I have been on a quest recently to get to know more about the person of Jesus Christ – his Jewishness, if you will. The more I study the more I learn that the “story” of Jesus Christ was one of leading the people to believe in Him as the Messiah. One thing that has been a particular blessing to me has been the study I just finished on the “Prayer Shawl” prophecy fulfillment from Mark 5:25-29. This particular little event opened up a greater understanding for me regarding prayer, the Bible and how one seemingly insignificant, sick woman, led a whole nation to believe that Jesus was indeed, the Messiah. I hope you will be as blessed by this as I was.
The Prayer Shawl Prophecy Fulfillment – Mark 5:25-29
Mark 5:25 – 29 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
Notice also Matthew 9:20 which says, And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of his garment.
This passage of scripture has been taught and preached and recounted countless times in sermons all across the world since the day it was recorded. As I was growing up I often heard this sermon preached from the position that the woman was a very courageous, a very determined and a very disconsolate soul who stopped at nothing to get to Jesus to be healed. I remember sermons admonishing us to be like this woman and to stop at nothing to get to Jesus. While that is certainly a very proper conclusion to draw I do believe that it falls woefully short in explaining what really happened on that day when Jesus was thronged by people and yet was touched by a simple woman. You will notice from the verses that Jesus stopped and asked the strange question, who touched me? When we look at the significance of the OT commands, a passage in Psalms and a prophecy we see that this woman was doing more than finding her way to Jesus, she was demonstrating something for the nation of Israel as well as for us today.
Jesus was a Rabbi and was considered a good teacher. He had, until the time of this story, accomplished two of the four Messianic miracle tests by healing a leper and casting out a mute demon. With each evidence given the people began to ask more and more, Who is this person? After Jesus healed one leper all the lepers called out to him for healing…Jesus was slowing leading them to the place, with evidence, where they could draw the conclusion that he was the Messiah. He healed the blind and dumb man and the people began to ask, Is this man the son of David? Meaning, is this the Messiah? Slowly, bit by bit, Jesus was building his case and leading the people to the inescapable conclusion that he was the Son of God, the one who set up his tent among his brethren for a short time to reveal the Father to them. But things heated up to the boiling point in this story in Mark 5.
There are several things we need to understand about the culture of the Jews at that time and what Jesus was wearing. Jesus did not dress like we do today in the 21st century, meaning those in a western style of dress. He, being a Jewish Rabbi, would’ve worn the traditional style of clothing and would’ve had a robe on over a pair of pants. When the Bible says that she reached for the hem of his garment, it does not mean that she tried to touch the part of his clothing that was folded over, sewn and then ironed nicely to make a straight edge… which is what we think of when we think of a hem.
The Greek word used in Matthew 9:20 for the English word “hem” is, kraspedon. This is a tassel or a twisted piece of wool strands. These were worn on the edge of the garment and were commanded by God for the men. Since Jesus would’ve obeyed the Law of Moses in its entirety, he was obviously wearing these tassels on his garment. It is important to note that Matthew made mention of the fact that the woman reached for the edge of his garment, she reached for the tassels that hung down, and she did it for a reason. She went hunting for those very things, she wanted just the edge of the garment, it was her target, and she had a reason for doing so. But first, let’s look at Numbers 15:37-41 to see where God commanded the men to wear these tassels:
Nu 15:37-41 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.
Numbers 15:38 – Hebrew Aleppo
דבר אל-בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם ועשו להם ציצת על-כנפי בגדיהם לדרתם ונתנו על-ציצת הכנף פתיל תכלת׃
While you may not be able to read Hebrew, the word underlined is the word tzit-tzit, or “fringe” in English. This is the Hebrew word for tassel.
Deuteronomy 22:12 also contains a command that the men wear tassels on the four corners of their cloaks.
So, it is correct to believe that Jesus would’ve had these tassels, four of them, one on each corner of his garment.
When I was in Israel in March, 2011, I bought a prayer shawl. On this prayer shawl there are four tassels, one on each corner. Each tassel is made of 8 strands of wool, 7 white and one blue. This blue strand is what the Bible refers to as a ribband of blue. Each tassel has 5 double knots in it. Virtually everything in Hebrew has multiple meanings. Each letter of the Hebrew language has a numerical value and the numerical value of the word “tzitzit” is 600. When you add the 8 strands of wool and the 5 knots, you get 13. Six hundred plus thirteen equals 613, or the number of the commandments in the law. You will notice in Numbers 15 that God said the tassels were to cause them to remember the law and to do it.
