This miracle is sandwiched between two pieces of a larger miracle. When Christ Jesus came back from the healing of Legion on the southeast coast of Tiberias – After He authoritatively ordered an army of demons out of their sinful host – He was immediately accosted by Jairus, who plead with Him for the life of his little daughter. Quick as a wink Jesus began to walk from the shore up to rich part town to raise a dead little girl. But while briskly walking along, in the midst of a large “press” of people, there surreptitiously crept in behind Him a poor woman in need. Verse 24 says that “much people followed him, and thronged him.” This is the only place in the Bible where this word is used. Strong says that it means that the crowd squeezed around Jesus in the narrow streets of the city. And the noun “the press” suggests the same thought – it was a large crowd tightly packed together. Somehow, with determination, this woman squeezed through the crowd to touch Christ. And just as abruptly as Jesus started toward Jairus’ house, He stopped to help a suffering woman.
All of the Gospel writers, but John, include this miracle in their accounts of Christ’s ministry. That surprises me, because John’s gospel was specifically inspired to magnify Christ’s deity and grace. This miracle magnifies the latter even before the former – the grace over the actual miracle. And it is outstanding for a couple of reasons: For example, we see the Lord’s absolutely calm control over everything. If He stops to help one sinner along the way, no harm will ever be done to any other. If He saves one soul by His grace, it in no way hurts other rebellious souls. He holds the sway of the entire world in His hand – including death and disease. It might appear that the crowd is pushing Him up the road, but in reality He is pulling the crowd. And He is at leisure to help anyone who humbles himself enough to ask for assistance. And then there the realization that the Lord doesn’t place Jairus with his wealth and power above this destitute and slowly dying lady. A need is a need, and the Lord meets them at HIS will.
But what right does this woman have to interrupt the important work of Christ? What power or trait within her arrests the Lord and keeps Him from taking another step? Does her poverty give her that right? No, the poor we shall have always, for a multitude of reasons. Does her sickness give her a right to demand time of God? No. Our sinfulness produced the curse that produces our sicknesses, stealing from us any prerogative with God. Was it that the Lord foresaw things in her life which made her a good investment of His time? No, if there is ever any good thing that comes out of us, it’s due to His grace, not our willingness. He plants, He nurtures, He ripens any good fruit in our lives – all by His grace. He sees nothing good in us that He Himself doesn’t produce in us.
There is only one way this lady could reach out to have any hope of fellowship with Christ. It is neglected, misunderstood, ignored, and abused. But it’s the only way to touch the Lord. “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” And this woman possessed by God’s grace, a tiny, tiny seed of faith.
Using this woman as our example, let’s consider the verse which I just quoted from Hebrews 11. “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” A great many people touched Christ during His 33 years in Palestine. But so very, very seldom did sparks fly, and seldom was the Saviour arrested in His journey. The thing that did the trick in this case was this woman’s faith. In looking at her faith, let’s start at the low end and work up.
She had serious problems in the area of faith.
First of all it was a decidedly IGNORANT FAITH. By that I mean, she only knew what probably every person in Capernaum knew about Christ. “I have heard, by the hearing of the ear, that this Jesus of Nazareth works miracles. It has been said that He is the Messiah, He is the Saviour. People have been hoping for Him for 2,000 years now. There must be something to this business of Christianity.”
This woman thought she could steal away just a thimble-full Jesus’ miraculous grace without Him knowing. He has power equal to 10,000 Columbia rivers surely He won’t miss just one little sip. That is faith – to be sure – but it is based upon a faulty conception of Christ. There are so many people who think Jesus will do this or that and in the process satisfy their need. But they forget that He is God. They ignore the questions – who is the God and who is the supplicant. Maybe I should say they forget who is God and who is the sinner. It is not up to us who Christ heals or saves; it is His choice – not ours. And to think otherwise is to create an imaginary Saviour. Satan would love to have the whole world worshiping
a Christ who doesn’t really exist. And the fact is, the Devil to some degree has been quite successful. Much of Christendom worships a whimpy Christ who can’t complete redemption without help. So millions of people ask Jesus’ mother to talk the Saviour into saving them. Or they turn to various saints or perhaps to their local priest. If your faith is in a Christ whose blood can’t wash away sin without the dilution of the water of baptism, then you are worshiping a Christ who can’t be found in the Bible. If you trust a Christ who cannot heal you without your consent, I urge you to study the Christ of the Bible. There are hundreds of false Christs in the world of religion. This is not my opinion – the Bible tells us and warns us of them. This woman had faith, but showed ignorance about the One she was trying to trust.
In addition to that she was ignorant about her true needs. She needed health, to be sure – don’t we all? But for what purpose? So she could extend her life 25 years only to die and be sent into Hell later? She had greater needs than the cure of this disease. Whether she was aware or not, she was trying to touch the Great Physician, but He was the Saviour of souls as well. And her soul was in more desperate need than was her temporary mortal body.
There are some lessons hidden behind the English in our King James Bible. Its not a matter of deception, but lessons beyond the obvious ill-health of this woman. For example there is the word “plague.” As she touched the Lord, “straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.” “And (Jesus) said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague. This Greek word is used 6 times in the Bible and usually it is translated “plague,” but it is also rendered “scourge.” Acts 22:24 – “The chief captain commanded (Paul) to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging, that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.” Hebrews 11:36 describes some of the great heros of our faith – “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.” The word “scourging” suggests a whipping brought upon someone to punish or instruct. Is there a lesson here that this woman’s plague was given to her as part of the Lord’s providential leadership, bringing her to the Saviour? What is the likelihood that she would never have come to Him, had she not been sick?
