Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – When A Menstruating Woman Touched Jesus (Leviticus 12; 15:19-30)

As we read about Jesus’ earthly ministry, we should always have the Book of Leviticus in the background. For when we consider the laws God Himself laid down, it should not surprise us when the Jews become so offended and shocked when Jesus did the things He did, for example, when He heals a menstruating woman:

And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

Matthew 9:20-22

I’ve seen many atheists and even “theologians,” in the guise of feminism, take a passage like Leviticus 12 and say, “See? Christianity oppresses women! Christianity is for patriarchal white men who want to control women’s bodies!” There are a couple factours that expose the absurdity of their claim.

  1. Blood is not exactly something you’d want out in the open all the time for risk of sickness and disease (just think of AIDS and HIV). So, why wouldn’t they have some sort of purification ritual, especially considering their medical knowledge at the time? Not to mention the fact that blood belongs in the body, and blood coming out of the body is a symptom of man and woman’s sinful corruption since the Fall of Man. The purpose of this law was not to oppress women but to ensure the health of all the people, especially the women.
  2. God also gave Israel laws for dealing with discharges of semen, which can also cause sickness and disease (again, AIDS and HIV). So, if we’re going to accuse Christianity of wanting to control women’s bodies, we must say the same about men for Israel having laws about male ejaculation. But that doesn’t fit the Narrative, so of course that’s never going to happen.
  3. Moreover, this law was written to Jews, not Christians. Therefore, it does not apply to us. So, if you really want to criticise the Bible, call out the Jews for their OT laws and risk being antisemitic.
  4. This is Yahweh speaking, not some patriarchal white man. Neither would the Israelites have been European white. Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion.
  5. As always, they conveniently leave out Jesus’ atoning work in His life, death, and resurrection. In allowing the menstruating woman to touch Him, and in healing her bleeding because of her faith, Jesus fulfills this law. Rather than her uncleanness coming off on Him as it naturally would on any other man, His pure cleanness comes off on her because He’s God and He’s merciful.

So, as we proleptically look toward Jesus when we read Leviticus 12 and 15, what should this recall? They should make us think of Jesus who fulfilled this law by having the countercultural audacity to allow this menstruating woman to touch Him, His power to go out from Him, and to heal her. Contrary to these atheists’ and feminists’ claim, then, Jesus loves women, and Christianity is for the honour of women. It is true that we don’t always treat women with the respect they deserve in our synod, but that has to do with sinners in need of forgiveness and not the tenets of Christianity. It is most certainly for the empowerment of women, just not the empowerment as third-wave feminism defines it.

For her empowerment is defined by Christ her Saviour, who spoke and dined with women (something men did not do in first-century Palestine), who were the first of two genders to confess Jesus as Lord (Luke 1:39-45), who were the first gender to witness and confess Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:1-18), and whom God blesses with motherhood and wifehood. If Christianity were not for the empowerment of women, the Gospel writers would’ve changed history by making men the first to confess Jesus as Lord and to confess His resurrection rather than women, especially when they witnessed in a culture that didn’t allow women to witness in a courtroom because they were considered less reliable than criminals. Jesus—and by extension, Christianity—saved women from a misogynistic culture.

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