In order to follow the trail of clues in our attempt to solve this mystery, it will be necessary to embark upon an investigative journey.
As you may recall from the Scripture passage cited in Mystery Woman Part 1, (Luke 8:43-48), this unnamed mystery woman had an “issue of blood.” And it was evidently vital that we be provided this very private information. Why do you suppose that would be so? Would it not have been sufficient for the Scripture account to record that this woman “had a debilitating illness from which she had suffered for many years”? In order to grasp the importance of the particular information we ARE given, perhaps we should get to know our subject. It is altogether possible that a peek into her pre-healing life might provide information that would allow us to assemble the jigsaw puzzle of these seemingly random details. Perhaps an ah-hah moment is in our future; an ah ha moment that will help us solve this very strange mystery.
With this goal in mind, come along with me, if you will. We will play the role of private investigators as we travel the dusty roads of Judea, following from a distance, as she goes about her daily routine. We will imagine what her life might have been like. We will be watching for anything that could help us comprehend why this unnamed woman and her issue of blood was important enough to be memorialized in Holy Writ. Shhhh. Quietly please. We want to observe every detail of what she does and what she says. We will also want to take note of what she does NOT do or say. Remember, some clues are clues because of what is NOT present in the story. Let’s begin without further delay.
It is very early in the morning, and just beyond the city well where we have stationed ourselves, the very beginnings of a beautiful pink sunrise can be seen peeking over the horizon. It is not time for the women to gather to collect water for the day, yet our mystery woman is already en route. There, in the distance, you can barely see the small clouds of dust rising as she takes each step. She is making her way down the dusty road in the pre-dawn hours, a large clay vessel on her head. Surely, she would rather come with the other women. And yet, she knows she cannot.
After drawing water and filling the jar, she returns home briefly, depositing it inside the door. When she again emerges, she has donned a cloak with hood pulled forward almost completely concealing her hair and face. With basket in hand, and sun quickly climbing in the sky, she makes her way to the town square and the marketplace. Do you see her there? She seems to be purposely hanging back from the gathering crowd. Odd. It appears that she is going out of her way to not make eye contact with the other ladies in the square. She keeps her head down and eyes averted. What is she hiding?
Do you notice that she does not approach a vendor while others are present? She hangs back and waits until the vegetable vendor table is devoid of customers, quickly fills her basket, completes her purchase, and hurries back towards home. As she passes a group of young ladies gathered to chat, children playing at their feet, she glances longingly in their direction. It appears that she yearns to join them. And yet, she does not. Of note, they also do not approach her, nor do they invite her to join them.
As we continue to shadow her, we record in our notebooks that even when at home, she behaves oddly. Although generally alone, on the rare occasion that she does indeed join the family for meals, she always brings a cushion, her own plate and eating utensils. She sits at a separate table. We can see that there is conversation, but absolutely zero physical contact between our subject and the others present. This is in stark contrast to the camaraderie displayed between the other members of the family. Why, oh why? We seem to be netting more questions than answers! This is very odd behavior.
From our observation, there does not appear to be a husband. No little children are in her care. No one hugs her or strokes her hair. In fact, the only time she comes in direct contact with others is as she travels from physician to physician. And now, with her money quickly dwindling, she will soon not even be able to do that.
We often observe her gazing outside as her nieces and nephews play, tears streaming down her cheeks . Frequently she is seen watching as the women in her household and community leave for the Temple, taking their offerings after they have been cleansed from their monthly impurity. It is a time of celebration. And, yet, for her, there is no need to obtain the birds for an offering. No trip needs to be planned. Alas, for our mystery woman, no celebration ever comes.
It soon becomes apparent that she goes out of her way to avoid contact with others in her community as well. And it is not difficult to ascertain the reason for this behavior. She purposely avoids situations that would allow her the contact she so desperately desires and indeed needs, because she simply can no longer endure the agony, the shame, and the rejection she feels when others recognize her and move to the other side of the road, or turn from her in disgust. As we have shadowed her, we ourselves have witnessed this conduct on several occasions. Her life is filled with loneliness, shame, and, it would appear, even self-loathing. Surely a life like this is no life at all.
And now, after having surveilled this woman for a few days, we have come away with more questions than answers. All that we truly know is that whatever ailment she suffers from; whatever she is hiding, keeps her from truly living her life. Whatever it is, has sentenced her to a miserable existence.
Returning now to the day our Scripture records, we will again attempt to remain undetected as we observe.
Can you see her there? No, not over there. There! I realize that it is difficult to locate her, but don’t give up. She has slipped in amongst the crowd of mostly men surrounding the rabbi. Oh, I know you can’t see the rabbi because he is surrounded on all sides. But, trust me, he is the reason the crowd has formed. It is indeed difficult to keep your eyes on her within this ever pushing, continually jostling mob. But it is not impossible. You can see that she is determined to hold her ground. The throng presses in, pushing, shoving, almost knocking her to the ground as they seek to gain a position that will allow them to both hear and see. Albeit an uncomfortable situation, still she is grateful for the crowd. Without the crowd, she would have never been able to get this close to him. Without the anonymity that the crowd provides, she would certainly have been found out already. And THAT would spell disaster for her.
