Alfred Place Baptist Church

5:24-34 A Woman Ill For Twelve Years Healed

Mark 5: 24-34 “A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ ‘You see the people crowing against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘ and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.'”

In this small community a local dignitary named Jairus has urged the Lord Jesus to come to his home and heal his 12 year old daughter. They are walking together to that house when this incident occurs. Initially, everything had been done very publicly. Jairus had prostrated himself in the road at the feet of Jesus and pleaded with him earnestly that he would go with him. They went off accompanied by an enormous crowd of curious people in the enjoyment of a parade, virtually everyone in the village who was able to get away, hurrying along the lane with Jesus to Jairus’ home. This was an exciting day for these people, long to be remembered. They pressed in on our Lord, many of them hoping that the little girl would live, others just wanting to see a miracle with their own eyes. Yet there were already those who hated Christ, who longed that his journey to the home of sickness would be futile.

Surely you want to hear of the miracles which the Son of God did on this earth. You can’t get blase about the fact of Christ healing the sick? Your main problem might be your contempt for today’s charlatans and their healing services. There are self-proclaimed ‘healers’ who will take as much money as they can get from simple heartbroken parents who are longing for their children to live. Such a rip-off makes you wild, I trust. Or maybe you have found the pseudo-scientific, positive thinking, quasi-religious approach to healing beyond you – a little too sophisticated and a little too obscure to appeal to your practical mind. We know that when it comes to healing we get into a very questionable area of human experience. It is not easy to be sure if a healing has actually occurred, and we have every reason to be sceptical of healing ministries in general.

A reporter attended a number of meetings of an American ‘healer’, observing everything carefully, and he finally concluded: “Was I witnessing healings? Were these lame being made to walk? Were the deaf suddenly hearing? I don’t know. I cannot know. To study their cases, to see their medical records, to get information from their doctors would require years of research, and, as testified to by some who have tried it, would probably yield only confusion. Like some observers I have come away from the scene neither convinced nor unconvinced. I am left wondering.” That is the way many sympathetic Christians react to the show-biz healing ministries of our day, and you cannot blame people for feeling this way, especially because much so-called faith healing of our time includes a rejection of ordinary medical procedures.

Here is the Lord Jesus Christ who went about preaching the gospel and healing every manner of disease among the people. He had a ministry of healing that has never been equaled or duplicated in this world. Doubt and the devil would make you push that fact out of your consideration and make you say to yourself, “Well, all ancient religious leaders claimed this sort of thing.” No, they didn’t. You don’t find Abraham and Moses and David and Isaiah healing men and women. Neither do you find Buddha or Mohammed healing people. They were teachers of religion and philosophy, but the Lord Christ had a spectacular ministry of healing that has never been equaled or duplicated in the history of the world. There wasn’t a single failure. That is the claim made by all the New Testament writers, including Dr. Luke, and in spite of all the nice things you might say about Scripture then you must admit that it’s merely a book of sweet fables and nonsense if those incidents were lies or at best exaggerations. When Peter speaks on the Day of Pentecost he first of all explains the pouring out of the Spirit as the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy. Then he addresses the people of Jerusalem about Christ, and he introduces him with these words: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). “You know it . . . you know that what I am saying to you is true,” says Peter, because some of them had actually been healed by Jesus, many of them had relatives who had been healed by him, and every one of them knew beggars outside the Temple and people in the towns in which they had grown up whose sick lives had been transformed by the Lord Jesus. There were literally thousands of such cases. Some towns had become sickness-free zones. Christ’s opponents couldn’t say that these were psychologically induced ‘cures’. Some of these had been healthy people for almost three years. His enemies then said that he had healed by the power of Satan. What nonsense!

Let me remind you of one of these cases, and I do so that you all may know that this is another accredited sign which the true and living God accomplished by Christ confirming that Jesus was his Son. It encourages you to trust in him and follow him.

