A sermon preached at Forest Fold Baptist Chapel on November llth, 1989.
“And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” Mark 5.34.
The Lord Jesus was teaching by both parables and miracles and one of the obvious lessons taught by a miracle like this is that He, the Lord Jesus Christ, has divine power, that He is divine Himself and that He is the Son of God. This is the way Peter speaks of Him when he was preaching on the day of Pentecost, that this man’s ministry, and life, and words are vindicated by these miracles and wonders and signs.
So Jesus was teaching, by means of miracles, that He was the Son of God and that he had all power over men and all situations; that the most awful of illnesses and even death itself were under His immediate personal control. Now that was a very important lesson, and that all the miracles are to be understood firstly as historical records; they were real healing miracles. Notice also the completeness of these healing miracles. Our Lord’s miracles were instantaneous acts of Divine power, healing those who could not be healed in any other way and that was an amazing demonstration of His divinity and of His authority.
But then, I believe, the Lord had another intention, in a sense a more forward-looking, prophetic intention: to teach, by way of miracles, some of those spiritual lessons which are taught as doctrine by other parts of scripture. The Lord Jesus once said, ‘They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” ^Matt. 9.12). Now, He was not just referring to those who have physical sicknesses and illnesses. He was referring to those who are ill in a spiritual sense, those who have need of spiritual healing. The Lord did many miracles, and the Holy Spirit records these miracles through the writers of scripture in such a way that they illustrate the great truth that we are sinners who are in a desperate state of spiritual sickness and in need of spiritual healing. So we may use these miracles as illustrations of the deepening need of the soul. The Lord so often emphasizes this in His ministry, and I am not at all surprised that He should have worked miracles which are peculiarly suited to illustrate His power to heal all the diseases of the soul as well as all the diseases of the body.
So we must not forget that this was a real miracle, a real woman healed of a real disease in a wonderful way who went away thanking
and praising God for what she had experienced. I do not in any way wish to distract your attention from that. May God encourage us all to worship the Lord Jesus as we hear again what a wonderful thing He did in the life of this woman. But there is something more I pray for, and that is that God would make us to go away this morning praising the Lord Jesus Christ for the miracle that he has done within ourselves, in our own lives, in our own souls.
What shall we say about the circumstances recorded very fully here in Mark’s Gospel? If you compare the gospel records in Matthew, Mark and Luke of this incident you will find that Mark is the most extensive in describing the details, in fact there is but one small part that we could add to Mark’s record. If we look in Luke chapter 8 and verse 47, there is a slight addition to Mark’s account where we read; “And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.”
2. The disease
Here was a woman who was very terribly diseased. The disease was of long duration. For twelve years she had suffered this dreadful condition. For all those twelve years she had been very conscious of her condition. Now some people know, spiritually, a deep pressing need for year after year, and it does not seem as though their pressing need is resolved and their situation dealt with. It can be a very painful, sad, and prolonged experience through which some go in a spiritual way, from the time when they are first awakened to a sense of their spiritual need, to the time when they are brought to enjoy the fulness of God’s blessing and spiritual healing. Some of the Lord’s miracles like the raising of Lazarus and others would express to us another truth, that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and until the voice of God’s power is heard we continue in that state of death. But here it is a miracle that very beautifully illustrates the fact that some are awakened to the sense of their need as sinners before God; they are made to feel something of the painfulness of spiritual affliction and they suffer that for a long time. Not all, but some do. Not everyone who came to Jesus had been ill for twelve years. And some who came to Jesus, or were brought to Jesus, had been ill for longer than that. There is that variety. So you must not say this morning, ‘O well, I have not felt like this for twelve years and so this miracle has nothing to say to me.’ That is a wrong way of looking at it, but it is a miracle that tells us that there are some who come to Jesus who have been aware of a deep personal need for a very long time.
3. The nature of the disease
What of the nature of this woman’s disease? Modesty demands that I shall not say too much about this, but very obviously it is a most terribly weakening, indeed a life-threatening situation. She knew that if this went on she would die, and that is a deep conviction which some have in a spiritual way.
