While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
(Matthew 9:18-22 ESV)
Today we read a very interesting passage in which Jesus responds to the needs of two people who could not be more different from each other.
The first was a ruler. From the parallel passages in Mark and Luke we learn that this man was a leader in the synagogue and would have been highly regarded by the people. For him to come to Jesus was risking his reputation among other Jewish leaders who, as we’ve seen, were critical of Jesus.
This man asks Jesus to lay His hand on his daughter who had just died, believing that if Jesus touched her she would live. We know from other stories that Jesus did not need to be in someone’s presence to heal [Matthew 8:5-13] but in this case he decides to go to the man’s house.
While on His way Jesus gets interrupted by a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years. According to Mosaic law, this woman would have been considered permanently unclean due to her incessant bleeding and would therefore have been ineligible to enter the synagogue or participate in society at all. She was a complete social outcast.
She had the opposite idea from the man. She thought that if she could only touch [Jesus’] garment she would be made well. This is in fact what happened. When she touched his garment she instantly was made well. But Jesus says something very interesting to her.
He tells her that her faith has made [her] well. The Greek word Jesus uses for “well” here is σοζο (pronounced: sode’-zo) which means “to save from destruction”. It is the word used elsewhere in the New Testament to mean “saved from the penalty of one’s sins – to escape judgment”. While Jesus did heal her physical condition out of compassion for her earthly existence, He did something more for her. He forgave her sins because she had faith.
We saw something similar when Jesus healed the paralytic. In both cases Jesus gave physical healing but let it be known that He was God by forgiving sins. We also see that people are saved from their sins not by keeping a set of rules, but by having faith in God’s willingness to forgive [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Neither this man’s or this woman’s understanding was perfect. They both approached Jesus with a bit of superstition. But Jesus didn’t turn them away. Oftentimes we expect ourselves and others to have perfect faith or understanding. But God never holds us to that standard. He is willing to meet us right where we are.
Also notice that Jesus (who is God) was 100% accessible and available to the influential and the outcast. Jesus was not persuaded by the man’s powerful position in society. Nor was He turned off by the woman’s low social status.
God shows no partiality. He loves all people and wants everyone to be in heaven with Him: rich/poor; gay/straight; black/asian/white/latino; male/female. The only requirement is we come to Him aware of our sin and recognizing our need for forgiveness [Matthew 5:3].
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