1. A WOMAN HAD BEEN ILL FOR TWELVE YEARS.

“A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years” (v.25). She was certainly chronically ill. “It was as if her monthly menstrual periods were permanent. This would have involved great suffering for her physically, conjugally, personally and socially. Physically, because of vaginal bleeding; conjugally because she could engage in no normal sexual relationship (it is possible that her husband had divorced her); personally, because she could bear no children; and socially, because the menstrual period made her ritually unclean” (Paul Barnett, “The Servant King: Reading Mark Today”, Aquila Press, Sydney, Australia, 1991, p.89). Here was a woman whose illness had caused her to be ostracised from normal society, and debarred her from worship in synagogues (unless she sat with the lepers) and Temple. This had gone on for twelve long years.

During this time Mark tells us, “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (v.26). The Talmud suggested no less than twelve cures for this specific illness. They are primitive medicines and also some utter follies: in one place the Talmud says, “Take of the gum of Alexandria the weight of a small silver coin; of alum the same. Let them be bruised together, and given in wine to the woman that has an issue of blood. If this does not benefit take of the Persian onions three pints; boil them in wine, and give her to drink, and say, ‘Arise from thy flux.’ If this does not cure her, set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her right hand, and let someone come behind and frighten her, and say, ‘Arise from thy flux.'” In another place, the Talmud recommended that the afflicted women carry about with her a barley corn which had been taken from the droppings of a white she donkey. These would have been the sorts of remedies doctors had suggested to this woman, and she had paid dearly for all these ‘cures’ and ended up broke and also in worse health than twelve years earlier.

I dare say that you’ve all had your share of worry about the body, either your own, or the body of someone who is dear to you. Our bodies cause us no end of embarrassment and sometimes, just when we need them most, they let us down. There is the pain that can drain hope from your life and sends you down the path of despair. It is interesting to note that when the physician Luke recounts this incident in the eighth chapter of his gospel he doesn’t mention that this afflicted woman had spent all her money visiting many doctors and that they had done her no good. He just notes that “no one could heal her.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon reminded his London congregation of a number of the doctors that perishing sinners visit who can do them no good – Dr Pharisee, Dr Sadducee, Dr Legality, Dr Ceremonial, Dr Ascetic, Dr Orthodoxy and Dr Preparation! Spurgeon can sound like Bunyan. Keep away from those quacks. But you remember when the finest doctors in the world have done the very best they can do we are still going to die. This woman has ended up after twelve years of sickness older, weaker, poorer and wearier. What is all the world worth when you are sick? What is everything that can be desired worth to you when you are perishing? Sickness takes the flavour out of everything. She was worn out with twelve years of illness, many visits to helpless doctors and charlatans and constant shattered hope. It was W.H. Auden who wrote in ‘Atlantis’ that in order to recognise the true you may first have to be acquainted with the false. So it had been with her.

2. THIS WOMAN MADE A VERY IMPORTANT DECISION.

We might have given up after twelve years of unanswered prayer. We might have been in suicidal despair. She had no money to pay another doctor, and all those she had gone to had made matters worse. Yet this woman had discovered someone named Jesus of Nazareth, and she determined to go to him. She had to get away from all the doctors, and all their suggested cures, and all their bills, and now she would look to Christ. Leave man behind you. In twelve years man has not helped. Christ alone can save you! Out of man and into God. That is the great movement of the gospel, and that is the journey that you must take. Let me use this illustration. Imagine that you are out in the middle of a lake rowing a boat and towing another behind you. Then your boat hits a rock and water starts to pour in. You pull the other boat alongside and you stand with one foot in each boat. But your boat is cracked and letting in the water fast. It is going down and unless you do something you’ll soon be in the lake. The boat that’s been holed represents this woman with her sick and hopeless life going down and down. The boat without holes represents Christ. It should be obvious that with one foot in each boat we’ll still end up in the same place in which we’d have ended up had we had both feet in the boat marked “man.” The only safe place to be is to have both feet planted in the boat marked “the Lord”. This woman had to turn her back on the arm of the flesh, and put her trust in Christ. Come to Christ! Come to Christ alone! Put all your trust in him, not some. Don’t put trust in yourself plus trust in Christ. Not man at all. Christ! Christ alone! Get into him!

