Matthew 9:18-26
Your Faith Has Saved You

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. In the brief passage of scripture which I read to you today, there are two stories combined. [One] is the story of a certain leader's daughter who had been revived back to life. [The other], which is written wedged in between [the first one], is a story of the healing of a woman. What is this passage, in which stories told by Jesus, [that is two] miracle stories that happened to these women and are joined together [but which] at first glance look completely unrelated to each other, [trying to] tell us?

Exhausting Every Means

2. The story starts with a certain leader coming up to Jesus, bowing down before him and making a request, "My daughter just died. Please come and lay hands upon her. For, if you do, she will revive back to life," (verse twenty-eight).

3. This story is also recorded in Mark chapter five, (Mark 5:21 and following). According to Mark, he says the man is a synagogue leader by the name of Jarius. The synagogue leader asked a favor of Jesus that "My toddler daughter is dying. Won't you please come and lay hands over her?" Based on this way of putting it, it actually looks like his daughter was still alive when the leader had come to Jesus. But, while they were going to his home, some men had come from his home and told him the news that "Your daughter has died. It will not be necessary to trouble the master any longer," (Mark 5:35). This statement means that every means that humanity could do has been exhausted. There was nothing else that could be done. It was over with. It was hopeless. But, even still, Jesus and the synagogue chief went on to where the deceased daughter was. This is the story as Mark tells it.

4. This story by Mark is shortened a bunch here. The section about her not holding out but her dying while they were en route is abbreviated, and [Mark] begins the tale after the daughter has already been dead. [The father] said, "My daughter has just died." It is translated "died," but this is the word "she terminated." That's a totally euphemistic expression for death. But, as that word appropriately states, he was himself standing at at a terminal state of affairs. He was at the end where every means had been exhausted.

5. But, the story wasn't over just yet. He was calling upon the Lord from this terminal standpoint. He was calling upon the one who could rewrite a period into a comma. By the Lord's going with him, the ending turned into a new beginning. That's the event that this passage of scripture is telling us about.

6. Then, next in the text comes the one about the lady with the unstoppable bleeding. She has suffered with that malady for twelve years. How did those "twelve years" go? This too is given in the text with more details in Mark's Gospel. The woman is described as follows: "Now, there was a woman here who has not stopped bleeding for twelve years. Having gone to many a doctor, she suffered tremendously, and though she had used up all her assets, nothing did her any good, and she only became worse and worse, (Mark 5:25-26). This [went on] for twelve years for her. She also was standing at an end. She used up the assets she had depended upon. Nothing else could be done. It was over for her. It was hopeless for her.

7. But, the story doesn't end there. She approaches Jesus from her terminal standpoint. As if hidden from behind, she touches the hem of Jesus' clothing and when the Lord turned around, the end [for her] turned into a new beginning. This is another of the events which this passage of scripture is telling us about.

Restoring Fellowship With God

8. So, what should we think about this passage? It's not a story we can't understand. But, in our heart there lies a voice resisting it. That voice is saying, "It would never happen like that today." Just like this father, we often experience bereavement over our loved ones. "Since I'm asking you a favor, let them come back to life once more. Oh Jesus, please bring [my loved] one back to life." We've probably called out like that a number of times. But, the dead haven't ever been brought back to life for us. We can't avoid coming face to face with the reality of death as we finish the funeral service, go to the crematorium, and pick up the cremated bones. It's the same way even for sickness. There may be some who have experienced miraculous healings. But, many people live by bearing the suffering of some life long illness still unhealed. It's not like the woman healed of the issue of blood at all. I think this biblical narrative is certainly a good story [for us]. But, what in the world does it have to do with us in our real worlds?

9. All the same, with great care the church has passed this far out story on. Was it because everybody in the early church was healed of disease and it wasn't unusual for the dead to be brought back to life? I would think not. This tale was passed on with great care, notwithstanding the fact that many still died unhealed, or were even murdered in persecution or the dead had never been revived. Why [had they passed these stories on]? Because the miraculous works of Jesus point us to true salvation and hope.

