Christ the Healer
Adapted from a Sermon by Horatius Bonar, 1867
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, (21) for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” (22) Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. Matthew 9:20-22 ESV
Here, we may say, we have the record of one who had learned to do justice to the love of God, and to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a world of unbelief like ours, this cannot be said of many; but here is one. We do not know her name; no other part of her history is told us. She is brought before us simply as one who trusted in the Son of God, who had tasted that the Lord was gracious. Like a sudden star, she shines out and then disappears. But her simple faith remains as our example.
It is not the great multitude pressing around Christ that draws our eye in this scene. It is the woman and the Lord; the sick one and her Healer; the sinner and the Saviour. From everyone else our eye is turned, and fixed on these. In this brief narrative concerning them, we find such things as the following:
I. The way in which these two are thrown together.
The Lord has just received the ruler's message concerning his little daughter, and he is hastening to Capernaum. His direct errand has to do with the dying child. But, on his way, God the Father finds much for him to do; and, by chance, as men say, this sick woman crosses his path and detains him a moment; for it is only sickness, or sorrow, or death, that either detain him or hasten him on. In his blessed path as the healer, he is ever willing to be detained by the sons of men; counting this no confinement, no trouble, no hindrance—but the true fulfillment of his heavenly mission. Opportunities such as these were welcome to him; nor was he at any time too busy, too much in a hurry, to take up the case of the needy, however suddenly they were brought before him. To him no interruption was unwelcome which appealed to his love or power.
These side-errands of the Son of Man were often his most blessed ones, as at
· Nain, where he raised the widows’ son saying to her “Do not weep” and to the young man laying still on the bier, “Young man, I say to you, arise,” (Luke 7:14)
· and at Jacob's well, where he told the Samaritan woman all that she ever did and her eyes were open to see the Messiah, (John 4:29)
· and the sycamore of Jericho where Jesus looked up and saw Zacchaeus the tax collector who, to his eternal joy and blessedness, was “seeking to see who Jesus was.” (Luke 19:3)
I wonder if we prize our own side-errands sufficiently, our so called "accidental" opportunities of working or speaking for God. We like to plan, and to carry out our plans to the end; and we do not quite like interruptions or detentions. Yet these may be, after all, our real work. Little can we guess, when forming our plans for the day, on what errands God may send us; and as little can we foresee, when setting out even on the shortest journey, what opportunity may cross our path, of serving the Master, and blessing our fellow men.
Whitefield, on his way to Glasgow, is drawn aside unexpectedly to spend a night in the house of strangers. To that family he brings salvation. A minister of Christ misses the train which was to bring him to his destination. He frets a little—but sets out to walk the ten miles as best he can. He is picked up by a kind stranger in a carriage, a man of the world, who has not been in the house of God for years. He speaks a word, gives a book, thanks the stranger in the Master's name for his kindness, and rejoices to learn some years later, that he missed the train in order to be the messenger of eternal life to a lost sinner!
In the second place we see
II. The occasion of their being brought together.
It is the incurability of the woman's illness by earthly skill, that leads her to the heavenly physician. Man has done his utmost for twelve years —but has failed. She gets worse, not better. But man's failure brings her to one who cannot fail. Man's helplessness guides her to seek help that is almighty, and sends her to one who can do far more abundantly above all she asks or thinks. (Eph 3:20)
How slow we are to turn from man to God! Not twelve years —but many times twelve years do we continue in our trouble, trying different remedies—going to one and another and another physician, crying, in effect, Heal me, heal me! We hew out cistern after cistern; and still, as each one breaks, we try another. (Jer 2:13)
We go the round of vanity, and pleasure, and sin, endeavouring to fill our empty souls; and turning away at last with the despairing cry, "Oh, “who will show us some good?" (Ps 4:6) But, like the prodigal, we begin to think to ourselves. "There is bread enough in our Father's house," we say—Shall we not arise and seek it? We have tried man, shall we not try God? We have gone to earthly wells, shall we not try the heavenly? (Luke 15:11)
And in this way earthly disappointment is the introduction to heavenly blessedness. The uselessness of human medicines sends us to the balm of Gilead which we read of in Jeremiah, (Jer 8:22) and to the physician who is there. Nor does he reject us because we have tried him last, and because we would gladly have done without him if we could. He welcomes us as if we had come to him first; nor does he reproach us for our delay. Blessed failures, happy disappointments are these, that throw men in this way, with their poor aching hearts, upon the loving-kindness of the Lord!
In the third place we see
III. The point of connection between them.
It is the woman's illness. The Incurability of this illness is the occasion of the connection; but the point or link of connection is the disease itself. Had it not been for this, she would not have sought the Lord. It is not that which is whole about her—but that which is diseased, that draws the healer to the sick one, and the sick one to the healer.
So, it is sin that is our point of connection with Jesus. Not our good—but our lack of good--no, our evil, our total evil. Our death and his life; our weakness and his strength; our poverty and his riches —these are the things that meet and clasp each other. All connection with the Son of God must begin with our sin; for he came not to call the righteous—but sinners, to repentance; he receives sinners; he saves the lost.