What’s that you say? Who is the rabbi? It is Yeshua/Jesus of Nazareth. Oh, I know…Nazareth, can anything good come out of Nazareth? Well, apparently, the answer is yes. These men have been following Rabbi Yeshua as He travels through the area and report having witnessed many miracles. Many approach Him for healing. All want to hear what He has to say. And yes, she (the mystery woman – the subject of our investigation) has come from her home to find Him as well. She shouldn’t have, you know. What she is doing is really quite dangerous. This is why she keeps her face down and avoids eye contact. This is why she has waited until the crowd surrounds Him and all eyes are on this rabbi to make her move and slip in, desperate to reach Him. All the while, she prays that she will not be discovered. As more men rush up from behind to join this throng, she is jostled and pushed along with them. “Oh, please, please,” she whispers under her breath, “Conceal me from their sight.”
Even though fear continually rises in her throat, her desperation and determination is greater than her fear. She MUST hold her ground! Oh, but if the men knew…. if they only knew her secret, and why she had slipped in among them, there would be an uproar. She would be immediately and harshly ejected from the group. She would be severely reprimanded, at the least. She doesn’t allow herself to think about the likelihood that she would then be stoned.
With an issue of blood, she was unclean! With an issue of blood, anything and anyone she TOUCHED became unclean (Lev 15:19-26). (Did I mention that they were ALL pressing in around her?) With an issue of blood, she could not enter the temple. With an issue of blood, she could not be intimate with her husband and therefore could not produce children. If she was not yet married, it would be impossible to become a bride, with an issue of blood. With an issue of blood. OH, with an issue of blood!
For 12 years, TWELVE years, she had been in this state. Surely she must have been weak from the continual loss of blood. But by far, more debilitating than her weakness, was her ever present shame. Most likely, she was barren, and this in itself would have been considered a curse. She had desperately sought out physician after physician. All her money was now gone and still none had been able to take away the uncleanness, the shame, the emptiness, the lifelessness that came with an issue of blood. She was helpless and hopeless. Despondent.
But then, oh but THEN! Then she heard of the rabbi from Nazareth. She heard of the things He taught and there was truth and healing in His words. And as she considered these things, just the tiniest flicker of hope began to flutter within her heart. Could He? Would He? Would He be able to stave this issue of blood? Could He make her clean again, take away the stigma and dismay? She had to know! She had to know HIM! If she could only get to Him, would the result be the relief of shame? Would the result be life?
AND THEN SHE KNEW
The more she turned the possibility over and over in her mind, the more she hoped. Eventually, this hope morphed into faith, and the faith sank down into her heart, and birthed action. She knew. She just knew if she could only connect with this rabbi, her pain, her uncleanness, and her shame would be taken away, and her lifeless womb would be restored. If she could only connect with Rabbi Yeshua, she knew that she would emerge as a new person.
It was this faith that gave her the courage that day. And indeed, courage was necessary for any woman, specifically an unclean woman, to slip in with this throng of men, knowing that someone could recognize her.
Do you see her now? There? Head down, eyes averted and hand outstretched reaching, reaching, grasping? Do you feel her broken heart? Do you sense her shame, her loneliness, her longing? Do you recognize her determination to reach the Healer? Do you see her? Do you see – yourself?
Ahhhh, alas perhaps we have solved the first clue in this mystery. It was one of our “silent” clues; information that should have been there, yet wasn’t – her name. Now we can understand why the Scripture has chosen silence regarding her identity. For she represents not just one particular woman. Certainly, the Holy Spirit must have desired that we recognize that we are this woman. It is our uncleanness, our shame, our lifelessness, our need for a Healer that drives us to Rabbi Yeshua/Jesus. It is our desperate spiritual condition that is here pictured. It is our spiritual infertility that causes us to cry out for life! It is the hopeless situation of our hearts and souls that should drive us to seek out the rabbi from Nazareth. Ahhh, it is my story, and yours.
And perhaps we too have wasted many years searching for a solution in “all the wrong places.” Instead of healing, have we come away even more sick, more ashamed, more hopeless, and now destitute as well? Did we willingly hand over all our earthly treasure, in our misguided attempt to purchase our healing because we desperately wanted to be healed, to be cleansed, to be filled with life and not death, and to be – a “bride?”
And now we know what perhaps we did not know before. We can clearly see ourselves in the picture ingeniously concealed within the story of this mysterious, nameless woman. We can relate to her pain. We can empathize with her desire for life and cleansing. We now know “who” she was/is and why she was there.
Next, we will follow the clues to find out what happens next as we, too, desperately seek to connect with our Rabbi in such a way that a surge of power flows from Him into us, changing us forever.
While we await the date of our next stake-out, when we will again pick up our investigation into the other clues on our list, perhaps we should utilize this time to ponder our identity as revealed in this mystery woman. Do we recall (or did we ever truly comprehend) what a desperate condition we were in before we connected with the rabbi from Nazareth? Do we fully grasp and appreciate the miracle that we have received? What would have been our end had we remained in the disgusting, shameful, lifeless condition in which He encountered us?
In our next post, we will do more sleuthing regarding blood, as well as fringe benefits and the number twelve. We will especially be watching for the miraculous surge of power that resulted in her healing. We will continue to dust for fingerprints, collect samples, and look for evidence.
May the Master Investigator (Who stakes out our very hearts), continue to show us the clues, uncover the evidence, and connect the dots, as He seeks to reveal the very fingerprints of God!