10. The woman who suffered for twelve years and whose issue of blood wouldn't quit, touched the hem of Jesus' clothes from behind. It was because she thought, "I will be healed by him if I only touch his clothes." It is translated "I will be healed by him," but this was originally the phrase "I will be saved by him." As the Lord looked at her, he said, "Your faith has 'saved' you." Then after that, "At that moment, she was 'saved'," says the scripture. In other words, what happened here was more than just the healing of the physical body.

11. To begin with, the suffering of the woman with the hemorrhage was not just physical. In the law of Moses, a woman with unstoppable bleeding was considered unclean or defiled. That meant fellowship with God was refused. Therefore, the situation in which she was placed was fundamentally no different from the situation in which the tax collectors and the sinners had been placed. That condition had continued for twelve years even. But, the bleeding stopped because of Jesus. More than the physical healing, it meant to her the restoration of fellowship with God. To put it even more accurately, before she had received her healing, it had already been recovered because she had already heard the Lord's words of "My daughter, cheer up. Your faith has saved you."

12. This event is a sign that is pointing to the salvation which the Lord has given us. The person couldn't do anything for [her] illness. But, deeper than physical sickness, humanity has something more impossible that they can't do, which is that they cannot heal their relationship with God. By [our] natures this [problem] does not come simply from religious defilement and uncleanness. It comes from our sins. We have exhausted the power we have to do anything before this fact of our being sinners. We're done for. When we confront this truth honestly, all we have is hopelessness. At the terminal standpoint where the strength of humanity has exhausted itself, there stands the Lord. There is where Jesus pardons our sin and restores us to fellowship with God. The woman kept hoping and believed while in her place of hopelessness. Our faith might be like hers in touching the clothing of the Lord sheepishly from behind. Yet, the Lord will say to us nervous though we may be, "Your faith has saved you."

13. Also, the event that happened with the deceased daughter and her father also shows us salvation and hope in a similar fashion.

14. In facing the reality of his daughter's death, this father stood in a place where he had exhausted every means. Human beings cannot conquer death with their own strength. Before the reality of death, there is nothing one can do. It's over with. It's hopeless for humanity. However, at the terminal end point where human strength is exhausted, Jesus is standing [there]. This [Jarius] calls out seeking Jesus. Jesus proceeds with him to his dead daughter. The Lord enters his house and takes the girl's hand into his. Then she gets up.

15. We don't clearly know what really happened there. But, whatever it was, the event itself wasn't a conquest of death in any true sense because even if she hadn't been dead at that moment in time, she would surely die eventually and so would her father. Therefore, the main thing lies in the fact that this event points to something sure.

16. The girl died. Her death was a harsh phenomenon. We turn our eyes away from its harshness, we avoid any direct glance at death and express it with "She was sleeping peacefully" or something. But, the Bible doesn't speak any irresponsible lip service like the world would put it. It says that "The wages that sin pays is death," (Romans 6:23). Death itself is tantamount to being condemned for sin. The real dreadfulness of death lies in the fact that we, as persons with sin, as persons worthy of judgment by God, must welcome our death [like it or not]. But, there is only one person here who says, "The girl is sleeping." The Lord calls "death" "sleep." It is not lip service. Because Jesus knew the true dreadfulness of death. He calls death "sleep." Jesus indeed is the one who was able to change "death" to "sleep." Because Jesus indeed is the one who pardons sin and is able to remove the sting of death.

17. Jesus said, "The girl is sleeping" and took her hand into his. The scripture says, "Then, she got up." The word "she got up" (translated directly: "she was made to get up") appears in a turning point scene later. Jesus was crucified and on the third day, the women who had gone to the tomb heard the following words: "Do not be afraid. You are looking for the crucified Jesus, but he is not here. As he told you ahead of time, he has risen," (28:5-6). That's what it says, "he got up," which is the word in use here, is also the word to express the resurrection. What happened to the girl is but a sign that is pointing to the resurrection given to us.

18. Just as the stories of these two women, we also touch the Lord and the Lord touches us. No, wait, he just doesn't touch us. He presents himself to us and he even says, "This is my flesh. This is my blood. Take and eat it." That's what happens in church. Jesus indeed restores us into fellowship with God and grants us life unto God. Jesus indeed will change our death into sleep, he will cause us to rise up to eternal life, and he will make us come back from the dead unto life.

 
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