If we are really taught the nature of sin as it is described in the Bible, if we are made to feel something of sin within ourselves, we shall know that it is not just an unhappy mistake; it is not just a sort of aberration in our lives which is unimportant; we shall know that it is a life-threatening condition; we shall know that the wages of sin is death; we shall know the disease that we have will issue in eternal death, not just a natural death as was threatening this woman, but an eternal death. I feel that is a very important thing to remember about this woman. She knew something of a feeling of inner desperation because of the nature of her disease. It was personally deeply distressing, and for many reasons, but some of the reasons you will find in Leviticus chapter 15. She was living in a religious situation where a woman in her condition was considered ceremonially unclean. The things she touched and the things that touched her, and the people who came into contact with her would be considered unclean. Now that was a very deeply distressing situation to be in. She would feel estranged from people, she would feel that she would have to cringe away from contact with everyone. And that makes what she did all the more remarkable. She was, then, according to the Old Testament ceremonial law, to be viewed as an unclean person, unfit to come in to the presence of God in the worship of God, and amongst the people of God. There was something about her disease that made her a stranger, a foreigner, an outsider. She was unclean!
I was talking to a young man recently who was brought up a Muslim, but heard the gospel through preaching in the open air by Charing Cross Station one day, and he had joined a Christian church, but he was so plagued by a besetting sin that he felt he could not go to the place of worship he normally went to. People knew about him. That’s how he felt, you see. “People know about me. People know what I have been doing.” And he dare not go, so he crept into the back of the chapel where I was preaching, and he poured out his heart to me after the morning service about this situation. He felt he had a disease that made him unfit to be among God’s people. Ashamed, yes ashamed, distressed, deeply distressed, and that was this woman’s situation. This then vividly .illustrates the way in which many are made to feel the nature of sin. It may be when they are first awakened they begin to feel things like this, but then it deepens with them, the more they are aware of this,
the more they feel how filthy and obnoxious and vile sin really is.
But this miracle illustrates other periods in a believer’s life when he may come into some kind of spiritual sickness. We are often invalids spiritually because of sin. Sin affects us deeply and not just at the beginning. It is not just that we look back on our unconverted days, and say that they were the days when I was living in sin, but now I am free from sin entirely, I never sin, I am perfectly holy. I am sure the apostle Paul did not feel like that! There are periods in our lives when we become conscious of the fact that we have become spiritually diseased, we are afflicted again in some way or other. And it may be that that sense of affliction has gone on for a long time and we become weakened spiritually, debilitated, and we fear what has happened to us, and that the working of this spiritual disease of sin within us is going to kill us in the end. We fear it is going to destroy our spiritual lives altogether. That is another way then of looking at this miracle as an illustration of a spiritual condition.
I do not know how you feel this morning, but I know that there is a variety of spiritual needs amongst us here this morning. I am conscious of the fact that only God by His Spirit can really bring the truth to bear upon your particular personal situation. I may describe these things and talk about these things, but it is the Holy Spirit alone who can make these truths live in your own hearts.
4. Her desire to live
Notice the amazing determination of this woman to live. We all strongly cling to life. She would do anything in order to be healed. We read that she “had suffered many things of many physicians and had spent all that she had and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.” Luke puts it like this; “She had spent all her living upon physicians and neither could be healed of any.” These are dreadful words, aren’t they? But they show us a woman with a very intense and strong feeling within. She wanted to live. She wanted to live a normal healthy life and she would do anything in order to live that life.
Many people have vague feelings about religion and about sin, about forgiveness and about the Christian life. They have vague feelings that flit into their minds, and they flit out of their minds. Sometimes they are more interested and sometimes they are less interested, but if you had this disease and felt like this woman, it would not be a matter of things flitting into and out of your mind, you would be saying, “I must have life, I must have life, and I have not got the life I want.”
There is a determination about this woman. She was so determined that she would spend every penny she had in order to
gain this life. That is the measure of her determination. O may God by His Spirit grant that kind of determination in our hearts. She went through a great deal. We do not know all the horrors of medicine at this particular period of human history. We thank God that it is a more compassionate and more understanding medical world that we have to face these days. But she “had suffered many things of many physicians.” The Lord alone knows how many things she suffered.
