Dust hung in the air as He walked with purposeful strides, talit flapping like eagles wings.
She saw Him coming. She had spent everything on doctors and medical care. Still, there was no healing for her body. She was condemned as unclean. No one wanted to be near her. Everyone was fearful they might accidentally touch her. This was no way to live, was it? But what more could she do? She was out of money. She had nothing. But she had heard about Him (Mark 5:27).
And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Luke 8:43-44 NASB
Why, oh why did she reach for the hem, or fringe of His cloak? If she wanted Jesus’ divine healing, why didn’t she touch His hand, His arm or even His foot?
Could it have been shame? Jewish law declared her ceremonially unclean due to her bleeding issue (Leviticus 15:25-27). She wasn’t permitted to enter the temple for Jewish religious ceremonies. Anything or anyone she touched became unclean, including Jesus. Oh, how she must have wanted to hide somewhere, anywhere, instead of grasping for hope from His hem.
It was certainly desperation. After twelve years of suffering, and spending all her money, she longed for a miracle. Jesus was her only hope. She knew things about Him that gave her hope. What was it that she knew?
By diving into scripture, and studying the original language, we see that the woman didn’t simply touch Jesus’ hem. She touched the braids or tassels attached to His garment, His talit, or prayer shawl.
The word fringe in the original Greek is kraspedon, meaning border or fringe.1 The Old Testament equivalent of this word is kanap2 , meaning the hem, edge or wing.
The fringe or tassels of the shawl were constant reminders to walk according to God’s laws and His Word.
“Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue.” Numbers 15:38 NASB
“You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself.” Deuteronomy 22:12 NASB
The tallit was also associated with a person’s authority. Thus, the woman knew that Jesus walked according to God’s laws, and He was a man of authority. She had heard of Him and how He healed those who simply touched His clothes3.
Perhaps she also knew God’s Word and what it said about a coming Messiah.
“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings;” Malachi 4:2 NASB
Many commentators believe that the Sun of Righteousness refers to Christ. But the most amazing part of Malachi 4:2 is the word “wings.” The original Hebrew word is kanap, the same word that means “fringe” in Luke 8:44. The woman very likely knew there was healing in His “wings” or the fringe of His garment. And so she stretched her arms in faith and reached for the small bit of fabric. When she did, she touched Jesus, and He healed her.
It’s beautiful how the Old Testament and New Testament intersect, complementing each other and telling a beautiful story of healing and redemption. The Old Testament speaks to a Messiah coming to save His people. The New Testament introduces us to this Savior. When we dig into scripture, we see many connections – all pointing to Jesus.
God’s word is timeless and will always be relevant in our lives. Because haven’t we all walked in this woman’s shoes? Desperate, destitute and desiring healing? We need a healing, hope filled touch from Jesus. We come to the end of ourselves and do the only thing we know will help. In faith, we grab the hem of His garment and cling to Jesus and His Word.
1 2899. κράσπεδον kraspĕdŏn, kras´-ped-on; of uncert. der.; a margin, i.e. (spec.) a fringe or tassel:—border, hem.
James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 43.
2 3671 kânâph, kaw-nawf´; from 3670; an edge or extremity; spec. (of a bird or army) a wing
James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 55.
3 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 14:36.