The life of a Dalit, also known as “Untouchable,” in India is defined by ritual impurity. Inherited from their parents at birth, this unclean status excludes them from mixing with so-called pure people, from doing clean work, or from entering any holy place. Their touch is considered defiling.
In today’s reading, the shame of the hemorrhaging woman’s unclean status was something she could not escape. The chronic nature of her condition was miserable. The doctors had bled dry her economic resources, too. But the worst effect of her ongoing illness was how it redefined all her relationships. Like a leper, the woman’s bleeding condition excluded her from approaching God in His temple or from interacting freely in her community. Anything she touched would be instantly unclean.
In contrast to the synagogue leader who could directly ask Jesus to touch his daughter, the woman had to try to figure out a way to get His needed touch without either making Him ritually unclean or receiving His rebuff. If she were caught, the whole crowd would deride her for daring to defile a holy man. Fear held her back, but faith compelled her to risk reaching out.
Jesus instantly knew the healing that had happened in her body. But He also knew the bleeding that continued in her heart. Twelve years of shame wouldn’t stop in a moment. So He put the crowd on hold—including the high-ranking religious leader who was a worried father—and focused his attention on her.
He affirmed her faith in Him and her worth to God. He transformed her from an untouchable woman to a daughter in the family of the Lord.