Thy faith hath made thee whole…
In the course of the green season –when the Church emphasizes spiritual growth and fertility, we read much about the miracles of Jesus. Our English word miracle is a translation from the Greek word dunamis, and it means mighty work or power. Archbishop Trench says that a miracle is an outcoming of the mighty power of God, which is inherent in Christ himself, that great power of God. (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. ) A miracle is a manifestation of God’s power, through Jesus Christ, His expressed Word, and by the power of the Holy Ghost. Most of the miracles found in Scripture can be traced to Christ in the days of His Incarnation. They are manifestations and revelations of God’s power, which are effected directly or indirectly through Christ himself. John Donne tells us that there is in every miracle a silent chiding of the world, and a tacit reprehension of them that require, or who need, miracles.(Trench, p. 16)
Miracles are offered from God to man in order to remind us of that power which we are habitually in danger of forgetting. This is the power that must, at times, startle and shake us out of an otherwise somnolent and sleepy spiritual sloth. Through miracles, God reveals Himself to the Jews. Through miracles, God reveals Himself, in Jesus Christ, to their descendants. Through miracles, we find that curative dynamism that intends to reveal a power that carries man from nature back to God. What is a man to be healed of, you might ask? Everyman is to be healed of anything that stands between him and his Maker. The particular instance of healing is not what is important. God intends His power to elicit from man a deeper consciousness of his absolute need for and dependence upon His Maker for his salvation and deliverance.
In today’s Gospel lesson we read of two miracles which should encourage us to seek out the power of God in Jesus Christ for our own lives. We read of one healing that is sought out personally by the sufferer and another vicariously through entreaty and prayer. First, we find healing that is sought out desperately on behalf of another. Second, we find the disposition of one who must interrupt and help us to better understand that disposition that seeks out healing in the first place. The second healing that we read about today in the woman with the issue of blood interrupts and instructs the ruler who seeks out his daughter’s healing. Thus the power of God is obtained by one who then teaches the other about what the spiritual nature ought to be that seeks out healing for the self and others.
First, of course, there is the ruler who comes to Jesus, honors him, and begs him to come down to heal his daughter who has just died. My daughter is even now dead, but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. (St. Matthew ix.18) And so Jesus arises and with His disciples follows the man to fulfill his request. Then something interrupts their journey so that Jesus can reveal to the ruler what should have preceded his intercession for his daughter. Remember, the order of the healings is all important. As Jesus journeys towards the ruler’s house, someone touches Him. Behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. (St. Matthew ix. 20,21) Situated between the ruler’s petition and Jesus’ effective response to it, is another kind of character. Christ knows that the interruption will teach the ruler about a virtue that he needs.
So the woman with an issue of blood twelve years interrupts the journey into healing for the benefit of our enlightenment. This woman is, as it were, another self, placed between our prayers for others and God’s response to them. She is really an alter-ego of the ruler who desires that Jesus will resuscitate his daughter. She is what he ought to have been before he sought out Jesus for his loved one. She represents that spiritual character and disposition which must interject itself into the occasion of prayer before a man becomes fit and ready to pray for others.
So what does this mean? Think about it. How can we possibly approach God with worries and anxieties about others until He has made us right with himself? No doubt there is nothing wrong with wanting the healing of others and our loved ones. The example of the ruler provides us with real humility; here we find a man honored in the earthly city who stoops down to visit Jesus for a power that he did not possess. Yet is it enough to humble ourselves before Jesus with supplication for others? The woman in this morning’s Gospel furnishes us with a faith that seeks out Jesus first for the healing of her own soul. She needs Christ’s healing. She has suffered physically for twelve years. She is not too proud to stand out from the crowd and confess her own weakness. She knows that she cannot supplicate Christ for others until she has supplicated him for her own sins. She knows that she is sick and she seeks a cure. She cannot help herself and thinks herself far less worthy than the ruler. So she surmises that she might just touch the hem of Jesus’ coat in order to be healed. She is not only sick but lowly in her own eyes. She has spent her last mite on physicians trying to find a cure. So she pushes her way through the crowd in order to reach Jesus. She knows that because of who He is the very garments that cover His skin will be sufficient for her need. She touches him. Jesus, perceiving that virtue has gone out of Him (St. Luke viii. 46), says to her, daughter be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. (St. Matthew ix. 22) Jesus has sensed that one member out of many in the crowd has reached out to Him with a special kind of humility and faith. She is one whose humility reaches out for what it does not deserve but must obtain. So the woman’s character reveals to us that humble sense of unworthiness that knows even some brush with Jesus will elicit a healing that none other can give. She is a sign too of one whose faith reveals such trust that a mere touch with no words will be sufficient to find the cure that Jesus carries to all men.
