Lamentations 4:14 talks about the priests’ garments being so defiled that the people couldn’t touch them. That led me to wonder why people would touch the garments of priests and whether that what the woman with hemorrhages was doing when she reached out to Jesus (Mark 5: 25-34).
At the time of Moses, God instructed his people regarding the corners of their garments. Jews were to “make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner” as a reminder that they were God’s people called to keep his commandments (Numbers 15:37-41). It seems like a strange instruction until we understand that in the Ancient Near East, the corner of a person’s garment represented his (here we are talking specifically about men) identity; it was a symbol of who he was and what he stood for. That’s why Ruth, when she was seeking marriage to Boaz, asked him to spread the corner of his garment over her (Ruth 3:9). It was a request for him to identify with her. (The same Hebrew word means “wing” or “corner of a garment.” Thus, many translations render Ruth’s request as, “Spread your wings over your servant.”)
The Old Testament closes with a prophecy of the Messiah that references the corners of his garment: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). Again, the same word means both “wings” and “corners of a garment”. At the heart of the Messiah’s identity would be healing —spiritual and physical — for all who trusted in him.
As a devout Jew, Jesus may well have worn tassels. There was nothing magical about the cloth that brought healing to the woman who touched it though. As Jesus told the woman, it was her faith that made her well. Perhaps the woman had Malachi 4:2 in mind as she reached out thinking, “Maybe this is the one with healing in his wings!” May we have the faith to imitate her faith — faith that Jesus brings blessing and help if we but reach out to him.