Summary: In this sermon I looked at the account of the haemorrhaging woman’s encounter with Jesus and considered its significance for the Church today.
JESUS AND A TOUCH OF FAITH
INTRODUCTION _ KEITH
I had just started preaching one Sunday morning when I saw someone come into the church through the doors at the back. The man sat down in the back pew, right next to one of our most welcoming ladies, so I knew he’d be well looked after. After this slight distraction, I quickly got back into the preaching flow and brought God’s word to God’s people.
After singing the final hymn and pronouncing the blessing, I walked down the aisle to the back of the church ready to shake the hands of those who weren’t going to stay for a cup of after-service tea and, as I reached the back pew, I made a point of greeting the latecomer. He was a man aged somewhere in his thirties, looking a little dishevelled and smelling strongly of alcohol. “My name’s Keith” he said in a slurred fashion, “I’m a chronic alcoholic.” With that, he showed me the bottle of cider he had concealed inside his coat. “But don’t worry,” Keith assured me, “I’d never drink inside the church!” After a cup of coffee, Keith left with his bottle of cider still concealed beneath his coat and most of the congregation remained blissfully unaware.
Keith came back to the church each Sunday morning for several weeks after that first one, usually arriving in the second half of the service, staying for a short chat afterwards and then disappearing back onto the street. He came back, he said, because he felt welcome – which pleased me. At one point, he shared with me that the doctors had told him his liver wouldn’t work for much longer – I don’t know how true that was, but he was always under the influence of alcohol whenever I spoke with him.
One Sunday, Keith didn’t slip in at the back of the church and, though I saw him a couple of times after that, walking unsteadily down the street, he never came back to church again. He never once asked for anything – in fact, he kept himself very private and rejected offers of help – he just enjoyed being with us, being with the family of God, and being part of our worship for a while.
Keith is a man living on the edges - for many people, he would be someone to ignore, someone to avoid, someone to fear – but such a man, or woman, must surely find a welcome amongst the people who constitute the Body of Christ, the Church. After all, Jesus Himself without fail welcomed those who were to be found on the margins of His society: the poor, the sick, the disabled, the disreputable. This morning, I want to focus on one of those occasions, when He was – quite literally – touched by the faith of a woman, a touch that transformed her life.
We’re going to look more closely now at the Gospel account of …
JESUS AND A TOUCH OF FAITH
… and I invite you to step into the story with me.
Jesus and His disciples return to Capernaum from a trip across the Sea of Galilee, during which He had cast out a legion of demons from one poor man. By the time their boat arrives, a crowd has already gathered to meet them – by now, Jesus is a teacher and a healer of some repute, so this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
As He walks up from the boat into the town, He’s approached by a most respected and significant person, Jairus, the leader of the local synagogue, who falls on his knees before Jesus and begs Him to go to his house to heal his young daughter, who is critically ill. Of course, Jesus, filled with compassion, agrees to go with him and they set off, with the crowd accompanying them. In fact, we’re told that the crowd was so large and that people wanted to get so close to Jesus that they almost crushed Him – I think sometimes we don’t fully understand just what an attraction Jesus was during His ministry. Anyway, this crowding makes progress through the street quite slow and it enables a very ill woman to get close enough to Him to touch His clothing.
But why did she want to do this? Why was it so important to her to touch Jesus’ robe?
We’re told that she had been suffering from bleeding for twelve years and it’s widely accepted that this was continuous menstrual bleeding. What is known is that her condition would have impacted upon her life very seriously indeed. You see, the Jewish Law decreed that contact with blood made anyone unclean, so there were strict rules about dealing with sacrifices and with funerals, and there were set cleansing rituals that people had to go through if they had contact with blood, whether it be from an animal or a human. This woman’s condition meant she was in a constant state of uncleanness and she made anyone or anything she touched unclean, as well – even if her dress so much as brushed against something, it became unclean; if she sat down, her chair became unclean … Leviticus, chapter 15, details the strict regulations that affected her.