In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If only I touch His garment, I will be made well.
Here is hero for cancer patients. St. Mark reports she had suffered much under many physicians who had only made her worse.
If only I touch His garment, I will be made well.
Some commentators have thought this woman was superstitious. She thought there was some magic in the garment and wanted something of Our Lord’s power for herself.
I think they are superstitious. They hold some strange notion of God and His power as an abstraction. They fail to recognize the word here translated “well,” is the same word we translate “save.” She is not looking for merely healing. She is looking for a rescue from this body of death. But so what if she was only looking for a temporary, physical healing? Our Lord works through means. She knows enough not to sit in her room and think about God, but to actually go to God in the Flesh, God in our world come to be a Sacrifice. No one comes to the Father but through the Son. How does one come to the Son apart from the Flesh pushed out of Mary’s womb, nailed up upon the cross, risen from the dead, and present in His Church in the Holy Communion? Perhaps there are other ways. But they haven’t been given to us.
If there is a fault in the woman’s thinking, it is not superstition but that she holdes too low of an opinion of Our Lord’s compassion. Perhaps, she thinks to touch His garment because she wants to be healed, but does not want to bother Him. That might sound pious, but it isn’t.
The prayers of the saints – whether they are for big or small or even impossible things – are no bother to Our Lord. Don’t pull this Mid-West humble crap. Don’t protect God from your feelings. Don’t act all shy and self-conscious. That is an insult. Prayer is an act of intimacy. To hold back, to hold out on God, is an indication that you don’t trust Him. If what you want is a good parking spot or to win the game or even your husband back from the dead, but you won’t ask God for it, it means that you think He will laugh at you or won’t care or will think you stupid. Either that, or you don’t think He has the power to give it. God desires you open your heart to Him in prayer, to lay yourself vulnerable. Why won’t you trust Him? Repent. Do not be afraid. He loves you. He loves your prayers. He is not shocked by them any more than a mother is shocked by a 4 year old who wants every toy he sees and wants to be turned into Superman or a dog.
If there was a fault in the woman, it was not superstition, but this. In any case, Our Lord felt the power go out of Him. He knew that He had been touched by faith. And He was not too busy to stop and speak with her, even though He was on His way to raise a dead girl, even though He was in the company of a distraught father. He had time for her. He always has time. And even if she was hesitant and somewhat lacking in trust, He was not angry. He loves her and her faith.
He says, “Your faith has made you well.” But as I already hinted, we might better translated this as “Your faith has saved you.” Either way, this is highest praise from the God who rebukes the disciples for having little faith. This woman’s faith may have been too self-effacing, or she may have thought too little of Our Lord’s compassion, thinking that He wouldn’t want to be bothered with her when a girl was dead, but she displayed no evidence at all of superstition. She had faith and was praised for it.
St. Mark provides more details. He tells us that the ruler of the synagogue’s name was Jairus and his daughter was twelve. That means the girl’s birth marked the beginning of the slow death of the woman who had suffered a discharge of blood for twelve years. It is also means that she died just as she was blossoming into a woman, coming into her own blood, even as the woman who had suffered for twelve years was being undone by the same. Forget not that a woman’s blood is part of the curse. That was why it rendered a woman ritually unclean. If it wasn’t for the failure of Adam, we wouldn’t have this danger and mess. The girl and the woman were both connected to the curse in a particularly feminine way. Men don’t endure this. One had been dying for twelve years, cut off from the Temple, from marriage and society, and her very health in danger, plus she couldn’t bear children. The other was finally coming to her fulfillment and destiny, and just as she did, she died.
There is also a connection in the touching. Jairus asked Our Lord to lay His hands upon the girl. But instead Our Lord took her hand, as though she was laying hands on Him. The woman with the discharge reached out her hand and grasped Our Lord’s garment.
Faith is the hand that grasps grace. The woman had faith. She recognized that Our Lord could do what the physicians could not. That faith saved her. The girl had faith also. But in her case, Our Lord slipped His hand under hers in order to bestow it. She was dead. So He gave her the hand, the grasp, that grasped Him, and called her back from death.
The raising of the dead girl explains the faith of the bleeding woman. Her faith saved her. But where did it come from? It came from Christ who slipped His hand, the Holy Spirit, under hers and guided it to the garment.
That is how it always is with faith. It seeks the risen, living, bodily Christ because it has been bestowed and is maintained by the Holy Spirit who always bears witness to and of Christ. That is why we come to the Holy Supper. We are not here to simply think about Jesus. We are here to be touch Him, to be healed, saved, and raised. This touch is not a metaphor. It is real, physical, even as He is real and physical. He did not rise as a ghost. He is flesh and blood, alive from the grave. Thus does He come to us not as an idea, but as a Body crucified and risen.
Metaphorically speaking, we are all bleeding to death. We are in danger of losing our lives, slowly leaking away by sin. So Our Lord bestows a transfusion. But this is no metaphor. His risen Blood poured into us in the Holy Communion, to not only stop the leak, that is, to forgive our sins, but also to infuse us with His own life, to raise us up.
“If only His Body is placed upon my tongue, I shall me made well,” says the Christian. “Take heart, daughter. Rise, damsel,” says the Lord. “Take, eat. Take, drink. Your faith has saved you.”
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor David Petersen