"The woman with the issue of blood" is one of the people from the Bible who we know well.
We know her well because we often talk about her in our HIV care trainings. This woman's experience uncannily mirrors the terrible sufferings that people with HIV go through (thanks to Dr. Daniel Fountain for pointing this out to us many years ago).
The woman has an incurable disease. She was known to have irregular, constant bleeding for 12 years. Mark records that she had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors (Mark 5.26). Luke says no was able to heal her (Luke 8.43). Her
Luke (a doctor himself) reports "she had spent all she had on doctors" (Luke 8.43). This was a woman who was poor. Whatever income she had before - it was gone now. She was ruined. How did she keep herself alive - we don't know - but she was destitute - and desparate.
The woman was also alone. Was she married? If she had been - she would have been divorced by her husband a long time ago. Which man in the Jewish society of the day would put up with a woman who kept bleeding - despite doctors visits and prayers?
If she was not married yet... well fat chance of ever getting married. Who will give their son to a woman who has no chance of giving a son back?
Did she have family? We don't know. The ritual law of the day meant that anyone touching a menstruating woman would be unclean. And if the flow of blood did not stop - the woman was considered unclean till it did.
This lady probably had no one touch her for years. Her starvation for the most basic human love language - the simple language of bodily touch - would have been acute.
And to compound things - all of this was 'in the open.' News travels. Tongues wag. 'Why did she not get better?' 'God must be punishing her' 'She has some hidden sin' Having her illness linked with her reproductive organs only heightened the shame and rejection she must have felt.
Yes we know this woman very well.
Because she is still here with us.
Not only one. But many.
Right now we have two ladies with HIV who are suffering from continous bouts of long-term bleeding. We have counselled them and are trying hard to get medical attention.
No one wants to touch them because they are HIV positive.
We sent one of them recently for a workup to a hysterectomy. We will call her Leela. The surgeon at the govt. hospital refused. Leela was given medicines and told to go home. She took the medicines. Leela is still bleeding.
These are thin women. Frail from the daily loss of blood. From the rejection and shame they undergo. Trying to look after their children. Trying to live with hope.
The story is the same for the other. Lets call her Shalini. We have been working through Shalini's case. When she was rejected for surgery at two places we are trying one of the largest govt. hospitals in Mumbai for her.
What did Jesus do?
He let the woman touch Him. He let power go from His robe. But He also brought her back.
So that she could tell her full story. So that others would hear of her sufferings. So that He could tell call her 'daughter'. So that she could be restored to be all that she was meant to be.
He wants us to do the same. Leela and Shalini are just two of his precious daughters who need healing.