A sick and sinful woman in need reached out to Jesus Christ with faith. There can be no doubt that Jesus was thronged by a multitude of sick, diseased, and sorry people. But one woman’s faith reaches out to touch Him in silent humiliation. The commentators remind us that she might have touched His garment, been healed, and gone away with a healing and restoration that was as concealed and hidden as her original disease. But Jesus would have none of it. The kind of faith that the woman used to procure Jesus’ miracle must be brought out into the open so that its earnest goodness might inspire others to imitation. This is the kind of faith that must travel out of fear and trembling into the clear light of God’s healing embrace. The woman with the issue of blood would have been banned from temple-worship and from participation in the religious life of the Jews by reason of her illness. She concluded that her illness was a result of her sin and that the healing of the ruler’s daughter was of far more importance than her own inconsequential and forgotten existence.
She hoped to remain in concealment out of a shame, which, however natural, was untimely in this the crisis of her spiritual life; but this hope of hers is graciously defeated. Her heavenly Healer draws her from the concealment she would have chosen; but even here, so far as possible, He spares her, for not before, but after she is healed, does He require the open confession from her lips. She might have found it perhaps altogether too hard had He demanded this of her before; but, waiting till the cure is accomplished, He helps her through the narrow way. Altogether spare her this painful passage He could not, for it pertained to her birth into the new life. (Trench, Ibid, 150)
Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Idem) Her faith has conquered Jesus’ heart and procured His virtue. Her entry into new life must be a public and not a private affair.
The world is full of well-intended men who seek temporary relief from their sicknesses from experts, seers, sages, doctors, and philosophers who have all kinds of earthly knowledge. Those seeking out their services have tended to put body before soul and flesh before spirit. And thus it must be with the greatest interest that we turn our attention to today’s miracle story. For today we must learn to turn once again to Christ first with all of our ailments, sicknesses, and diseases of body, soul, and spirit. We must approach Christ with the deepest faith in His power to heal. Christ brings out the faith of the woman with the issue of blood in order to make public what must never be concealed or hidden in us. Christ desires to elicit a humble dependence and persistent faith that can help others to find Him also.
Many throng Christ; His in name; near to Him; in actual contact with the sacraments and ordinances of His Church; yet not touching Him, because not drawing nigh in faith, not looking for, and therefore not obtaining, life and healing from Him, and through these. (Trench, Ibid, 149)
We must approach Christ with hearts stirred by deepest faith and trust. That faith must be informed and defined by a real sense of our own sickness and thus the need for Christ’s cure. It will do no good to think that the substance of Christ’s Redemption is for other people and then with the healing of their bodily ailments or the postponement of death. Our salvation was paid for by the blood of the Son of God. Faith is NOT Speaking into Existence what WE want, it's BELIEVING and OBEYING what Jesus Christ wants for us. (Martha Mac)
So today let us in all humility with a sense of our utter unworthiness approach our Saviour for healing. With St. Paul, let us be filled with the knowledge of [Christ’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that [we] might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. i. 9,10) And all of this because a woman with an issue of blood has taught us to reach out and touch the hem of Christ’s garment. Amen.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons