The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record an encounter Jesus had with a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. It’s a brief account—Matthew tells the story in just three short verses—but it offers a unique window into Jesus’ compassion and power.
While Jesus healed many people over the course of his three-year ministry, this healing was distinct from others recorded in the gospels. The woman had faith that if she could only touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak, she would be healed (Mark 5:28). She had no intention of stopping Jesus, asking to be healed, or even being noticed by anyone—yet she had confidence she would be healed. Immediately, she was, and despite not seeing her and having a crowd swelling around him, Jesus sensed the power go out from him (Mark 5:29–30) and stopped in the middle of an urgent journey.
Even though the passage is brief, nested in the middle of an account of how Jesus resurrected the daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus, there’s a lot to unpack here.
Let’s start by looking at the passage itself.
Jesus heals a sick woman
Jesus’ encounter with the bleeding woman is found in Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:24b–34, and Luke 8:42b–48. Jairus, a synagogue leader, has just begged Jesus to come to his house to heal his daughter, who is dying. They leave at once, heading to Jairus’ house. Mark provides the most detailed account:
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 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. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” —Mark 5:24b–34
This woman has tried every conceivable option to receive healing, and her affliction has not only made her a complete outcast, but it has also driven her into poverty. For 12 years, this bleeding has made her perpetually unclean, and as a result of her attempts to become clean, she now has no resources to provide for herself. She may have even had this condition for most of her life. It could have prevented her from getting married or having children, leaving her dependent on other people, and yet they carefully watch and avoid her every move to prevent themselves from becoming unclean, too.
And then she touches Jesus and feels sudden restoration—”she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:29).
Details from Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s accounts
Each of the biblical authors share this account with a different lens, focusing on and drawing attention to different aspects of the story.
Mark tells us that the woman fell at Jesus’ feet and “told Him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33b), but Luke gives us a little more about this moment, noting that in front of the crowd, she shared why she touched him and what happened to her (Luke 8:47b).
It may come as a surprise that Mark provides the most context about the woman’s affliction, not Luke, who is traditionally believed to be a physician. However, in verse 8:44, Luke does use the Greek word estē—a medical term for stopping bleeding.
Interestingly, Mark and Luke both note that the woman touches Jesus and receives healing before Jesus acknowledges her, but Matthew, who provides the briefest account, says Jesus speaks to her first, then she receives healing. However, all three accounts note that the healing is instantaneous, and Jesus tells the woman, “Your faith has healed you.”
Who was the woman with the issue of blood?
The unnamed woman in this passage is memorable for her faith, but the Bible doesn’t tell us anything more about who she is or her involvement with Jesus or the church. Her faith that touching Jesus’ clothes would heal her could have come from personally observing Jesus over time, or from simply hearing about his many miraculous healings. Mark suggests that her actions were an immediate response to hearing about Jesus—perhaps seeing Jairus, a synagogue leader, begging Him to heal or resurrect his daughter was all this woman needed to believe. Maybe she simply hears the crowd discussing who He is and what Jairus believes He is capable of.
Aside from these three parallel passages, the Bible doesn’t mention her again. We don’t know her age, where she’s from, or what she does. All she was known for was her physical affliction, her story of suffering, and now she’s remembered for her restoration.
What was the woman’s affliction?
The Bible doesn’t tell us the woman’s specific medical condition or give much context. All we really know is that she was bleeding, either continually or frequently, for 12 years. The text doesn’t explicitly say where she was bleeding, but the original languages use the same words Moses uses in Leviticus to describe menstrual discharges (Leviticus 12:7, Leviticus 15:19, Leviticus 15:25).
The King James Version of the Bible translates the Greek and Hebrew descriptions of the woman’s affliction as “the issue with blood” or “the fountain of blood.” Other translations use phrases like “hemorrhaging” or “discharge of blood,” but don’t provide much more nuance here. The New Living Translation says her bleeding was “constant,” but since each instance of this bleeding would have made her unclean for seven days (Leviticus 15:19), it’s possible that it happened every few days, making her continually unclean.