Now when it comes to a sense of spiritual need there are people who will try all sorts of things in order to get what they want. They have this sense of need; they have this awareness of their condition, and they do many things to try and gain relief from that condition. They are ashamed of themselves, they are ashamed of what is happening in them and so on, but all their efforts are to no avail. “She was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.” And it may be some poor soul here this morning says, “That’s just me, I seem to be getting worse and worse. All my desires, all my prayers, all my longings, all my feelings, all these things seem not to resolve the situation, I am getting worse. I have tried, I have prayed, I have read the Bible, I have done all these things but I am getting worse.” And there is a note of despair that creeps into the words of this description. This woman had nowhere else to go. She has tried everybody, every cure, every possibility, every avenue she has followed and she has nothing at all to relieve her symptoms, nothing at all that is remotely like a cure. Now, friends, is that not again a very vivid illustration of a spiritual truth?
One of our hymns says, ‘Few, if any, come to Jesus, till reduced to self despair’ and we might add to that good word the despair of finding help in anyone else, or anywhere else. You go to your friends and you tell them and they sympathize with you. The young man who stood talking to me recently made me feel totally and utterly helpless. I could encourage him, I could speak God’s Word to him, I could show him the promises in God’s Word, which I did, and tried to set these things before him, but I was helpless. I knew that merely talking to me would not resolve his heart’s problem. I knew that only the Saviour of sinners could resolve the problem of his heart. And I know that only the Saviour of sinners can resolve this kind of problem in anyone’s heart here today. That is a certain conviction. I cannot do it. Nothing I can do or say of itself will do it. It is God, God by his mighty power through Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit; that is how it is done. So there is this thought of coming to the end of all hopes, of despair. The woman was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. And then there is one of the loveliest verses in the whole of this chapter, verse 27. “When she had heard of Jesus, (she) came in the press behind and touched His garment.”
This woman’s experience illustrates salvation in three simple phrases. She heard of Jesus. She came to Jesus. She believed on Jesus. You could not have it more simply than that. There is much more to be said, but there it is. She heard of Jesus. She came to Jesus. She believed in Jesus. And until that happened the blood ran. Until that happened her life was running away from her, until that happened she was in hopelessness, there was no possibility of healing. And I will tell you this morning that there is no possibility of your soul being healed of its disease until this happens. You hear of Jesus, and you come to Jesus, and you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me read to you something I found in my general reading. It is a quote from a 17th century preacher, John Mason, and when I read it, I took a deep breath and read it again. You will see why. This is what he says. The language is dated, but I think you will follow it. “Have you sins, or have you none? If you have, whither should you go, but to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Come as you are, come poor, come needy, come naked, come empty, come wretched, only come, only believe. His heart is free, His arms are open, ’tis His joy and His crown to receive you. If you are willing. He never was otherwise.” Amazing, isn’t it?
“If you are willing, He was never otherwise.” “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22.17). “If you are willing, He never was otherwise”. We sang in that hymn just now, about the woman coming to the Lord.
She, too, who touched thee in the press,
And healing virtue stole,
Was answered, “Daughter, go in peace;
Thy faith hath made thee whole.”
Cowper had to make it rhyme, so he spoke of her stealing healing virtue. “And healing virtue stole.” Did she steal it? Well, we might think so. She came behind. She secreted herself in the crowd so that she would not be noticed. She was surprised and alarmed when she was noticed. She came, “in the press”, that is, in the pressing throng of people behind the Lord, and touched His garment. But she was not stealing, because people like her were always welcome to come to Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ was, and is, always willing to help and to heal all those who came like that to Him. The woman was not stealing. Cowper needed a rhyming couplet, but she was not stealing. There was no spiritual dishonesty about this woman. She had nothing and she came for everything. She made no pretence. She came just as she was. Poor? Yes, utterly poor. She had spent everything. Needy? Yes, the disease was still at work in her body.
Empty? Yes, emptied of all hope and all confidence in anyone else or any other way of relieving her situation.