The word of God tells us that she does this very thing, but what a plan she adopts. She decides on a very different course of action from the public profile of Jairus who faced Jesus, prostrating himself before him in the street, and pleading with him to heal his daughter. “When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed” (vv. 27&28). What fascinating psychology! Was it superstition that made her act in this way? Had she heard that sometimes the garments of holy men, or even their shadow could bring healing? Did she think that she had nothing to lose in touching his cloak? Or did she do this because she felt herself an outcast? Had she hidden the fact of her illness as best she could and was too ashamed to ask the Lord to heal her? Had she constitutionally become such an outsider that she wanted just to stretch out her hand without making any fuss, touch him, be healed and then get on with her modest life? Or maybe I am misjudging her, and in fact she had strong faith in Christ, and was very poor in spirit? Her thinking was, “Who am I to stop the Lord on his way to Jairus’ daughter? He is so great that he doesn’t need to look at me, or touch me, or speak to me to heal me. If I but show my faith in him by a touch of his cloak – no-one else’s but his – then I will be healed.” It was probably some combination of all of those attitudes. We don’t know.

Certainly we do know that it is neither infallible faith nor omnipotent faith that saves. It is true faith in Christ that we must have to be saved. Think of an explosion caused by a leakage of gas that utterly destroys a home. The house is in utter ruins and it has to be demolished. How big did the flame have to be to ignite the gas and set off such a mighty explosion? It must have been a huge flame like the ones pouring out of a lunar rocket at blast-off. No! Just a tiny spark! A pilot light is flame. That is all that is needed to set off the explosion.

A little faith is faith. A weak faith can lay hold of a strong Christ. A weak hand can tie a knot in marriage as well as a strong. The promises of God are not addressed to those who have mighty faith but those who have real faith. The promises do not say to sinners, “We want you to know that those who have giant faith, who can work wonders, who can walk on water, who can raise the dead, who can stop the mouths of lions – they are the people who shall be saved.” No! Whosoever trusts in Jesus Christ shall not perish but have everlasting life. If your faith is as strong as a bruised reed the Lord says that he will not break it! Think of a raspberry plant, how weak it seems, and yet what rich fruit those delicate branches can bear. How much knowledge of the Scriptures did the dying thief on the cross have? Very little, but he used what knowledge of Christ he had and he cried, “Jesus!”. The weakest lamb in the flock of Christ yet belongs to the Good Shepherd, as much as the strongest ram. Christ will cut out of the vine cankerous members but he won’t destroy the weak branches. If God tells us that we must receive weak members then will he be the one who is going to reject them? With whatever faith she had this sick woman pushed through the crowd until she came close enough to Christ to stretch out her hand and to touch him, and then she melted back into the crowd again.

Think of two believing families living next door to one another in Egypt the night of the first Passover. In the first house they are trembling and doubting all the time they sacrifice the lamb, and sprinkle blood on the doorposts, and cook it and eat it with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, dressed in their traveling clothes. That night they can’t sleep because of worry, wondering whether the first born will be alive in the morning. Every hour the parents go into the bedroom to check whether the lad is still breathing. In the house next door this family are so happy as they obey all the Passover instructions. They go to bed that night trusting in what the Lord has said, and they sleep fast sure that God will keep his word and that their firstborn will be alive in the morning. At the dawn of the new day both families rejoice that their first born sons are running round the house as at every other breakfast time. The family with the weak faith were saved just like the family with strong trust in the Lord, because they did exactly what God told them to do. They certainly weren’t enjoying their faith as the family next door, yet salvation came to their house too. So it is with Christians like Mr. Weak Faith and Mr. Timorous: they will be saved just as long as they keep their trust in Jesus Christ alone, though they are not certain whether they have done it or not. It is not the amount of our faith that saves us, but whether it is placed in him alone.