And another diamond hidden in the midst of rubies and emeralds is the word “she was made whole.” “For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” The Greek word is “sozo” (sode’-zo) and it is most often translated “to save.” The angel said to Mary, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Luke 19:10 – “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” I am not going to say this woman was saved from her sins the moment she touched Jesus’ garment, but there is an obvious lesson.
Getting back to the problems of this woman’s faith – It was just like the faith of millions of others throughout world today – it was ceremonial. She told herself, “All that I have to do is touch the hem of his beautiful seamless robe and I will be cured.” The vast population Christendom today looks to externals rather than to the Lord Himself. I have mentioned a man in Calgary, who came once to our church and refused to return because there wasn’t a cross publically displayed in that school gymnasium where we met. There thousands of people whose religion is hung around their necks in the form of a crucifix. It might be their ability to sing a few religious songs. It might even be the fact they own a Bible. These people have faith, but it needs some work in order to run properly. It is like an old car without tires or a steering wheel. “God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” So many people get side-tracked into religious things, while leaving the Lord behind. For some it is all about Jesus’ seamless robe rather than the Lord within. “Without (the right kind of faith,) it is impossible to please him.”
Another weakness in the faith of this woman, was its general selfishness. She didn’t care for the Healer at this point in time. And I get that – she had a personal life-and-death problem. It had been her focus for years; it had destroyed her relationship with friends and family. Her infirmity meant she couldn’t be touched; she couldn’t go into the temple’s court of the women. It had robbed her of all her money. She was growing more and more weak as her anemia worsened. All she wanted from God was a remedy for her disease. She didn’t think about putting the Lord in the spotlight the way that Jarius was doing. It is easy to become so absorbed in our own misery that we forget about others – even God. “Oh, God, save me from this guilt that I bear; it’s ruining my life. I can’t even enjoy the simplest of pleasures any more Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.” I understand those sentiments.
But what happens when the Lord stops and heals us? This woman was already slinking away. Was she ashamed that “straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague”? Why didn’t she immediately turn to someone and share her secret and her joy? Why didn’t she start praising God and thanking her Saviour? I’m sure that we could come up with a variety of explanations. But one of them would have to be some degree of failure in her faith.
But the Lord was not going to let this go without magnifying the lesson of His grace.
Physically she was instantly healed – she was “saved” from her infirmity. And by the way, there was no connection whatsoever with Jesus’ robe and her cure. Just as there is no direct connection between church attendance and forgiveness of sin. But there CAN be a connection between church and salvation when it is through that church the gospel is heard. Christ who knows all things, knew how to reach that woman’s real need. And He didn’t need that robe to heal her. He honored that very weak and ignorant faith of hers and healed her body. But His ultimate goal was far beyond her weakened physical condition.
There are branches of Christendom which demand and require of its people powerful faith. “If our faith was stronger, we’d never have incurable diseases. If our faith was stronger, we’d never suffer from debt or relationship issues. If we’d all unite in a prayer of faith we could end war and bring peace to humanity.” It simply isn’t true.
Faith is nothing but the way the sinner reaches out unto the Lord. The power is not in the faith, but in the One in Whom we are placing that faith. Faith is very much like water, in that it takes the shape of whatever container it is in. And even Satan honors faith sometimes, just to keep people away from truly trusting Christ. In this case Jesus refused to let this lady go away only half full.
Christ confirmed her faith. “Who touched me?” He said as He paused in press. He didn’t ask the question because He didn’t know. Just as He knew “virtue” had been shared with the woman, He knew who the woman was. By the way the word “virtue” is “dunamis” – power – the infinite power of deity. “Who touched thee? Why, dozens of people have touched thee in the last 15 minutes.” The Lord knew that, and He knew who this lady was and what her real needs were. The question was not asked for His sake, but for her’s and for the needs of others. “Woman, your faith may be weak and corrupt, but I want to strengthen it; come back here.”
How many have sat here in this auditorium throughout the years? How many of those people have touched the hem of the Lord’s garment, or been touched by it. Yet how many of those same people walked away from this place still lost in sin? America is filled with people who have brushed by the hem of Jesus’ garment, but are still the children of Satan and headed to Hell. Why? Why? The Lord is willing to stop everything, and call out your name one more time. “Who touched me? Who is walking away empty?”
I don’t understand it, but the Lord is willing to plead with you for your soul. “Cast away from you all your transgression, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” “Come now and let us reason together saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and ye that hath no money come ye buy and eat.” “Come all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Why did Christ ask who had touched Him? He knew perfectly well. But the lady didn’t know that she only had touched the hem of the garment of Christ’s blessing. She was walking away from the Saviour, still as hell-bound as Satan himself. There are thousands in churches around the world today, just like this woman. Christ possesses eternal life and He freely gives it away. But so many touch his robe and walk away still in their disease. Take that little, weak faith that you find God’s already given you and come to Christ. “Lord, I’m a filthy sinner, deserving nothing more than your eternal wrath. But I am clinging to you this morning and will not let you go, except ye bless me. Deliver me from my sins, by your grace, and I will praise your name in midst of the congregation; before the angels of Heaven and throughout eternity. I trust Jesus Christ and his shed blood for my redemption from sin.”
That infirm woman was at first satisfied with her fleshly salvation. But Christ arrested her and I believe gave her far more than she knew – or deserved. What about you?