The New Testament Through The Lens Of The Law

I was reading Luke 8 this morning, and in verses 43-48, a woman suffering from 12 years of hemorrhaging pushed through the crowds and touched Jesus and was healed.  Jesus knew that it happened and said “Who is the one who touched Me?”  Everyone around denied it and Jesus said again “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.”

The initial questions I had about this passage were:

  • How could Jesus not know who touched him?  He’s about to know the thoughts of people near him (like the Pharisees), but he’s not able to know who might have touched him?
  • Is Jesus not in control of his power?  Someone came and touched him and Jesus said that “power went out of him” and it seems that he didn’t control it.  Nearly every healing involves Jesus speaking it.  Why is this one so different and seemingly not on his accord?

My thoughts in trying to figure it out were to assume that Jesus knew, but chose to use this situation differently, to change it up in a sense.  He wasn’t asking who it was and speaking as if he didn’t control the healing as if he truly didn’t know or truly didn’t have control, but rather using a different type of situation.

I asked my friend about it, and the insight he provided shocked me in two ways:  First was how much clarity and definition it brought to the situation, and second, that I wasn’t able to think of that in the first place.

What I failed to consider was the Old Testament Law.  A woman on her menstrual cycle was considered unclean, and was essentially, by nature of her being unable to touch anyone for 12 years, an outcast and not able to be in social circles.  The shame and social handicap she had to deal with under the Law would have been horrible, despite also having to deal with the constant bleeding.  She would have been considered unclean, and everything she touched, including other people, would have been made unclean (Leviticus 15:19-30).

To work her way through a tight crowd would have required her to be touching other people.  Then to actually reach out and touch the honored one, who everyone wanted to see, this would be an absolute outrage.  She would have made many unclean, and even Jesus himself.  The way then that Jesus approaches the situation is interesting.  Instead of confronting her immediately, he uses the situation to give the opportunity for her to confess and come forward.  Jesus knew the shame she would have been feeling, knowing what she had done to him and those around her.  But, despite everything, her faith caused her to do it anyway, knowing that Jesus could heal her.  She came to him trembling and fell down before him.

Without the understanding of her situation in light of the laws of the Old Testament, this particular situation wouldn’t be as striking and extreme.  What I failed to realize is that all of the Jews (including Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, etc.) were still under OT law.  And this simple fact can completely transform the understanding of the New Testament, especially Jesus’ interactions with people in the gospels.

I will definitely need to try and make it habit in my reading to always keep in mind that the Jewish people, up until Jesus, were always under the OT Law.  It was engrained in their life and it only makes sense that their interactions and reactions to Jesus would be guided by their understanding of the Law.

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