But why be content with little faith? It brings all sorts of troubles into your life. It leads to worry, and the Lord Jesus says, “if God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:30). It leads to fear: the Lord Jesus said to the men in the boat, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (Matt. 8:26). It leads to doubt: the apostle Peter looked at the winds and waves and began to sink. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). It leads to wrong thinking; the perplexed disciples were arguing about feeding the five thousand with the loaves and fishes and the Lord, aware of their discussion, asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?” (Matt. 16:8). It leads to failure. The Lord warned the disciples, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20). We must never be content with little faith. We must go to the Lord like the father of a sick boy and say, “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief.” We mustn’t rest until we apply ourselves to the means of grace, public and private and are growing in faith and every grace.

The woman with a issue of blood came physically right behind Christ. What is our coming to Christ? It is a movement of heart and mind, empowered by the word of God and the Spirit of God. It constrains us to put our hope and trust in the Lord Jesus alone, asking him to become our Saviour and Lord, Prophet, Priest and King. That is faith which is unto salvation. This sick woman trusted in Christ alone to save her; she put out her hand and touched the hem of his garment, and we are told that, “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (v.29). This was the miracle God did in her life. Straight away she knew a sense of wonderful freedom. What a delight! After twelve years without any exemption from debilitating weakness and disease, walking from one doctor to another, the sovereign balm of perfect health irresistibly fell upon her; it seemed to course through her veins. She stood erect, restored. She had energy! She was well! She could mount up with wings as an eagle. She could run and not be weary. She could walk and not faint.

“She only touched the hem of his garment
As to His side she stole,
Amid the crowd that gathered around Him,
And straightway she was whole.” (George F. Root).

3. THE LORD JESUS’ FOURFOLD RESPONSE.

i] The Knowledge the Lord Jesus had.

“At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him” (v.30). This is the only place in the Bible where you get such an expression. He hadn’t felt the touch on his cloak, but he knew that his power had been directed to someone for their transformation. Let us remind ourselves for a moment of the Lord Jesus, that in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. All the divine omnipotence is in him without measure. That power is personally directed to his individual people day by day. He pours out upon each of us his strength, his graces, his healing power. This is part of his headship over us and his intercession for us. It is not something automatic, as though there were a great Ferris prayer wheel at the right hand of God, like the London Eye, turning round and round, bringing up petitions to the Father, and sending answers down on us. We have a man there, our head, a personal Sovereign Protector, and he smiles over each one of us and then our comforts abound. He hears our prayers, weighs up his answers, knowing what is best for each of us. He sees our needs, he knows when troubles arise and dangers surround us, and he ever lives to make intercession for us. This is the continuing saving work of Jesus, the way he commands his own divine grace to go forth to keep us and also sanctify us. It is no computerised response. He warns some, “I am going to spit you out of my mouth.” To others he gives his hidden manna and a white stone with new name. His grace is his powerful pity and enabling strength. She sought Christ and touched him, and his power healed her.

It is not mere omnipotence that reigns over us. It is always the strength of the God-man. It had been costly power for him in his state of humiliation. When he prayed it was with strong cryings and tears. When he agonised in the Garden his sweat was as it were drops of blood. They were days of weakness and humiliation. There were times when he slept with weariness on a boat in a storm, and sat on a well and asked a woman for a drink. After resisting the devil in the wilderness angels needed to come to him to minister to him and revive him again. So he had freely and graciously willed that this needy longing woman who touched him should be healed. He determined to honour her faith though it was imperfect and muddled. “She shall be well,” he decreed, but that decision was not without some cost. So power went out from Jesus, in other words, during his ministry in Galilee he paid a price for his grace to the sinners that clamoured around him day by day. There were burdens Christ bore before Golgotha. But I am stressing that that weakness does not characterise Jesus’ intercession or his headship over the church today. The head that was once crowned with thorns is now crowned with glory. Jesus reigns by the power of an endless life. He who watches over us doesn’t slumber with tiredness nor does he sleep. But it is still the exalted man who remembers the tears, the groaning and the taste of the cup which he drank who hears and answers our prayers, and sympathises with me. I am saying that God feels for one of his people as if he or she were the only one in all the universe he had to care for. All the power of his love and grace are focused on that one person. His power today goes out to that one.

ii] The Question the Lord Jesus asked.