This is the point of contention between the Saviour and the self-righteous. This is the truth that we are so slow to learn; yet it is the essence of the gospel. If we only fully knew and acted according to this, how differently would we treat the Lord! Distrust and distance would be ended, for the cause of these would be taken out of the way. We stand far from him because we do not see in him the receiver of sinners; nor thoroughly recognize either his absolute goodness or our absolute evil.
A good thought, a fervent feeling, an earnest prayer, a sorrowful tear—these are great things in our eyes; because we think they will recommend us to Him, and form so many points, at which he and we may come into contact with each other. What regrettable folly and unbelief this is; and what misery and the darkness they produce!
We will not trust him for his own grace and goodness; we must bribe him to bless us! We would hide the evil in us, and we would display the good--in order to induce him to take us into his favour. But it is not in this way that he receives. It is with sin that he deals, and we must bring him that. It is with disease that he deals, and we must bring him that. If we refuse, there can be no meeting between Him and us, until we meet before the judgement throne!
In the fourth place we see
IV. The woman's need of Christ.
Hers had been a long and painful sickness; a great and a long need. Yet it was her need that made her welcome. Blessed need--which makes us welcome to the Lord! As with the woman, so with us. We need Christ! And what an amount of need is implied in this! A man who needs a hundred dollars is needy; but the man who needs one hundred thousand is far more so. That we need Christ—nothing less than Christ, yet nothing more—is the most appalling, yet also the most comforting announcement of a sinner's state that could be made.
Nothing could be said more fitted to awaken, to alarm, to humble, than this—you need Christ! Such is the nature and the extent of your need, that less than the Incarnate Son and his fullness cannot help you. We need Christ! This is the reason for our coming to him, and for his receiving us. We go to him, we deal with him, we make our case known to him—because we need him. It may be our sense of sin or our lack of a sense of sin; it may be our ignorance, our senselessness, our insensibility, our conscious absence of all goodness; it does not matters what it is. Only let these bring us at once and directly to himself. The emptiness is ours; but the fullness is his; infinite fullness dispensed by infinite love!
In the fifth place, we see,
V. If we may say so reverently, Christ's need of the woman.
Does it sound strange to say that Christ needed the woman? Yet in a sense it is true; and as blessed as it is true. The speaker needs his audience, as truly as the audience needs the speaker. The physician needs the sick man, as truly as the sick man the physician. The sun needs the earth as truly as the earth needs the sun. You may say, what would the earth be without the sun? Yes; but what would the sun be without an earth to shine upon? What would become of its radiance? All wasted. It would shine in vain.
So Christ needed objects for the exercise of his skill, and love, and power. His fullness needed emptiness like ours to draw it out—otherwise it would have been pent up and unused. He is glorified, not simply in the possession of his fullness—but in the using of it. If it remains within himself, he is un-glorified, and the Father is un-glorified. He needed opportunities for drawing out his treasures. He needed the tax-collector as truly (though certainly not in the same sense and way) as the tax-collector needed him. He needed Mary Magdalene and the woman of (sick-ARE) Sychar, and Simon the leper, and Lazarus of Bethany, as truly as they needed him. What an cheering thought this is! This sense, again we say it with reserve and reverently, this sense in which the Lord has need of us! He needs guilty ones to pardon; he needs empty ones to fill; he needs poor ones to enrich! How precious and how ample is the gospel contained in this blessed truth!
And lastly in the sixth place, we wee
VI. The woman's thoughts of Christ.
Her thoughts of herself are poor. She is modest and humble; unwilling to impose on the Master. She is earnestly seeking the cure; but she takes the quietest way of obtaining it. Her desire to touch his garment is not error or ignorance--as if supposing that there was some sort of power in it. Nor is her wish for secrecy, unbelief—but simply humility—humility, accompanied with such faith in him, that she feels assured that a touch of his clothing will be enough. She does not want to detain or trouble him; and she has such high thoughts of him as to convince her that a direct appeal is not needed. A touch will do; one touch of his garment!
These seem to be her thoughts in the simplicity of her happy faith. She knows his fullness is infinite, and that simple contact with him in any form will draw it out. The healing power in him is irrepressible. Like the sun--he cannot but shine. Like the garden--he cannot but give out his fragrance. Only let her come within touch of his clothing--and all will be well.
She touched, and as she believed, so was it done to her. All was well.
Let such be our thoughts of this heavenly healer. He is the same in heaven as on earth. This power to heal the sons of men still flows from him. Let us believe and trust in his love and skill—thinking no evil of Him—but only good. The simplest form of connection with him will bring about the cure.
Listening to his voice—that will do it.
A look at his face—that will do it.
A clasp of his hand—that will do it.
A touch of his garment, even of the fringe of this garment—that will do it.
For as many as touch him are made perfectly whole.