The Hem of His Garment
“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Mark 5:25-28
If I can just touch his robe, I’ll be healed. Matthew’s account is more explicit.
“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him and touched the hem of his garment:” Matthew 9:20 (KJV)
The New Living Translation states, “She touched the fringe of his robe.” This is a direct reference to Numbers 15:38-41 where the people of Israel were directed to make fringes, or tassels, for the borders of their garments as a reminder to obey all the commands and be holy to God—a reminder of his covenant with them.
“I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the LORD your God!” Numbers 15:41
The significance of “touching the hem” is lost for us in modern culture. However, it helps us understand this woman’s mindset when we look at what was common practice for the people of her day.
In ancient times, garments were woven and decorated to show the person’s identity and status in society. The hem and tassels of the outer robe were particularly important, with the hem being symbolic of the owner’s identity and authority.*
She knew about Jesus…she was calling upon him in her covenant relationship, to release his authority and grant her petition—to heal her. She was intentional in her action. It wasn’t just his clothes she wanted to touch. It was the fringe or tassel, the symbol of his identity and authority. Oh, how that enriches my understanding of his statement, “Your faith has made you well.” (Mark 5:30)
On Valentine’s Day, I had my own “touch-the-hem-of-his-garment” moment. I was blessed to be on CCEA’s Israel tour. My day in Jerusalem began with an unanticipated “face plant” on the marble floor of our hotel bathroom. My cheekbone bore the brunt of the fall and it was immediately obvious that I would need stitches for a cut next to my eye.
Spiritually, I grasped the hem of his garment. It’s you and me, Jesus. I’m just along for the ride. If you have a ‘divine appointment’ for me, bring it on.
He guided me through a bewildering day of taxi rides and medical offices among people who (mostly) didn’t speak my language. I saw parts of Jerusalem and its cultural diversity that aren’t on any tour guide’s agenda. He guided me to the right people when I didn’t know the way and he worked me into two compassionate doctors’ busy schedules to see that I received the necessary treatment.
After five hours he returned me safely to our hotel. No one accompanied me, but throughout the day I was acutely aware I wasn’t alone. His strength to keep me level headed and (mostly) unemotional was strongly evident. Faith—intentional faith— in him to keep his promises kept me grounded.
Two days later my face was rich in color, from deep purple through the rainbow to saffron yellow. Dark glasses and wavy hair mercifully hid the damage from the view of others. While we were partaking of communion on the grounds of the garden tomb, God spoke to my heart. “Look at your face. The damage is but a small picture of what my Son took—from head to toe—as he hung on the cross for you.”
Tears flowed with a deeper comprehension of the meaning when Pastor Bob said Jesus’ words, ‘Remember Me.” I took off my sunglasses.
It will take awhile for the marks of my adventure to fade. In the meantime—when you see me—be reminded what God does when we touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
What is your need today? Healing of your health? Finances? Relationships? Guidance? Reach out and touch his hem. Just as he acknowledged and healed this unnamed woman, he will respond to you. He knows your name. You are his.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
by Marilyn Allison
*”Letting Our Tassels Show”