How Jesus Makes Unclean People Clean

Women have significant roles in Luke’s Gospel, despite their low social standing during the time of Jesus’ ministry. This was very countercultural, as women were not even allowed to be trained by rabbis in those days. In Luke 8:40-56, not only does Jesus heal a woman and a girl, but he heals the bleeding woman who was religiously unclean and a social outcast.

God Loves the Oppressed

This serves as one more example of God’s heart for the oppressed, and of the universal scope of the gospel: It is for all men and all women. No one is excluded from the reach of God’s love.  Throughout his gospel, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ tendency to hang out with the unfavorable within Israelite society. The prostitutes, drunkards, and tax collectors received more attention from Jesus than did the Pharisees and scribes. Luke shows us that Jesus did not come to be honored, respected, or successful, but instead, to show that God does indeed love all of his people, even though the religious establishment does not. As Howard Marshall writes, “Jesus brought salvation to the people who were under-privileged in Judea—to the poor, to women, to children, and to notorious sinners.”

Blood and Bravery

The bleeding woman was considered unclean, and everything she touched would have been unclean. She would not have been accustomed to touching or being touched by people, which may be why she tried to “sneak in” and touch Jesus. She had attempted to seek medical help but nothing worked. Bleeding for 12 years, this woman would not have been able to get pregnant. An inability to bear children in that time would have brought a social stigma on her, and if she were married, this would have had a large impact on her family. Over a decade of bleeding would have left her physically weak, too. Moreover, it was rare in that day for a woman to speak in public. So, when Jesus calls for the person who touched him to say why he or she touched him, it was an act of bravery for the woman to speak. It then required further bravery from her to explain why she touched him and the awkward condition she was healed of. Her lunge toward Jesus was a last resort, desperation, and also demonstrates the magnitude of the woman’s faith and trust in Jesus.

Jesus Makes Unclean People Clean

Others would have avoided this woman—and everything she touched—because she was unclean. Except Jesus. In the Old Testament, people became unclean by contacting what was unclean. When the clean touch the unclean, they become unclean. But when the holy touches the unclean, it can be made clean. When this “unclean” woman touched “holy” Jesus, she was made clean not only physically, but societally and spiritually. When comparing this story with the story of Jairus’ daughter, we find an important contrast: This woman had no advocate or companion, while Jairus’ daughter was surrounded by people and family. Jesus heals the unclean and clean, the lonely and befriended, the defended and the defenseless, the woman without companion and the child of noble birth.