“He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'” (v.30). Now the Jesus of the gospels clearly possessed supernatural knowledge. We have a hint of this when as a boy of twelve he goes to the Temple and amazes everyone at his understanding and his answers. Of course men were amazed at the genius of the young Mozart. We are not saying that Jesus was a boy genius. Being precocious and being miraculous are two different things. But throughout the gospels our Lord’s supernatural knowledge is clearly evidenced. The Son of God knew the character of Nathanel before he met him. He knew that the woman of Samaria had had five husbands. He knew long before he saw Mary and Martha that their brother Lazarus had died. He knew that inside the mouth of a fish there would be a coin sufficient to pay the temple tax. He knew that there was a shoal of fish on one side of the boat after the men had been up all night and caught nothing. He knew that when his disciples went to look for a room in which to hold the Passover they would be met by a man carrying a jar of water.

All this is impressive knowledge. The Son of God had a different knowledge from ourselves, first of all because of his sinlessness. His intellect was perfectly attuned to the mind of God. Secondly, in the uniqueness of his intimate relationship with God. He conversed with God as his own Father, and God disclosed himself to Christ as to his Son, both to Christ’s thinking and in his thinking. Revelation was concurrent with his own thought-processes, and yet he is also a real man, and so there has to be ignorance. Humanness can’t be omniscient. You can’t put within the cranium and the brain of a man all the knowledge of every single thing that is in the universe and outside the universe, and everything that is in God. Man cannot know God exhaustively. No man has known the Father like that. God alone has that knowledge. So, when the Son of God took flesh, he also took ignorance – as he took weakness and mortality. I am talking about his human nature, of course. The Lord Jesus was not ashamed to ask questions – as here, or when he asks where is Lazarus buried, or when he says that the information about the date of the second coming and the end of the world has not been given to him. He really didn’t know it. The Father had chosen not to reveal the time to him. It was no more help to him than to us to know the date. It has no bearing on Christian conduct and devotion. As God the Son of course he knows, but as man he does not. It is not sinful not to know everything. It is only sinful to pretend, or to teach falsehood as truth. Christ was never ignorant of anything that he ought to have known. As a boy growing up in Nazareth there was much that he did not know, but as our Mediator he knew all that he needed to know, and all that the church needed to know. Jesus grew in wisdom by listening to his teachers, and asking them questions, and doing his lessons, and studying the Scriptures, and observing the relationships of family and friends. Christ freely chose to come into a situation where he would be ignorant of many things. He could have summoned omniscience – like he could have summoned 12 legions of angels, but he resisted that temptation. He served God and man within the limits of being a true finite human being. So the man Christ Jesus turned around in the crowd. He didn’t wonder to himself who had touched him; he asked aloud, “Who touched my clothes?”

The disciples looked blank. The Lord is surrounded by people; they are pressing in on him on every side. One of twenty people at that moment could have brushed against him. Did the disciples think that he was getting a little paranoid, or fussy about being touched? “‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?”‘” (v.31). They are impatient, aren’t they? It seemed to them a rather silly question. They can see Jairus pressing on for home; they had no understanding that in the audience there was someone who was reaching out to Jesus for salvation. They had a programme, and it was rigid. Jesus was expected to work by their programme. There was no flexibility. The priest and the levite on their journey had a programme, and when they came across a man groaning and bloodied lying on the road their programme was far too important for them to stop and help him. The Lord Jesus knows there is a person in need reaching out to him, and that person has priority. The person is now in what we may dub a ‘half-saved’ situation – I can’t describe that theologically. I mean the woman was better, but she still had some ideas tinged with superstition and magic. She needed counseling and help.

iii] The Long Look the Lord Jesus Gave.

“But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it” (v.32). Love made him look like that. The Son of Man came to seek . . . that which was lost.

“Jesus, my Saviour, to Bethlehem came,
Born in a manger to sorrow and shame;
O, it was wonderful – blest be His name!
Seeking for me, for me!”

It was the same love that took him to Jairus’ home to unite a family, and the same love that made him delay until Lazarus died, before going to his sisters in their home, and raising him from the dead. When a rich young ruler came asking Jesus questions we are told, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mk. 10:21). I can say with all the authority of God today that the Christ who is present wherever two or three gather in his name is looking around on us all, and he is looking at many of you with love. Some of you are unsaved, and others do not understand the Christian faith very well, but Jesus has loved you so much he has brought you again to this assembly of God to hear about his great grace. As the Lord was going to Jairus’ daughter this person had interrupted the journey in her need. She had reached out to Jesus for help. She touched him, and once he knew this he loved that person. Where was she? There were times when John Wesley had to check himself and gain his composure when he was preaching because, he said, ‘our hearts were so filled with a sense of God’s love.’ That was Jesus here. The woman still had great need and Jesus sought to met her need. Was she believing that there was some healing power in the clothes Jesus wore? Millions of people believe that today. They will bow before a shroud; they will long to see a relic; if an old bone or piece of cloth (which may have been connected with a religious man of ancient times) can be brought to a sick person then they believe it has potency to save. Would this woman walk away in her new vigour and speak of the potency of Jesus’ cloak? He kept looking around to see who had touched him.

What does Jesus see in your life now? You are labouring and heavy laden and this is the place you have come, where the Lord Jesus is to be found. That shows that the Lord Jesus loves you. Or perhaps he discovers something very different, that you have a stubborn heart. What sinfulness, and you can’t hide it from him. You remember from Mark 3 how he responded to that? “He looked around at them in anger and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mk. 3:5). Jesus keeps looking at all of us, at the youngest and oldest, to see where there is great need of him, and where there is stubbornness. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebs. 4:13).

iv] The Statement the Lord Jesus Made.

“Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” (v. 33). Before his daughter was healed Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet. After the woman was healed she fell at his feet. But both fell at his feet. If there were one place in heaven or earth for which we imagined we were fit it might be at Jesus’ feet, but sin keeps us from that place. Sinners walk tall, but angels prostrate fall! What an honour for them to lie prostrate at his feet! One day every knee will bow; all will lie at his feet, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That’s what this woman was confessing as she lay trembling in the dust before him. What no doctor could do, this one, without stopping in his journey, had done. She only touched the hem of his garment. She shook and shivered in terror as she lay before him, and through her chattering teeth told the Lord everything that had happened. Things she didn’t want anyone else in the world to know, she told him. Secret matters of long ago that she thought she’d never speak of, in his presence it all flowed out.

That is what you must do. You must keep nothing back. No one else needs to know what happened. I don’t need to know the whole truth, but you must tell it to this One who knows everything. In other words, you must tell the whole truth to the One who knows the whole truth. Isn’t that ironic? We tell him what he already knows. So we don’t keep back a thing. We make no excuses; we don’t try to blame others, or blame our upbringing, or our personalities. We tell Christ the whole truth about ourselves. That’s painful. That’s why men choose to tell an AA group or a psychiatrist or a priest many things about themselves, but not Christ. Or they choose to tell Christ selected things about themselves, but not everything. But Christ insists that you go to him alone, and you tell him all the truth about yourself. Have you ever done that? No? Then are you a Christian? If I understood the gospel aright then a Christian is someone who has come to Jesus Christ with her great need, and kept nothing back. Why? Because, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9). She had her plan, and thought she could do it her way, but only a glance from Jesus and she is on the floor before him trembling. Who are you dealing with? The living God.

What was Christ’s response? It was not a rebuke at all. “‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (v.34). “Daughter,” he called her. It is the only place in Scripture where we find the Lord Jesus calling someone by that title. She could have been older than Christ, yet what intimate tenderness he showed her. Christ is the prophesied Messiah, the ‘Everlasting Father’ of his people. Then the Lord tells her something of crucial importance, “your faith has healed you.” It was not the hem of the garment that healed her, not her smart decision to touch him, not her superstitions, but her faith in him. She mustn’t go through life thinking of him merely as an amazing healer. It was he who was the one who’d healed her, not his clothes. He’d healed her through her faith in him. If she were well in body, but for the rest of her life imagined the secret of her healing had been the mighty healer’s cloak, then she’d still be sick in her soul. He’d been the one who had healed her; it was not her touching him. The healing was not in her touch. The touch was a mere sign of her faith. The healing was all in him. He healed her and all she brought to him was a sickness that yearned for him to change her.

