The January 2010 issue of Christianity Today ran an article by L. Lewis Wall entitled Jesus and the Unclean Woman. Let me encourage you to read that article in its entirety. You can go directly to the article on-line by clicking on the words "Christianity Today" or check your local public or church library for a copy of the magazine. It is well worth reading.
Dr. Wall, as a physician, goes into more detail and explanation about the story of the unclean woman that Jesus healed than I believe I have ever heard. He takes an in-depth look at Mark 5:25-34 and explains the passage by looking at the Levitical laws in Leviticus 15:19-28. I have always felt sorry for this woman who had bled for 12 years, but I had never thought of how deep her shame ran. Dr. Wall points out as a medical expert that she was most likely infertile. Infertility in the culture of Jesus' day was a woman's biggest shame. Secondly she was always unclean. Every thing she sat on or touched was unclean. Every person she touched or who touched her was unclean.
Dr. Wall writes, "To have near-constant bleeding for 12 years in a society where such rules were rigorously enforced would be awful. You would be constantly unclean. Those who knew about your condition would not welcome you. You could not participate in religious services or activities. An accident of menstrual hygiene could disrupt your household at great inconvenience to those living with you. The burden of 12 years of such uncleanness would have been overwhelming. The woman of Mark 5 must have wondered why such a thing had been visited upon her.
"Furthermore, if her husband was a righteous man, he wouldn't have come near her due to her impurity--which was virtually all of the time--so the likelihood of her being permanently childless would have been certain.
"We now understand why the woman was desperate to find Jesus."
Can you imagine the constant shame? Can you imagine why she felt compelled to sneak through the crowd and touch Jesus' garment as surreptitiously as possible? And why she was reticent to explain her problem publicly?
And think of Jesus. He loved this woman. Perhaps he touched her. He called her, "Daughter". And he healed her.
Throughout the world, especially in desperately poor countries such as Niger, there are women today who are outcasts in much the same way. They are women who have undergone a difficult birth process in which the vagina is injured. Dr. Wall explains, "[During a prolonged delivery] the skull is forced relentlessly downward by the contractions, but the unyielding bones of her pelvis refuse to let it pass. As her pelvis's soft tissues are crushed, they die and slough away, forming a fistula. Once this happens, the fistula will not heal without a surgical operation." The woman constantly leaks urine, is unable to bear more children, and is shunned by her family and friends, and usually divorced by her husband. They are unclean women.
(This is a picture of one of my friends. She does not have fistula.)
The exciting news is that Jesus loves them just like he loved the unclean woman in the Bible story. The Worldwide Fistula Fund is building a hospital in Niger to reach out to women with obstetric fistulas. The hospital is being built on the same compound as one of SIM's medical centers. This will enable the SIM chaplains to be able to share the Good News of the Healer with these women.
The director of our SIM medical center recently shared this (used with permission):
She is 14 years old. Six months ago she had a baby. (She was pregnant before her first menstrual period.) She spent three months in hospital recovering after delivery, she lost the baby, she has fistula, her husband left her. Now she is slowly recovering after surgery... She looks very sick. Her kidneys are not working properly but she still....managed to smile and express gratitude for the care she received. Please pray for her!
The 14 year old girl is beaming with a smile this morning. She has recovered so quickly. Her fistula has been repaired. She is dry with no more urine smell. She now walks around, very happy and looking healthy. She will go home in two days time. Thank you all for praying for her; she's been shown the love of Christ. Please pray for her future; that she will accept Christ the Saviour in her heart and be at liberty to serve Him."
Isn't that exciting!!!??? Here is another link to help round out the picture. Missionary colleagues tell the story of the construction of the fistula hospital here at this link.
Just one more note. If you would like to be involved in helping these women with fistula be restored to living a normal life, you can donate either here or here (Just click on the word "here". The first link is for the Worldwide Fistula Fund and the 2nd one is for SIM.)