Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 11/13/94
Luke 8:40 And as Jesus returned, the multitude welcomed him, for they had all been waiting for him. 41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue. And he fell at Jesus' feet and began to entreat him to come to his house. 42 For he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. But as he went, the multitudes were pressing against him. 43 And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years and could not be healed by anyone 44 came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his cloak. And immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 And Jesus said, "Who is the one who touched me?" And while they were all denying it, Peter said, "Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon you." 46 But Jesus said, "Someone did touch me, for I was aware that power had gone out from me." 47 When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace." 49 While he was still speaking, someone came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, "Your daughter has died. Do not trouble the Teacher any more." 50 But when Jesus heard this, he answered him, "Do not be afraid any longer. Only believe, and she shall be made well." 51 And when he had come to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him except Peter and John and James, and the girl's father and mother. 52 Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her. But he said, "Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep." 53 And they began laughing at him, knowing she had died. 54 He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Child, arise!" 55 And her spirit returned and she rose immediately, and he gave orders for something to be given her to eat. 56 and her parents were amazed; but he instructed them to tell no one what had happened.
We come today to two stories so intertwined that they demand to be studied together: the raising of Jairus' daughter and the healing of the woman who had the issue of blood. The way they are intertwined raises some interesting questions. Why did Jesus go out of his way to elicit a public confession from the woman, but then turn around and forbid Mr. and Mrs. Jairus in effect to make one by commanding them not to tell anyone what had happened? In the answers lie an understanding not only of the incidents in themselves, but also of the way in which Jesus treated people as individuals.
What did this woman want? Obviously, to be healed of an incurable disease. Mark's version of the story mentions that fact that she had spent all of her money on many physicians who had done her no good--a fact that Dr. Luke, possibly sensitive to the reputation of the medical profession, did not feel it necessary to include! But there was more to it than that. Why did she just want to touch the hem of Jesus' robe? All pious Jews were required to have a tassel on the corner of their robe by Num. 15:37-41. This was worn by all Jews out of obedience. But the Pharisees had big, gaudy, ostentatious tassels as a symbol of their holiness. Sadly, this spoke of a piety they falsely claimed to possess rather than the sanctity they should have been seeking. But the point is that the tassel had become a symbol of spirituality. The woman's motives now begin to become clear. She had faith in Jesus as the Messiah, but it was obviously a faith mixed with superstition. She though if she could just touch his tassel, his spiritual power might be transferred or "rub off," and that this would heal her. There is also another necessary piece of background information we need in order to understand her fully. According to Lev. 15:25, her bleeding made her ceremonially unclean. Nobody was supposed to touch her. So another reason she tried to touch Jesus' garment rather than simply asking for healing was probably that she was embarrassed and wanted to receive healing and sneak away without attracting any attention. It was not so much humility that led her to this strategy as superstition mixed with inadequate desire. She wanted to be healed, but did not have the faith or understanding to believe that she could have much more: a relationship with Christ!
Understanding what the woman was up to helps us to understand Jesus' question: "Who touched me?" It was undoubtedly not simply a request for information. Jesus' awareness of the activation of his healing power--which was almost certainly not triggered in the superstitious way the woman had intended--and Mark's comment in 5:32 that Jesus looked around at her--imply that he was well aware of what was going on. The question was not to satisfy his own curiosity, but to create an opportunity for the woman. He wanted to complete a process that her superstitious faith had been sufficient to begin, but could not have brought to its conclusion without growing beyond itself. He was glad to heal her physical ailment, which was not something to belittle in its seriousness. But he wanted to give her much more than that. He wanted her to look him in the eye and hear him say, "Go in peace." Physical health is not to be despised, but Jesus came to give us something much greater than that: his Shalom.
There are at least three things the Lord teaches us by his treatment of this woman. First is that salvation is by faith, not by magic. He goes out of his way to prevent her intended escape as if to say, "It's not my tassel; it's me!" It is not physical contact but trust in me as Messiah that saved you. The churches have developed--in some cases been given by the Lord--a number of things to help people be incorporated into fellowship with one another and with Christ. Baptism and Communion were established by Christ himself. We have added things like confirmation, church membership, going forward at an altar call, etc. Some of these things are necessary; all can be helps. But if we think that they have power to save in themselves, if we divorce them from the personal faith in Christ as Lord and Savior that they are designed to foster, they become mere tassels and our faith mere superstition.
Second, salvation is not so much the alleviation of particular troubles--even of the flames of Hell--as it is a personal relationship with God as Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting that in vs. 47, the woman claims only to have been healed. In vs. 48, Jesus uses the larger word: Her faith has saved her. Healing, relief from felt needs, is not the main thing. The main thing is allegiance to Christ as Lord, becoming part of his Kingdom.
Third, we learn that true faith involves confession (vs.. 47). It is when the woman declares before all the people what Christ has done for her that she receives his blessing. As Paul put it, if we believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with our mouths that God has raised him from the dead, we shall be saved (Rom. 10:9-10). There are still many Christians who just want to touch the tassel, but not necessarily to come face to face with the Lord. They may be saved if faith is present, however shallow or confused. But Jesus says to them, "Who touched me? Where are you? Come forth and be counted!" And he will not let us rest until we do.
The huge question that jumps out at us from this story is why, after going out of his way to elicit a public confession from the woman, did Jesus work so hard to suppress the one that so naturally would have been forthcoming from Mr. and Mrs. Jairus after the raising of their daughter from the dead? The answer lies in the difference in the audience and what they could have been expected to do with that confession. When Jesus told the mourners that the girl was only asleep, they laughed at him. Really, they ridiculed him. Why had he said she was asleep? Not that she wasn't really dead. But what was a permanent condition to men was nothing more than sleep to him. And he knew that he was going to wake her up from that sleep. But the mourners outside, unlike Jairus himself, neither had faith in Jesus nor were open to it. Therefore, Jesus' handling of the situation in this case becomes an act of judgment on their unbelief.
Imagine the situation. They have just ridiculed Jesus for saying the girl was asleep. So he goes in with only Peter, James, and John, and the parents and raises her from the dead. But they are not supposed to tell what happened. Yet the girl is alive and has a healthy appetite. So what are they going to tell the crowd? "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." What would the crowd think? They could only think that the girl had been asleep, and feel extremely foolish and ashamed for what they had said to Jesus. These people had just blown the opportunity to participate in one of the greatest of the triumphs of the Kingdom, a resurrection from the dead! Yet because of their unbelief, they are only given what they are able to receive. They are left with a strong taste of dust in their mouths.
It is a dangerous thing to mock at the Word of God! It may lead to the loss of the opportunity to hear and believe it later. It just may be that Christ will only give us what we are able to receive. His forbidding of Jairus to tell anyone what happened in effect leaves the mocking mourners in the position of the dwarves in C. S. Lewis's conclusion to the Narnia books, The Last Battle. Sitting under the bright sky in Aslan's country, they believe they are in a dark and filthy stable. How, they ask, can they see what ain't there? And when Lucy tries to share some violets with them, they reject it as stable litter and thistles. No matter what the children or even Aslan himself try to do for them, they refuse to be "taken in." "You see," said Aslan, "they will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison, and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out" (TLB 185-6). They are a graphic picture of what happened to the crowd at the funeral. Let us not end up like them!
Part of the meaning of faith is being willing to receive what God has to give you. Jesus questioned the Woman with the Issue to draw out that faith. He found it utterly lacking in the mourners at Jairus' house. What will he find in us?
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams