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The Woman With The Issue Of Blood In The Bible

The woman with the issue of blood in the Bible (or “the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years”) was a Jewish woman, whose story is told in the Gospel of St. Luke. She was an unnamed Samaritan, who lived in Sychar, near Jerusalem.

According to the story, Jesus saw her at a well outside the city and asked her for a drink. She said that she could not get water from that well because she was a woman and prohibited by custom from speaking to men. Jesus replied, “If you knew who it is that asks you for water, you would ask him and he would give you living water.”

The woman said: “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. How can you get this living water?” Jesus answered: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty any more.” (John 4:10-14)

The woman then asked him if he was greater than Jacob’s well. When Jesus asked her what she meant by this question, she explained that Jacob had given God thanks for this well in an earlier time when there were no wells around Jerusalem (Genesis 29:4).

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The Woman With The Issue Of Blood In The Bible

Luke 8:43-48: “Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.


God, Son, and Holy Spirit, meet us in this space, whatever space we find ourselves in. Trinity, help us to learn more about who you are through this woman. Help us to see your image in the image bearer we find in this story. Help us to sympathize, grow, and lean into her story. Give us wisdom and gentleness with ourselves today. In your name we pray, amen.

woman bleeding for 12 years bible verse

Key Scripture

Luke 8:43-48:

“Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’”

Introduction to the Woman with the Issue of Blood

The unnamed woman in this Gospel story is a woman who has suffered for 12 years from a certain kind of bleeding; it is often translated as “hemorrhaging.” She has visited many doctors and healers, and none of them has been able to heal her. It seems frenetic and like she is acting out in a last ditch effort. Her very presence in a large crowd would be frowned upon in this society because she is considered “unclean.” Her normal existence would often have been spent watching people skirt around her to avoid the possibility of contact. No brushing or touching or sharing friendly gestures on the path. She lived in isolation and would have been known for her uncleanliness.

Digging Deeper

To give a little background and context, this story of the woman with the issue of blood is found in three of the gospel texts. For a different angle to this story, let’s detour to Mark’s gospel. In the Gospel of Mark, the writer gives us a richer understanding of Jesus’s capacity to love by using a particular literary method and another precious story of healing. The method is what some scholars affectionately call a “Markan Sandwich.” The structure is: A1 – B – A2. The larger story begins (“A1”) with Jesus being abruptly greeted by a synagogue leader, Jairus, who falls at Jesus’s feet imploring him to heal his little daughter who is at the point of death. In the “sandwich” story (“B”), a large crowd is gathering around Jesus and is pressing in on many sides. From this large crowd, our woman enters the scene by touching the hem of Jesus’s cloak. She is healed. Power leaves Jesus. We’ll return to this. Then we return to the original story (“A2”) as Jesus is swept away to the home of Jairus and is told that his daughter has died. But, Jesus tells the girl, “Talitha cum,” which is Aramaic for “Little girl, get up!” Immediately, the girl gets up and walks around.

There are some lovely things that weave these stories together and enhance the sandwiched story of our study. There are so many delightful connections between the two stories. Some are pointed out by biblical scholar Beverly Zink-Sawyer, who observes:

Both victims of illness are female and ritually unclean, one as a result of death and one as a result of hemorrhage; both represent the significance of the number twelve in Jewish tradition (the twelve years of hemorrhage and the twelve-year-old girl); and both are regarded as “daughters” (the little girl being Jairus’s daughter and the woman who is addressed by Jesus as “Daughter”). An act of touch restores both women to new life even as those surrounding them lack understanding.[1]

Immediately, we can notice the biblical significance with the number 12 that has connections all over the place. For these women, 12 years of bleeding and 12 years of age. We also can see that these two feminine characters are unnamed by society, but then beautifully placed by Jesus when he refers to both of them as “daughter.” A sweet, intimate naming that is so needed by both of these women. Another intimate moment is the act of touch seen in both stories.

