jesus’ followers. The enemy hopes we are too afraid to pray for healing for a loved one or a person in need.
Outside v. Inside
This example demonstrates Jesus’ heart posture for His people. We can see the comparison of the love of Jesus to that of the pharisees in the following scripture:
For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
Jesus was the Messiah with a pure heart. The tassels contained His divine power because of His identity. We cannot fake our connection to God by making our tassels dramatically bigger. Jesus looks at the inside of a person. As a result, we cannot make ourselves holy by what we portray on the outside, in the midst of God.
What Can We Learn?
Anytime we study scripture and are trying to understand the deeper meaning it’s important to look at the scriptures before and after the passage that you are seeking to understand.
In the book of Matthew the passage before is actually the passage of fasting, then afterwards Jesus healed the blind and the mute and talks about a plentiful harvest and laborers needed.
In both Luke and Mark, the passage before talks about the man being delivered from demons and the passages after is Jesus being rejected in his hometown and then sending out the 12 disciples two by two.
These passages give us some clues as to the deeper meaning of the story we are studying. Notice how the story is sandwiched in between healings and the role of the disciples.
Let’s look at the number 12, which is strangely the timeframe for both women who were healed. Standing back, looking at the text, one may conclude that this is the Old Testament, running into what Jesus brought into the world with the New Testament. There were 12 Tribes of Israel and then there were 12 Disciples. This story may also be demonstrating that Jesus will heal what is broken and raise up that which is dead.
This could also indicate that God’s people are moving more into the Spirit. This is not to say that the Law is done away with (Matthew 5:17), only that it is moving into completion with receiving the Spirit.
Also the passage in Matthew about the old wine skins, that comes before the passage we are studying, indicates an old perspective in comparison to a new perspective. Just as the law was given by Moses, it was meant to be memorized and ‘written on the heart’. Anyone can memorize scripture, but unless it changes a person from within, it is not complete.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
What did you gather from reading these scriptures? Did anything stand out to you? Was there anything surprising that you learned? We would love to hear from you.
Do you need healing today? Do you need restoration? Reach out and take hold of Jesus’ garment, be bold and courageous. Push your way through to touch the promises that lay waiting for you in the wings! Praise the Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Lord Jesus, we need you today! Please heal our wounds, in our hearts and physically in our body. Remind us of who You are and the promises You have given us. We know You can heal, we know You restore. We ask you to come into our hearts today. Give us a heart like you.
We LOVE You Jesus!
Book of Luke ~ Chapter 8
Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter
40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
49 While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
Back in the Old Testament, the tzittzit contained a cord of blue on the tassel at each corner. This blue represented the covering and promises. Just as the tabernacle was covered in blue when transported and how the Lord made the sky blue as our covering. It was a sign of protection. This same color blue, which is believed to have been derived from a sea creature, was also used in the making of the veil in the tabernacle separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to followafter your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.”
What is a Tallit?
A tallit is a fringed garment, traditionally worn as a prayer shawl by religious Jews. The tallit has special twined and knotted fringes known as tzitzit attached to its four corners. The cloth part is known as the “beged” and is usually made from wool or cotton, although silk is sometimes used for a tallit gadol. Wikipedia
About the Author – Bethel Jiricek
Bethel resides in the beautiful foothills of Colorado. Born and raised without much biblical influence, she began to diligently pursue the Word of God after struggling with work, family and relationships. She started listening to the Bible every evening, finally making a commitment to read and study the entire Bible, from beginning to end. While going through this extensive study, she realized it was positively changing her life, softening her heart and her attitude towards others. Now she has an intense desire to keep studying while sharing God’s love and wisdom with others through her writing.
My true desire is to get everyone in their Bibles – learning the Word of God and spending quality time with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every single day. ~ Bethel