What a vivid illustration that is. When the woman heard of Jesus, she came in the press behind and touched His garment. You can’t go literally to find a garment like that to touch, but out of the heart of the sinner, out of the soul of the sinner, is that which goes toward the Lord Jesus to draw virtue from Him. There is that which sees in Christ the virtue that is needed. Why did she come to Jesus having heard of Him? What had she heard about Him that made her want to come to Him? You must ask those questions and answer them yourself. Whatever it was, she came. Whatever other people had told her, it was enough to make her come.
However much or however little you have heard of the gospel, the point is that you come. You come to the One, and the only One who can deal with the need of the soul, that deep inner spiritual need of a fallen, sinful, helpless, hell-deserving sinner, for that is what we are. We deserve nothing but the death that this woman deserved, that this woman was fearful of, and that this woman would have had to experience apart from this healing. We deserve more than that. We deserve the awful condemnation that the Bible speaks of as eternal death and condemnation. We deserve that. Whatever the woman knew, however much she knew, one thing we do know is, she came. And she came with an amazing conviction that had grown up in her heart. Why did she feel like this? Oh, the Lord alone knows why she felt like this. That is often what you will have to say about your own selves. Why do I feel like this? The Lord alone knows why I feel like this.
“If I may touch but his clothes.” Now, I don’t know whether I have ever mis-quoted that verse, but I fear I might have done. I might have quoted it like this: “If I may but touch his clothes.” But the woman did not say that. She said “If I may touch but his clothes.” Not Him, but His clothes. If I could get just near enough to touch His clothes. If it were just a touch on the edge of His garment. How had the woman come to that conviction? Had they told her that that was what had happened to other people? I doubt it. At least, it is not recorded if that is the case. He touched other people and healed them. Yes, that is true.
There is something wonderful about the reasoning of this unnamed woman’s heart. This is a divinely-given reasoning process that went on in her heart and mind. And by the secret and unknown work of the Spirit of God this woman is brought to this conviction. If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole. Now you see, that is what she really did believe. She really did believe that there was this man, Jesus, who had this amazing power over disease, that she had to but touch the hem of His garment and she would be healed. And
friends, the finger, the trembling finger of your little hope has but to touch the hem of Christ’s garment and it is done. You are not stealing virtue. And you will know that because you will see that Jesus knew that virtue had gone out of Him. “Jesus immediately knew in himself that virtue had gone out of him” (v.30).
Now there was no restriction. It wasn’t that the Lord was saying, “Well, she’s hiding behind me. She’s pretending just to be a nobody behind me, and she’s only touched the hem of my garment. I’ll just have a word with her and send her away”. No! No! virtue flowed out of Him. There is the freeness of the saving love of the Lord Jesus flowing out of Him. He rejoices to save sinners. He rejoices to heal sin-sick sinners. It is the joy of His Father in heaven to see the repentant coming in this way.
“Straightway, the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague” (v.29).
There was an inner consciousness in this woman’s healing. She knew what had happened. She knew then that her faith was not in vain. It had been a very weak and trembling faith in the sense that she was hidden in the press and it was only the hem of His garment that she touched. There was no sense of sinful presumption or boldness in thrusting herself in front of the Master, but just a creeping behind to touch the hem of His garment. But that was enough. She was healed of that plague and as the virtue flowed out of the Saviour, it flowed into her so that she knew that it was flowing into her.
Now it may be that some people know what they want, they know what they need, but they have not received what they need. They have tried all those other things but it is the touch that is vital. It is the touch of the heart, it is the soul moving out to the Saviour. It is the little trembling finger of faith that is reaching out to touch the Saviour. “If I may touch … I shall be whole, and straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up.”
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And when, from your heart, comes that trembling call to the Saviour of sinners, ‘Lord, save me, forgive me, heal me, I trust in thee,” it is done, and virtue flows out of Him into that soul. “Straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press and said, Who touched my clothes?” I ask you the question this morning; who is touching the hem of His garment? Who is reaching out with the hand of trembling trust and hope and faith to touch the
hem of Christ’s garment? “Who touched me?” He said. He knew;
He knew and she knew. And that will be true in your case. He knows what you are doing, you know what you are doing. There is no doubt about that. “Who touched my clothes?”
