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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Kelly

Voices That Testify: The Bleeding Woman

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

She had been bleeding for twelve years.

How easy is it to read over seven simple words and miss the absolute insufferable position of a woman’s story with carefree indifference? To glance over her situation and not allow her story to truly settle in.

All that to say, we should sit in the reality of this woman’s experience and try to relate what it might mean to bleed for twelve years. Literally and figuratively.

Her entire life, for over a decade, was enveloped with worry, discouragement, and restlessness to fix her hemorrhaging problem. If she could simply find someone to help her stop the bleeding and be healed.

Matthew records it as “a discharge of blood for twelve years”.[1]

Mark notes that she “had suffered much under many physicians and spent all that she had”.[2]

Luke writes that she simply “could not be healed by anyone”.[3]

All of her resources, all of her questions, all of her hope shattered time and time again.

But Jesus.

By this time, rumors of Jesus’ miraculous healing power were spreading like wildfire. So much so, that reports had reached Herod.[4] In fact, when this unnamed woman comes on to the scene, Jesus is on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter who is almost dead.[5]

Jesus, who turns water into wine, casts out demons by the sound of His voice, and heals people with leprosy by the stretch of His hand.

We know that there was a great crowd surrounding and pressing into Jesus as he was trying to maneuver his way to get to Jairus’ precious little girl.[7] We also know that this unnamed woman with a bleeding problem would have been an outcast given her historical backdrop.

You see, the issue of blood wasn’t just a health issue … it also carried social and religious ramifications. She would have been labeled “unclean”.[8] And to be unclean in her time meant unimaginable living conditions given the cultural and religious norms of her day.

Her “condition” would have been an automatic label that allowed for others to reject her. At the minimum, her discharge of blood would have been a continual source of embarrassment, judgment, and even disgust by certain religious leaders.

For no one was even supposed to touch her.

Imagine, suffering from an illness that makes you so unclean people would try and distance themselves from you.

And then she hears of Jesus.

The man who could change the entire trajectory of her life is surrounded by the very people that abhor her condition. How will she ever reach Jesus?

She goes anyway. Her rebellious act to insert herself into the crowd to simply touch the robe of Jesus stops me dead in my tracks.

She doesn’t raise her voice; she simply needs to get to the hem of Jesus' clothes.

When I place myself in this woman’s shoes, my heart bursts with empathy.

How many times have I been on my knees in prayer, unable to speak … trying to get through the voices of my own mind (the fears, the rejections, those very crowded spaces where I think I am not “allowed” to go) … just to get to the outskirt of Jesus?

Here’s what I know to be true: When you are broken, desperate for healing, hope, and transformation, you are exactly right where you need to be for God to perform a miracle.

She pushes her way through the crowd, knowing that every time she touches a person, she is contaminating them with her “uncleanliness”. I don’t know if she doesn’t care at this point or if her need to be healed overrides everything else going through her mind at this moment, but she pushes her way through anyway.

Maybe she could finally have a moment in time where others might include her … even place a finger on her tainted skin. What would it look like to live a life where people might consider her normal or decent? And then maybe, just maybe … people might give her a shred of honor or dignity or respect. Think about it, what form of love has this woman received — if any, in the last decade?

But Jesus.

For 12 years, her life has been a cyclical current of shame, guilt, remorse, and neglect. All because she can’t stop the hemorrhaging. She doesn’t know it yet, but stopping the bleeding isn’t the ticket to new life, but Jesus certainly is.

I bore Addilyn Mae Kelly on January 18th of 2020. We wrapped our baby girl in blankets and love and went home two days later. A couple of sleepless weeks into our new routine, I noticed that I hadn’t stopped bleeding. For a month I ended up having my own sort of hemorrhaging problem. I didn’t know it at the time but after giving birth a small portion of my placenta remained lodged in my body. It was wreaking havoc, so much so that an emergency operation was the only way to fix the problem.

But Jesus.

Even when we can’t voice our request to Jesus, He knows when we reach out to touch Him. Healing power emits from Jesus immediately and this woman is instantaneously healed.

I love when Jesus asks a question that He already has the answer to.

“Who was it that touched me?”

Jesus is surrounded by all sorts of human beings. So many that Peter reminds Jesus of the flock of people surrounding him … it would’ve been impossible to figure out who Jesus was talking about!

But she knew.

And she knew that Jesus knew that she knew.[9]

She comes sobbing forth from the crowd and falls at her Savior’s feet. She tells her story — and she sheds her shame.

My favorite part of this whole scene is what Jesus calls her … all of a sudden this unnamed woman with the bleeding problem gets a name. And that’s when her life changed.


“By calling her “Daughter” He also signals her reincorporation into the community.” Yes, her bleeding stopped with the saving power of Jesus, but it is her faith that put her on a new trajectory in life!

The outcast is brought home.

The unclean woman now cleansed.

The once outsider, full of shame, now a daughter to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

But Jesus.

This Son of God would provide the ultimate sacrifice and end up bleeding for the sins of the world.

My story could’ve ended differently after I bore Addy Mae. By the grace of God, it didn’t. God chose to heal me but that’s not the same story for all of us. Faith doesn’t necessarily get us out of all of our ails and woes of this life. But faith in Jesus Christ certainly ensures that we are enfolded into the Kingdom of God with a new name, a new identity, and a new purpose.

This unnamed, bleeding woman story reminds us that we are loved, named, and not forgotten. Jesus’ ultimate purpose is to bring us home to the Triune God of the Universe.

So daughter, do what you need to do to be welcomed home.

[1] Matthew 9:20-22 [2] Mark 5:25-34 [3] Luke 8:43-48 [4] Luke 9:7-8 [5] Luke 8:42 [6] Luke 5:13 [7] Mark 4:24 [8] Leviticus 15:25-31; Ezekiel 36:17. [9] Luke 8:47

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