What would it take for you to physically plunge into a crowd, at risk of great personal embarrassment, just to get a one in a million chance to touch the most famous person of your day? Desperation mixed with some frustration. It was financial ruin, total loss of health and nothing left to lose that motivated the woman with the hemorrhage. She had been at this for twelve incredibly long years. There was nothing else. She’d tried it all and was still desperately sick. All the doctors and healers and money didn’t help her. Yet she was hopeful even the most minimal contact would be the fix.
Isn’t it interesting that, even in our most abandoned state, we still have a thread of hope? In each human, God has planted that miracle. “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for.” (Heb 11:1) Hope is more than a theological concept and so real that it is actually expressed as part of our incarnation. In the Bible, as well as tradition, God sends the clear and repeated message that to be incarnate is good as well as being a tangible proof that God’s love is real. Sometimes our gaze wanders off and we lose sight of that. Even in the oldest traditions of Jewish Law this is apparent. In an interesting detail, Luke describes that the woman only “went for” the most minimal contact with the Lord. She did not tackle him, confront him, hug him, grab his hand or any other grand gesture. “She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” (Lk 8:43 NIV) All she wanted was a simple tiny touch from the font of his love and mercy and that was enough.
If you know anything about Jewish Law, you know that any good and holy Jew was expected to strictly keep 613 laws as part of daily living. This comes from the idea that we humans are so unworthy to even approach God that keeping the Law was the only way we could come close enough to honor and please Him and be a good Jew. The Laws covered everything from prayer, to cooking, to eating, to cleaning, to making the garments that were worn and more. Interestingly enough, the Mitzvah (Law) also specifies how the edge (fringe) of garments should be constructed: The Lord said to Moses as follows: “Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a thread of blue to the fringes on each corner.”
Isn’t that a curiosity in light of the Luke reading? Not so much! Here’s the next part: “That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the Lord and observe them, so you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus shall you be reminded to observe all My commandments and be holy to your God.” (Num. 15:37-41).
Jesus was an observant Jew and would have been wearing a proper garment according to the Law when the woman with the issue of blood decided to “go for it”. In the fringe of her touch was a blue thread. A thread, one tiny thread. God’s reminder to all of Israel that God exists, his love and hope are already written in our hearts, and all we have to do is to reach out, however weakly, however haltingly, however full of doubt we are. The thread of hope dwelling in our incarnation does not die. It never leaves us. It calls us to deeds of madness in our attempts to connect with God. The woman saw the thread; she sparked her own thread of hope and because of that, in impossible circumstances, she connected with God. Because of that, impossible healing occurred and her life was changed forever. By a thread!