The disciples, as sadly often happened with them, were rather scornful. “Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?” They saw so many people touching the Lord. There was nobody else touching Him the way this woman touched the hem of His garment. There is something very personal in the way in which the Lord saves His people from their sins. It was not just the general crowd. If the Lord deals with you, He will deal with you personally. “Who touched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.”
What about the questioning of Jesus? Why does Jesus question this woman in this way? Why didn’t He just let her go away quietly? It was a very embarrassing condition that she had been suffering from, and it might have appeared wiser just to let her fade away into the crowd. Why expose her? “The woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him and told him all the truth.” It is a wonderful thing that now she is healed she can talk about something which, in the past, would have been such a cause of shame that she would have just crept away in silence and hoped nobody would have noticed. And that’s what you can do, you see.
Then will I tell to sinners round,
What a dear Saviour I have found;
I’ll point to thy redeeming blood,
And say, “Behold the way to God.”
He healed me, you see. That is the way. He pardoned my sins, so there is a testimony, and that includes confession of sin, as well as a wonderful confession of God’s mercy. The woman fell down before Him and told Him all the truth. She is made utterly honest and open before the Lord Jesus and before the crowd that was around Him.
There is another reason why Jesus questioned this woman. It was not only that He would have all the honour and praise in this miracle. He would be honoured in that way, but He would also draw out of this woman this confession with the mouth, of what had happened within her, just as we read in Romans ch.10, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” There is the touch that has drawn virtue from the Saviour Himself. With the heart man
believeth, and the righteousness is the virtue that flows from the Lord (Rom. 10.10).
There was yet another reason why the Lord questioned this woman – because it was His purpose to give her a most lovely and encouraging confirmation. Now, if you have been suffering for twelve years from a disease like this, and you suddenly, momentarily thought you were healed, you might go back in your mind and say. Ah, but when I went to see Dr. So and So he said he would heal me, and I thought for a little while I was a bit better, but I was just the same afterwards. Wouldn’t you be tempted like that? Many are. They do indeed come. Jesus bids them come and they come to Him in all sincerity of heart and they do with all their heart trust in Him, but then the old enemy says, Ah, but you hoped you were better many times before but you weren’t really. Perhaps it will be like that again this time. “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague.” It was the Lord’s gracious and loving purpose to put into the heart of this woman a strong assurance, a confirmation. I believe in confirmation as a spiritual experience of God’s grace. Through His holy word there are times when the Lord comes to give this very gracious, real assurance. Yes, it really has been done. You see? She had not lived to prove it yet. She had not lived another twelve years to prove the reality of the cure of a disease that had gone on for twelve years. Because she was such a fearing, trembling woman, and the Lord knew her disposition, He said, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole.”
8. Her Faith
The Lord questioned this woman that He might have all the honour and praise in her healing. But do notice what an important place He gives to her own faith. “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” That does not mean there was some peculiar virtue in her faith. It does not mean that she was literally healed because of the virtue of her faith. That would contradict what has already been said. Jesus, immediately knew that virtue had gone out of Him. But the Lord puts honour on that which He, by His Spirit, had put in this woman’s heart. “Thy faith”. It had been given to her. It was her faith. She had exercised this faith. She had reached out her hand. She had touched the hem of His garment, and she had been healed. “Thy faith”; and He honours the faith that He had given in the way that the rest of the Word of God honours that faith. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” I verily believe this woman would have been amazed by what the Lord was saying. “Thy faith”. Oh, and she was
trembling and fearing. She had hidden herself in the crowd. She reached out her finger just to touch the hem of His garment. But this is the point. She had said, “If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole”. “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
Finally then. This woman’s past had been one of increasing misery, increasing weakness, constant shame, separation. An outsider. That was her past. Restless, trying every avenue. No peace. No rest. No quietness of mind. Fear crowded into her mind as she felt her body getting weaker and weaker. This is a vivid description of the effects of sin in our very being. What of the future? What will the future be like? Oh, you say, I dread being like that again. There are some experiences in our lives where we’ve been through the dark valleys, the horrible pit and the miry clay. We dread it. Oh, not again; Lord, not again. Don’t let it ever be like that again. “Daughter, thy faith hath made the whole; go in peace.” That is the future. Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. “Go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” Amen.