In Numbers 15:38 there is also the word, כנפי, or Khan-fei, which is translated as borders. This is also the word for corners and is also translated as wings. So, it is correct to say that the borders of the four corners of the garment, or the four wings, were to each have one tassel on the end, consisting of 8 strands and five knots, and were to remind the man of the laws of God and that he should keep them and do them. The modern day prayer shawl also has four corners, one tassel on each corner, and those corners are also often referred to as wings.
While I was looking at Numbers 15 and Deuteronomy 22 the passage of Psalm 91:1-4 came into view and the significance of these verses give meaning that I had not seen before. Psalm 91:1-4 says:
¶ He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Notice the underlined parts of verse four. We shall be covered with his feathers, we will trust under his wings, and his truth (His Law) will be our shield and buckler. When a Jewish person prays they will often cover themselves with the prayer shawl, even covering their face. When I was at the Wailing Wall I watched men who covered themselves in their shawls and prayed.
But, I am not a Jewish person, what does this have to do with me? Psalm 91 speaks of the authority in which I pray and the authority in which I go to the Lord and make my petitions. The wings of the man’s garment had tassels, which represented the Law of God. Under the Law of God I trust; and that Law is my shield. The only way I get my prayers answered, the only way God even hears me, is because of the Word of God that gives me the right to go to the throne of grace to find mercy to help in the time of need. The prayer shawl signifies this very thing, and it was this very thing that Jesus had on the hem of his garment. He had four tassels hanging from the edges of his garment, the four wings, if you please. It is a beautiful picture of what gives me the right to go to the Lord and ask whatever I will.
Now, here is the part that changed a nation. The teaching of the time was that the Messiah, the Sun of Righteousness, will have healing in his wings. It was believed by the Jews of the first century that the Messiah would be able to heal a person, in his wings. In other words, the very tassels that hung on the four corners of his garments would be able to heal sickness. If a person touched those, then it was evidence that that person was the Messiah. The prophecy is contained in Malachi 4:2 as we read here: But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings….
When that sick woman went to Jesus, she did not speak to him, she did not even make herself known to him, she simply reached out and touched the hem of his garment, meaning, one of the corners of his vesture which contained the tassel, given to remind the one wearing it that God’s law was to be known, respected, followed, protected and lived. Jesus’ response is classic:
And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? 31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? 32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. 33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. 34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
The disciples were dumbfounded and probably thought Jesus was feeling tired from the crowd. Yet, Jesus knew what had just happened. A woman, who did not ask for him to heal her, had simply put the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 to the test and had proven, to a nation, that Jesus was the Sun of Righteousness, who had healing in his wings. One woman, her name being unknown to us, gave evidence as to the divinity of Jesus Christ by just one single touch.
Those tassels did not heal her, those wings did not save her life, but the prophecy said that the Messiah would have healing in his wings. She knew what those wings were. She knew what those tassels represented: the Word of God. In fact, Jesus Christ was represented by those very things. It was the faith she had in the Word of God that gave the prophecy about those very tassels, about that hem of the garment… she tested the Word of God and it was that faith that healed her and gave evidence that Jesus was more than “just” a Rabbi. The Bible prophecy was shown to be true and the Sun of Righteousness was walking among them. In fact, notice the reaction after this became known:
Mark 6:53-56 says: And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. 54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, 55 And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. 56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.
When people recognized Jesus they ran and got the sick, they laid them in the street, so when Jesus passed by they could reach up and touch the border of his garment, meaning those four wings which contained the four tassels, which were prophesied by Malachi that the Messiah would have healing in them. Yes, that one woman, by her act of faith in the prophecy of Malachi, showed a nation that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. And she proved the power of the Word of God. That same power that we have today that gives us the right to go to the Lord in prayer, that covers us and in which we trust… that prayer shawl prophecy that so wonderfully shows that God answers the faith of a people crying out to him for healing from their sickness. May the Lord be praised, may the faith of that woman challenge us to go boldly to the Lord, in the power and authority of the Word of God, to make our petitions known and to find grace to help in the time of need.