14 Nov 2021
While Jesus spake these things unto John’s disciples, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, he said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land. (St. Matthew ix. 18).
This Sunday’s Gospel gives us two miraculous healings to consider. In one, a woman who had heard about Jesus’ healings came up behind Him in a crowd and put her hand to His cloak. "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. Jesus knew that healing power had gone out from Him. He turned around and asked, "Who touched my clothing?" In fear she came and fell in front of Him and told Him the truth. He said to her, "Daughter, it is your faith that has cured you. Go in peace and be free of this illness." (Mk.5:25-34)
Ritually, according to the Law of Moses, her illness had made her unclean, and anyone who touched her would also be unclean. Such an element of the Law would not stop Jesus’ power of healing as He had shown time and again. Jesus touched lepers: again, contrary to ritual law, but this was not His priority. He touched lepers and healed them. He healed blind Bartimaeus. You’ll remember from a previous Sunday the man with a speech impediment who was also deaf. Jesus healed him by touching his tongue and his ears and saying “Ephphatha (Be opened)”. (Mark 7:34) He often admonished the Scribes and Pharisees regarding the proper priorities in life, and here was another example.
In the second miracle, a child is brought back to life amidst ritualistic wailing and mourning for the dead. These people can only respond with laughter at Jesus’ statement that she is but sleeping. Yet, these people knew from Scripture that prophets of the past had brought people back. They probably had heard of Jesus’ own miraculous healings. But such is the nature of humankind that we think there will be no miracles “on our watch.” “Other gullible souls may be taken in by such stories,” we might think, “but not us.” Their attitude, like that of the Scribes and Pharisee, in no way slows down the work of God. Nor should it stand in the way of our prayers for the healing of those in need today. In Jesus’ eyes, she was but asleep, as Lazarus would also be. To continue His work, He had but to take her by the hand, and she arose.
We can only guess how many people were healed by the touch of Jesus during His ministry. Remember the woman who knelt at the feet of Jesus and washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair? Jesus allowed this touching at the great distress of the apostles around Him. After His death and Resurrection, Jesus invites an unbelieving Thomas to take his finger and put it into the place of the nails and his hand into His side. "Touch Me, and believe," He said to Thomas.
In the Anglican Church Worldwide, we know how important touch is for us. Think how significant it is in our sacramental life. How water and the touch-sign of the Holy Trinity in Baptism helps introduce us to our life with Jesus. And when a bishop confirms people in the Church by the laying on of his hands and anointing with chrism, we are brought into that special relationship with our Lord in Holy Communion. How often we saw our beloved Archbishop Hartley lay his hands on the kneeling priest candidates as he ordained them into the priesthood. “Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
How thankful we should be with all the gifts Our Lord has provided for us in this life. How we can with a willing heart hear and respond to His great and powerful miraculous healings, both in the time of the Gospels and in our own miracle-filled lives as Christian brothers and sisters today.
Thanks to Fr. William Sisterman of
St. Dunstan's Anglican Church, Minneapolis, MN for his sermon on the 24th Sunday after Trinity
Bishop Edwin Tompkins