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18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live."
19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.
20 And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.
21 For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well."
22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour.
23 When Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing,
24 He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him.
25 But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.
26 And the report of this went out into all that land.
The miracles of Jesus are beautiful stories of healing and faith, moments when the compassion of Emmanuel intersects with the passion of believers. Pagans, tax collectors, soldiers, men, women, the demon-possessed, the ill, friends and relatives--they all turned to Jesus and were healed. They SOUGHT Jesus--sought GOD--and He was found by them. And when tragedy befalls us today, many of us seek that same Jesus, that same Son of Man, to come and heal our hearts and our bodies. We seek Jesus because we have read in God's Word about the mercy He has shown and the power He exercised on behalf of those who love Him. As John Newton wrote,
"The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures."
God's holy Bible secures our hope, assures us of salvation and grace, teaches us to endure, to make God the only portion we seek. This God of such amazing grace will surely heal us! And as long as life still runs in our veins, He will be all we need for the defense of our souls and for life eternal.
But as I was reading this story this morning from the Gospel of Matthew, all I could think about was the church of Jesus Christ. I didn't see a man grieving for his dying daughter nor a woman suffering from a long illness. All I saw was the church of the living God. All I could see was a daughter who lay as dead among those marking her death. All I could see was a woman losing her life's blood. And I also saw something else: only the personal touch of the King of kings was able to heal these daughters of God.
Look at the first story. This ruler--a person used to having great command and power--turns to the son of a carpenter, prostrating himself to seek Jesus' touch to bring life back to his daughter. Is not this lifeless daughter the church of the living God? She has fallen ill, ravaged by a sickness that has made her quiescent, made her still and without the breath that would indicate life. She cannot speak for herself, cannot rise on her own. Mourners are there already to sing her to the next life, ready to give up on this daughter of an important man. Only the elder, her father, holds out hope.
The ruler seeks Jesus out. He does not wait for Jesus to come near, but he himself goes near to Jesus and asks Him to come into his house. And he says something that should tell us about what it will take to heal this sleeping, near-dead church. He says, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live." (v.18) This father knows that only the touch of the Son can bring this girl to life. Only the hand of Jesus laid upon the breathless flesh will bring new life and new hope. Only Jesus could rouse the sleeping child who is even now laying cold in her bed.
And when Jesus arrives, the mourners mock Him! They ridicule the Son of God when He tells them that the girl only sleeps. They go on playing their flutes and go on wailing, ignoring the presence of God With Us--Emmanuel. Is this not the Messiah they once sought? Does He not promise healing, a miracle? And yet they deride Him and have to be ejected from the house. They have to be driven from the premises before Jesus will heal the daughter.
And in the midst of this, on His way to heal the daughter of one who sought Him, another person seeks healing. But instead of inviting Jesus to come to her, SHE goes to HIM to be healed wherever He is. She seeks only a humble portion of His power, only as much as will come from the slightest touch of His robe. In the twinkling of an eye, her worry and her bleeding sickness are forgotten, for the Alpha and Omega turns to her and says, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." (v.22) You see, it wasn't the power nor the touch of Jesus alone that made her well, but it was her FAITH in this Jesus Christ that pulled God's grace into the temple of her body and cleansed her.
Two daughters: the first one sleeping as if dead, her passing already being mourned by those of little faith. We must thank God that the father of the young daughter sought out the Son of God. What would have happened if he had not? Would she truly have died, or would she have been buried alive, the spark of life descending into a lifeless tomb? Praise God that there are elders who seek healing for the church of God! There are fathers within the church who know the daughter is sick, who know that the church is lying on a death bed, surrounded by those who see no hope. And there are those who mourn her passing as if their faith were founded only upon sight and not on Christ. Do they not see that she merely sleeps? Will they not give her room to rise and to breathe? Will they not recognize that Jesus seeks to enter their midst and teach them about true life?
Two daughters: the second one bleeding to death and seeking the healing of the Lord in just the barest touch of His garment. She wishes to stop the blood from leaving her body. She wants to be clothed in the garment of the King--even if only a corner of His robe--so that the flow that steals her life with stop. This daughter is the church who seeks Jesus' presence, who knows that His touch will heal and restore. This is the church whose life blood is falling into the dust, whose only hope is not in men nor philosophies nor religion nor priests nor folk wisdom nor even her own earthly husband. No, this church sees its healing only in Jesus Christ, the true Husband whose love will restore her.
