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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Hem of His Garment

A lot of times we read accounts of events that happened in scripture accounting them to be but a historical record and of no special importance to us today.  The account of the woman healed from her flow of blood is one such event that can easily be overlooked as having no importance for you and me today--that is until we look closer at it.  The account of this healing can be found in Matt. 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, and Luke 8:43-48.  Because Matthew's account is so short I will quote it here.

"And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment; for she said to herself, 'If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.'  But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, 'Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.'  And the woman was made well from that hour."  (Matt. 9:20-22 NKJV)

At the time this event occurred Jesus was on his way to raise from the dead Jairus' daughter.  Jesus and the disciples were accompanied by a great multitude on their journey to the home of Jairus and in that crowd was the woman who is the subject of our study.

We live in a day and age where the idea that seems to prevail is that faith alone saves.  The idea is that no effort on our part is required for that would be, we are told, salvation by works.  Jesus said this woman was healed by her faith but according to today's thinking why did she have to leave home to be healed?  She believed in Jesus and his powers before ever making the journey to meet him else why leave home to go?  Why did she if faith alone is sufficient?  Why would her faith not heal her at home? 

The answer is really quite simple and is written all through the Bible and taught time and time again.  Faith must act if it is to be of any value.  This unnamed woman had undoubtedly heard from others that those who touched Jesus were often healed of whatever disease they had.  Luke's account of the story is found in chapter 8 but in chapter 6 earlier in time we read that, "the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all." (Luke 6:19 NKJV) 

Mark's account of the event of the woman's healing is found in chapter 5 but in the next chapter, a little later in time, we are told, "Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well." (Mark 6:56 NKJV)  It must have been well-publicized throughout the country that by touching Jesus one could be healed.  The woman left home based on some things she had heard and believed.  That much is obvious.  The test of her faith was whether or not she would leave home to go to Jesus.  Was her faith strong enough to get her to act?  It was a test of her faith.

Many people today do not believe faith is tested.  God, however, has always tested faith.  Adam and Eve had a test before them of their faith in God while in the garden.  Would they believe God or the serpent?  Would Noah believe God concerning a flood to come and build the ark or would he not believe and thus not build it?  Would Abraham offer up Isaac or would he not do it?  The Bible specifically calls this a test for it says, "God tested Abraham." (Gen. 22:1, Heb. 11:17 NKJV)  We can call these events and many others like them tests of obedience if we want to for they are that but if we stop there we have stopped short and failed to see the big picture.  Why does one obey in the first place?  There is only one reason—one obeys because one believes.  He believes the word of God and believes it is essential to obey it to achieve the end he desires.

The Hebrew writer reminds us of the reason the children of Israel failed to enter the Promised Land when he says in Heb. 3:18-19, "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." (NKJV)  They did not obey God for they did not believe God.  Moses reminds the children of Israel of what happened when he says, "And I said to you, … Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers, has spoken to you … Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD you God." (Deut. 1:20, 21, and 26 NKJV)  God had given them the promise of victory over the inhabitants of the land but they did not believe God and thus feared and failed to act.  Moses says plainly, "You did not believe the LORD your God." (Deut. 1:32 NKJV)

A man acts when a man believes.  We strictly obey the speeding law when we see a state trooper parked along the side of the road because we believe he will indeed come after us if we violate the law.  The first thing we do when we see an officer is look at our speedometer and if it shows us over the speed limit even a tiny bit we will do whatever is necessary to get ourselves slowed down.  We act because we believe.  Genuine belief leads to action.  So it is also in religion.  This is why only a deeply committed faith can save because it is the only kind of faith that is strong enough to act, to obey God.      

Our lady with the issue of blood acted on her faith.  Today one often hears that baptism, clearly a command of God (I have never heard anyone disagree with that), just does not matter.  Many seem to believe you can disobey God and not be baptized and you can and will still be saved.  Have you ever given thought to the idea that baptism might well be a test of your faith? 

When we say this command matters and I will obey it on the one hand but then, on the other hand, say that this other command does not make that much difference so I will be negligent in my obedience to it then we have displaced the king of glory as the lawmaker, we have displaced King Jesus and made ourselves king.  James puts it this way, "if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge." (James 4:11 NKJV)

We do not get to decide what laws ought to be obeyed and which ones can be discarded.  James goes on to say "there is one Lawgiver" (James 4:12 NKJV) and that is not you or me.  Disobedience can expose ignorance of the word of God or weakness of the flesh but it also in many cases exposes unbelief, unbelief being the root cause of the disobedience.

Most of us are probably familiar with Heb. 11:6, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (NKJV)  The part of this verse that is overlooked is the last part, a thing the text says must be believed—"that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."  No person who is willfully disobedient to the commands of God can be said to be a diligent seeker after God.  Why are they not diligent seekers?  They lack the faith to be such.  Faith and action (we might well call it obedience) must travel together or, as James says, faith is dead and thus useless.  "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:20 NKJV)

What have we learned from the woman who was healed of her blood flow issue?  For healing to take place faith must be accompanied by action.  That is as true of spiritual healing as it was of her physical healing.  It was not enough to travel to where Jesus was.  Once there she had to follow through and touch Jesus’ garment.  That is what her faith required.  Would Jesus have healed her without her faith following through with this act?  He didn't; he didn’t heal her until she reached out and touched his garment.  That was in accord with her faith.

Her faith in Jesus' power to heal was just as great before she touched him, when she left her home to travel to meet him, as it was when she actually reached out and performed the act but the act was required.  She was not healed a single second before she reached out and her faith was made perfect by her works.

It is a simple lesson taught time and time and time again in the Bible—faith without works is dead.  Faith must act.

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