Back in Galilee, maybe in the city of Capernaum, a crowd of people are waiting for Jesus’s return from His trip across the lake. The ruler of the synagogue, named Jairus, comes to Jesus with a request to help his dying daughter. Jesus agrees, and they set off across town.
Before they can get to Jairus’s house, they are interrupted by a woman trying to be healed in secret. To understand the secrecy, it’s necessary to understand the ritual purity laws in the Law of Moses. In order to come before God in worship and offer acceptable sacrifices, one must be clean of a whole host of impurities. Touching a dead body, having various skin diseases, or having some bodily discharge can all make a person unclean. Now, being unclean wasn’t sinful or caused by committing sins, per se, but it did represent sin and death and therefore cut a person off from their relationship with God. Uncleanness is also infectious according to the law, so in severe situations the unclean person was excluded from the camp and lived in isolation until they were made clean again.
The woman who touched Jesus’s cloak had been discharging blood for twelve years straight. Normal menstruation caused a woman to be unclean for seven days, but not only herself but also her bed and her chairs and anyone who touches her or those things. This woman had spent all her money on physicians to try to get well, but nothing had worked. She saw an opportunity to be healed in Jesus, so she touched His cloak believing it would help her.
And it does, but Jesus catches her. She explains why she grabbed His cloak, which may have disturbed some of the people who heard her. (“She might have made this holy prophet unclean!” 😱) Jesus treats her gently and declares before everyone that her faith has made her well. Now she can go make the necessary sacrifices to atone for her uncleanness and rejoin society, and now everyone knows that she can.
Show us how pervasive our sin is; wash it from us and make us clean.