In much of our land, the church of God is sick and dying. She lays on a bed, surrounded by mourners who have already written her off. Members of her own household play the dirge and ignore the presence of God among them. They are willing to allow her to go to the grave, certain that the end has come. The end has not come! Jesus has told us "she is not dead, but sleeping." She needs those faithless to leave her, needs those who have lost hope to leave her house, and to let the Healer take her hand and lift her out of her slumber.
The church is losing its life blood as our children leave us and forsake us, as the faithless grow in strength and force out the living faith of the saints. The doctrines that once held heresy in check are being rewritten with the lifeless pen of man, changed to suit the whims of the times. So our church bleeds and cannot stop the flow. And yet the faithful church seeks the healing touch of a holy God. Some few congregations--some of the "ekklesia," the called out--will seek Jesus wherever they can find Him. They will gather and reach out for a tiny touch of His robe, seeking the outflow of power that inevitably follows true faith.
And these daughters will be healed! While the rest of the world decides that the time of the church has passed or that the church needs to change in order to survive, some few elders will seek the touch of Jesus, and some few congregations will seek just a thread of His true power. The faith of the few will bring life back into the whole body. Those who don't have such faith will be put out of the house of God--ejected not by men but by Jesus Himself--so that healing and restoration can take place. And those who truly seek Jesus for who He is--Teacher, Healer, Savior, King--will be rewarded for their faith.
Christ Jesus--the incarnation of "Jehovah Rapha," God the Healer--is ready to heal His church. He wants to enter into our house and bring new life to that which is sleeping as if dead. Jesus has power to spare for those who seek Him, who know that His Spirit lives, who know that the gifts of the Spirit still flow--even from just the hem of His robe. The church of God needs elders willing to truly seek Jesus Christ, men who recognize the lifelessness of the church and who will passionately seek the touch of the Son of God. The church does NOT need those in her house who already mourn her passing, those who claim the time of the church is over and done, those who are so ready for Jesus' second coming that they ignore the fact that His Spirit seeks to bring new life among them.
The church needs congregations willing to seek God where He may be found, who are willing to put aside all other things of the world and seek just the tiniest touch of His presence. The church is losing life blood to compromise and heresy and doubt, and the works of men will not be enough to stop her from bleeding to death. Only Jesus Himself can restore her, and only our faith in Him can bring that restoration. We need that great faith--the faith that moves mountains, the faith that grows from the tiny mustard seed, the faith that is the substance of the things we hope for, the faith that is wholly focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of that faith.
Only when the elders of the church seek her healing, only when the doubters are removed from God's house by Christ, only when believers reach out in faith to seek Jesus--only then can we be healed, only then can the church of God in Christ be made well and whole and hale. True healing in the church does not come from religious observances but from the body of believers assembling as one to faithfully seek God's face. We who are called out by God, we who believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior--we must come together in one voice to ask for Jesus' healing touch. We must rise up as one bride to touch the hem of the robe of our Bridegroom. We must seek healing for this church now, before she truly dies in this land, before the mourners outnumber the faithful, before the elders themselves--who might have asked for Jesus to come into their house--have passed on.
This story of healing and faith and the touch of Jesus should inspire us to seek Jesus in our churches. We should encourage our elders to seek the presence of Jesus in our midst. We should pray for Jesus to open the eyes of those who see no hope of healing, those who despair of His coming. His Spirit is still with us! And we must reach out as one body, as the bride church of Jesus Himself, to seek His love and mercy and grace. We must let Jesus take our hand and lift up His church to new life. And when Jesus has so healed His church, the report of this will go out into all the land and bring Him glory and honor and praise.
Come, Lord Jesus, and lay Your hand on this church and she will live. Bring Your touch into the halls of the faithful, come among them and eject the doubters and the mockers, and lift her up by the hand. Holy Lord, let us experience Your power and Your presence in our midst, Your healing where the hope of man has been lost, Your mercy where the love of man has despaired, Your grace where the faith of man has said there is none. Come, Lord Jesus, come and heal Your bride so that she can glorify You as she desires to do. Amen.
© 2010 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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