This most likely falls under the category of conditions we see discussed in Leviticus 15:25, so to understand more about what this woman is going through, it helps to look at how Moses told the Israelites to handle this situation:
“‘When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. Anyone who touches them will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.
“‘When she is cleansed from her discharge, she must count off seven days, and after that she will be ceremonially clean. On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge.
“‘You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.’” —Leviticus 15:25–31
People who were aware of this woman and her condition would’ve felt compelled to watch her every move to ensure they didn’t touch anything she sat on or brush against her garments, or else they’d be unclean until evening and have to undergo cleansing rituals. Not paying attention to an unclean person could easily set off a chain of uncleanness, spreading it from person to person and item to item.
It’s worth considering that this woman’s treatment wasn’t rooted in cruelty—it was fear. The Israelites were afraid of dying in a state of uncleanness, separated from God and His dwelling place. Touching her or things she touched would open the door to this terrifying possibility. People would’ve watched each other around her, too, afraid that someone may unknowingly become unclean and not cleanse themselves or spread their uncleanness to others.
This woman’s condition made her a pariah, and it likely would’ve put her and everyone else in a constant state of anxiety whenever she was in public.
Key takeaways from the woman with the issue of blood
While this is a brief encounter and a short passage (especially in Matthew’s account), there’s still a lot for us to learn from here.
Jesus always has time for people
When you’re focused on something important, it’s easy to justify treating people poorly when they interrupt. The more urgent the task at hand, the more justified the frustration. Right? But here’s Jesus, on His way to heal a girl who is dying (or according to Matthew, to resurrect a girl who has already died), and He deliberately stops to draw attention to this encounter.
You can imagine Jairus panicking when Jesus stops, wondering if He’s going to make it in time or if He’ll forget or change His mind. And while the bleeding woman intended to be discrete and let Jesus continue on His way, Jesus gives her His time and attention anyway. In fact, He even creates space for her to share her story with the crowd: “In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 8:47b).
Jesus’ power isn’t limited by human constraints
This woman has tried everything she possibly could to get better. Despite spending everything she has to get help from doctors, her condition has only become worse. She’s exhausted all her options, and nothing worked. That doesn’t stop Jesus, and remarkably, it doesn’t discourage her from coming to Him.
Jesus’ power to heal isn’t rooted in what’s possible for humans. He wields God’s power.
Jesus called attention to her healing
Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about this healing is the way Jesus calls attention to this woman. He doesn’t have to—according to Luke and Mark, she was already healed—and Jesus isn’t bragging about what He’s done. He’s accomplishing two things here:
- He’s highlighting this woman’s tremendous faith
- He’s ensuring everyone else knows she has been restored
For 12 years, this woman was frequently forbidden from entering the outer courts of the temple—God’s dwelling place—and participating in religious gatherings. Since earthly medical care couldn’t solve her problem, people may have assumed that her suffering was God’s will—perhaps even a curse, given to her because she was an especially sinful person. Additionally, she would’ve often been unable to demonstrate her commitment to and faith in God through participation in significant religious rituals.
She needed to receive physical restoration before she could begin the process of spiritual restoration.
After more than a decade of being ceremonially unclean, it’s doubtful that anyone would have described her as a woman of great faith or someone who should be looked to as an example. And yet here is Jesus, the son of God, proclaiming that her faith has healed her. Instead of spreading her uncleanness wherever she goes, now a powerful, encouraging story of faith would spread instead. She’s no longer someone everyone should dissociate with, but someone to admire and learn from.
And nearly 2,000 years later, this unnamed woman is still lifted up as an example of faith.
Learn more about the miracles of Jesus
If you’re interested in learning more about the miraculous things Jesus did, check out our article about “The Miracles of Jesus.” You can also discover more about Jesus’ teachings by diving into “All the Parables of Jesus.”