The Hem of His Garment
Jairus, ruler of the synagogue, begs Jesus to come and save his dying daughter. Jesus at once agrees, and they begin towards Jairus’ house with the entire crowd following and pressing around Jesus. Time is of the utmost importance, for with every moment that passes, Jarius’ beloved daughter slips closer to death. But suddenly, in the midst of this hurried journey, Jesus stops everyone in their tracks.
What could possibly be more important than a dying girl? Even at this moment she may have been taking her last breath. Yet Jesus abruptly stops and asks, “Who touched me?” The disciples are incredulous. They begin to talk to Jesus as one might talk to a small child – patiently but with a hint of exasperation: “Do you see this crowd? Everyone is jostling and pushing and bumping into you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” Perhaps they were thinking, “The little girl is dying! We need to hurry up.” But Jesus refuses to move. He continues to look around in the crowd, insisting that somebody touched him.
Finally, trembling with fear, a poor woman comes forward and confesses. She had touched Jesus’ garment. She had suffered from bleeding that would not stop for twelve years. She had spent every penny that she had on doctors, but they had only made things worse. But she had heard stories of Jesus. Here was a man who could heal with a mere touch or a single word. She heard and she believed. She believed that Jesus could do what no doctor on earth could do. And she came to Jesus in faith: “If I can only touch his garment, I will be saved.”
Notice, she does not say, “I will be healed.” She comes to Jesus, believing that she will be saved! Multitudes of people throng around Jesus, but few are they who by faith touch him. She does not dare to ask Jesus publicly for help as the ruler of the synagogue had done. And so, whether for fear of being discovered or for shame for the nature of her illness, she came up behind Jesus and touched his garment. Immediately, the fountain of blood was dried up and she knew that she was healed from her scourging. Jesus felt the power go out from him and knew what had happened. The woman was healed, but Jesus was not done with her. She had come to him in faith desiring not simply healing but to be saved.
According to the Law of Moses, those who were bleeding were unclean. For twelve years she had been an outcast from the synagogue and the temple. She could not participate in the yearly sacrifices which made atonement for the sins of the people. She had been forced to live apart from God’s chosen people, from which the promised salvation of the world was to come. And now her body had been healed, but she was still an outcast from the family of God. Yet fearing to ask for more, she would have been content to slip into the crowd and disappear. Death, the last enemy that was at this moment reaching out to snatch the life of Jairus’ daughter, had not relinquished its claim on her. Though her body had been healed, she would die in her sins, and death would have the final word. Yet she was content and would have gone away.
But Jesus was not content. He was not done. He had not come into this world to heal her body. He had come that she might have life – eternal life. The ruler of the synagogue could wait. A multitude of people could wait. There would be time later, for trivial matters, such as rebuking death’s claim on Jairus’ daughter. But at this moment, the Lord of Life stands still, and says to the woman: “Daughter.” With this single word, he declares to her: “You are no longer an outcast. You are now a part of the family of God. You are my child.”
This woman has come to Jesus in faith, asking to be saved, and he does not turn her away. He does not rebuke her for presuming to touch him. Instead he heals her in body and soul. He refuses to continue on his way until he has said: “Daughter, go in peace. Your faith has saved you.”
These are Christ’s words to you. They were first spoken to you at your baptism. “You are my daughter. You are my son. You are no longer an outcast from the family of God. You are no longer a slave to sin.” You belong to Christ because he purchased you with his precious blood, which was poured out without measure – for you. His body was scourged that yours would be healed. He bore your sin at the cross, becoming lower than the lowest outcast so that he might raise you up to live with him, for eternity. Christ would not rest until he had ransomed you from death and devil.
You have come to Christ in faith, expecting good from his hand, yet daring only to touch his garment. Hear then, the word of Christ to you: “Daughter, son, go in peace. Do not fear, only believe. Your salvation is assured.” For Jesus says, “He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall live, for I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 11:25). Amen.