“It is not thy tears of repentance or prayers,
But the blood that atones for thy soul;
On Him, then, who shed it, thou mayest at once
Thy weight of iniquities roll.
Look, look, look and live!
There is life for a look at the Crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee.” (Amelia Matilda Hyll, 1825-1882).

We are saved by Christ alone. Our faith did not die for us on the cross. Our faith did not rise on the third day for our justification. Our faith is not reigning now in heaven. That is Christ. He saves, but he does so through our entrusting ourselves, body and soul for time and eternity to him alone. Christ saves, but without our trusting in him we will die in our sins. You must have faith in him. Hence, that kind of faith, faith which is in Christ, is the only faith that can save us.

I stand in the lobby of a skyscraper before the Otis elevators. The door opens and now I must show my faith by stepping inside and pressing button 25. Unless I do that I will still be on the ground floor. My faith in Mr. Otis who designed that elevator must show itself in my personal decision. I get inside it and I push button 25. Does my faith take me up 25 floors? No, it is the power of the machinery which Mr. Otis designed and maintained that will take me up and up to that place I need to go. He takes me there. All the power and achievements are his. All I contribute is my need and trust and obedience to do what he says. That is saving faith.

“Go in peace and be freed from your suffering,” says Jesus. She thought deliverance by Christ would be some private act that she could do and then get on with her life. How naive can you be? No way! This transformed radiant active woman was utterly different from the one who had crept up to him, hidden by the crowd, putting out her hand and vanishing back into the crowd again. “Come on! Come out! Take your stand! Let’s hear what you have done! Are you ashamed of me and what I have done for you?” She falls before him and tells him everything. What joy, to cease being a secret disciple! What a full and happy life lies before you when you can say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Roms. 1:16). There is no turning back. From now on you go in Jesus’ peace. When Cortez set out to conquer Mexico he found a spirit of discouragement amongst his soldiers. They felt they were so few for such an immense task. The soldiers would have gone back to Spain then and there. So what did Cortez do? He took a few of his leading officers and they went down to the shore and they scuppered all their boats. They cut large holes in them and sent them all to the bottom of the sea. Now his soldiers couldn’t turn back. There was just one way before them, and that was to conquer or to die in the attempt. That is the issue before each of us, life or death. Heaven or hell. Pardon or condemnation.

The woman began with the peace of Christ, and that was how she was to go on. Part of my connection with the Banner of Truth is that sometimes I get sent manuscripts to read to judge whether they are suitable for publication. I read one this last week by a man called M. W. J. Phelan. It was a fascinating book about Scripture, and a few sentences leapt out at me and moved me deeply. It appears that Mr. Phelan had no contact whatsoever with Christianity as he was growing up, but then somehow he got hold of a book called “Good News for Modern Man.” He had no idea that it was a translation and paraphrase of the New Testament and so he read it without any preconceived bias, and this is what he says: “As I read its pages, I was drawn more and more deeply into the heart of its teaching until I reached a definite point where an event of recognition occurred. Without the aid of any other human being, immediately and comprehensively, I was granted the realisation that what I was reading was absolutely and eternally true. The impact this recognition made upon me was life-changing, and brought a feeling of joy combined with wonder and awe. For me, there could be no going back: from that moment on, I knew I was reading words that for ever are true, and must be lived by, and if need be died for.”

It was such a day for this woman. What a new life lay before her. Christ says to her, “Go in peace!’ Go into my peace. Live with my peace keeping you day by day. Here is the new life of wholeness which only the child of God can know. We know who we are, for what purpose we are in the world, we know God, we know what we must do to be saved, we know man’s chief end, we know what lies beyond the grave. That is the life of completeness, of love, joy and peace. That is why Christ came, that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Go in peace! No more torment of ignorance, and guilt, and shame, and vain regrets. No more a life of constant failure. ‘Be freed from your suffering,” says the Saviour to you today who put your faith in him alone.

29th June 2003 GEOFF THOMAS