Women know what it’s like to bleed. Men do too, of course, but women have a cleansing of sorts that happens every month. We lose a part of our body every month and it is a painful, centering, mindful, difficult time. Even from biblical times, the idea of having blood outside of the body has been considered unclean or dirty. I find it unfortunate that the blood that is shed by women routinely for the sake of giving life has been shamed throughout history, while the blood shed by men in battle—in the act of taking life—is honored. Women, simply by having a body that works, were considered unclean and cast out routinely. This unnamed woman, whose story the text brings to light, not only suffered from continuous bleeding for many years, but also that dirty, unclean feeling resulting from being stigmatized and isolated. Hers was a continual existence of pain and being cast out. Jesus meets her in this space—or, rather, is met by her—and does the opposite of what is expected. Instead of being repulsed or disgusted by her, he responds with peace. He responds with acceptance and grace. He seems to respond with understanding. He calls her daughter. He accepts her. He offers her peace and heals her.

She Is Called and We Are Called

This bleeding woman’s story interacts with all of our stories because we, like her, have been in need of healing at some point or another. We have been outcasts or have felt abandoned by our communities or our friends. We have been in need of a merciful touch by God and by the body of Christ incarnate in our sisters and brothers here with us. Think of a time when you felt like you were at your end. Think of that space and ask God to show you where Jesus was in that space. What was he like? What did he refer to you as?

These stories are not telling us that we will always be healed, but rather, what it looks like to reach out to Jesus in times of pain and heartache, isolation and loneliness, in order to receive the gift of truth: you are beloved and known intimately by your creator.

Michael Lindvall puts it this way in his reflection on the passage:

One personal affirmation in this biblical story is that, beyond even physical healing, acceptance, intimacy, and touch can make us whole and give us peace. We are, in fact, shaped and made human in relationship to other persons. Our relationships—in the church, in friendships, and in marriage—are not just something extra added on to life for distraction and entertainment, as if we would be complete human beings in individual isolation. Relationship, “touch” if you will, makes us human and whole.

lessons from the woman with the issue of blood

Have you ever had an issue that has defined you? Something that has hindered you and sapped your life of its strength? Perhaps a habit or addiction has stolen your identity, damaged your relationships, wounded your family, drained your finances, crushed your hope, dreams and aspirations… or made you feel powerless and insignificant.

Can I just encourage you today with a look at one of the most famous “issues” in the bible – the account of the woman with the “issue of blood” found in Mark 5:22-36. Her chronic menstrual hemorrhage, possibly ovarian or cervical cancer, had caused turmoil in her life for years. Because of the requirements of Mosaic Law, she was treated as “unclean” until the hemorrhage stopped, and was forced to stay away from her family and other people. The issue also swallowed up her finances in her desperate attempt to get well, but she only got worse.

“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5:26).

Nobody could be around her and she couldn’t be around anyone. In fact, if she was caught around people, she would have to pay with her life.

“Suffered” here is from the Greek word pas’-kho, which describes not just physical suffering, but suffering in mind and emotion. You might say it’s suffering that pushes someone to the verge of a mental breakdown. Her life, her actions, her thoughts all revolved around her issue of blood.

But what makes her story one of victory instead of defeat is the fact that her desperation fueled her tenacity, which ignited her faith. And even though we are never told her name, she stands for all time as an example of how we too, can “stop the bleeding” in our lives caused by our chronic, destructive issues. The devil is a liar, and you CAN be free. Let’s look at three lessons her experience can teach us:

  1. You Must Want It Enough, You’ll Pay the Price
    On some level, we all wish for God to intervene in our lives in any number of areas. However, there is a difference between wishing God would intervene and wanting God to intervene. Wanting is far deeper; it’s something that requires a much greater personal investment. Simply put, it’s the spiritual price you are willing to pay for results.

The disciples once asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast a demon out of a child and Jesus said, “this kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). Translation: you must pay the price required for the thing you want.

We see another example of this principle with the story of the rich young ruler who was very rich, but who apparently felt empty or incomplete (Matthew 19:16-29). He came to Jesus and asked Him, in essence, “How can I get rid of this emptiness inside?”

How can I stop this emptiness…this bleeding of my heart?

And what was His response? Jesus said, “Go, and sell everything you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” Translation: you must pay the price required for the peace you desire.

The woman with the issue of blood proved she wanted to be healed. She was willing to spend every dime she had. She was willing to risk her life moving through a packed crowd. She was willing to defy every obstacle in order to stop the bleeding.

What is her lesson to us? You’ve got to want it bad enough you’ll pay the price required.

  1. You’ve Got to Make the Decision to Get to Jesus
    Jesus was healthy and walking; she was hemorrhaging and crawling, but she still got to him. Jesus was surrounded and protected by the people around Him; she was ostracized and despised – but still, she got to Him.

Have you noticed, that in most miracles in the Bible, when God healed someone, Jesus went to the victim. But in this woman’s case, Jesus was moving away from her. Still, she got to Him.

She made the decision to get to Jesus, no matter what. In order to get healed from your issue, you must also make a decision to get to Jesus.

What is standing in your way? Decide to get to Jesus, no matter what. Make the decision to cut ties with every weight that is standing between you and Jesus. Is it a toxic relationship? Is it an avenue of escape? Is it a fleeting pleasure? Make the decision to crawl toward Jesus, even if you feel like He’s walking away from you. Crawl to your prayer closet. Crack the pages of your Bible, often. Lift your voice in praise, because God inhabits the praises of His people.

If you feel like He’s walking away from you, begin to walk a different walk. Walk the walk of righteousness, the walk of godliness, the walk of becoming separate from the world and being holy, even as He is holy.

Start evaluating everything in your life by asking yourself the question does this take me closer to Jesus or further away?

If you want God to intervene and stop the bleeding, you must make the decision to get to Jesus – no matter what the cost and what obstacle must be overcome.

  1. You’ve Got to Say It
    “For she said, ‘If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well’” (Mark 5:28).

There is simply no denying it – what we say when we are bleeding from our issue has a tremendous influence on whether or not we see God stop the bleeding. Jesus Himself pointed out the importance of our words in tandem with the exercise of our faith:

“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says’” (Mark 11:23-24).

Jesus said our words matter – a lot. In fact, if we speak pure, faith-filled words, He will back us up. The Psalmist agrees:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

When you really catch hold of this revelation, you’ll be able to trust God to stop the bleeding in every area of your life! So, if we want to see God stop the bleeding, we’ve got to say what God says about our “issue.”

Don’t waste time saying what the circumstances around you are saying; rather say what God says about the circumstances. Never say, “there is no hope,” but say, “with God all things are possible!”

Never say, “We are going down!” but say, “We shall live and not die, and declare the glory of God!”

Never say, “My better days are behind me,” but say, “God says my future is bright and my path gets brighter and brighter!”

No, the enemy is NOT too strong, NOT too tough, NOT too powerful, but “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.” God is on our side, and if God be for us who can be against us? We are not weak, but rather “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!” Say what God says. It’s the way faith works!

“Let the weak say, ‘I am strong’” (Joel 3:10).

So what are you saying? If you are bleeding out, if your issue is getting worse, you must begin saying what God says about your situation.

Some of us have been bleeding for much longer than necessary! The devil is a liar and God’s word to you is revelation that your issue can be healed today. If you want healing, get to Jesus, and partner with Him to speak His word in faith. It’s ultimately how the woman received her healing.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

The Word of God promises that when you align with God, you’ll begin to get your joy back, your peace back, your hope back, your dreams back, your identity back, your important relationships restored – it’s the revelation you need to see Him stop the bleeding!


Know that you are beloved and known by God. Healing does not always look exactly like what we are hoping for, but sometimes healing looks like acceptance, belonging, and connection. Sometimes healing looks like not letting fear have a hold in your life. Love looks like a touch from a friend or loved one in a moment of shame, hopelessness, or deep pain to draw us out and remind us that we are loved and called children of God.

Reach out and touch the robe of Jesus today and ask for the reminder, the grace, and the knowing that comes from him. Let Christ find you wherever you are and meet you there—at your lowest lows and your highest heights. Remember that you too are the hands of Christ and have the ability to offer healing to those who are suffering. Ask for wisdom and pray for strength and courage this day.

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