Your Faith has Made You Well
Your Faith has Made You Well
St. Luke 8:40-56
This morning we’ll be looking at the last part of Luke 8. If you remember, the chapter began with a description of Jesus’ followers and his telling of the parable of The Sower. In the parable a farmer scatters his seed as he prepares to till his field and through that word picture, through the parable, Jesus gives us the history of Israel’s response to God’s Word. God sowed his Word like a farmer scattering his seed—through Moses and through the prophets, but it didn’t bear fruit. The devil snatched it away, it withered under testing like little plants that have no roots, and it was choked out by the thorns of worldliness and idolatry. But now the Lord has sown his Word, this time incarnate in Jesus, and it will bear fruit. That’s what Chapter 8 is about. It’s about response: about faith, about witness, about bearing fruit.
After the parable, Luke gives us a trilogy of miracles and each of them calls for response. First, Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, but the disciples responded to the storm in panic and then, to Jesus as he calmed the wind and waves, they responded with confusion. When they arrived at the other side of the sea there was a second miracle. A man possessed by demons came running naked out of the tombs, raging at Jesus. Jesus responded by casting out the demons and sending them into a herd of pigs that promptly stampeded into the sea and drowned. The man, released from his bondage, responded in faith, wanting to follow Jesus, but the townspeople responded in fear. They didn’t want anyone around who could do what Jesus had just done and so they sent him packing. Fear choked out faith. Now, in verses 40-56 we see the final miracle—actually a double miracle—and here we see faith finally choking out fear and doubt.
Look with me at verses 40-42:
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
Again, the townspeople in the gentile country where Jesus healed the demoniac were afraid. They didn’t want Jesus around, so he and his friends got back into their boat and returned to Galilee. And now we get a sense of just how devote the people were to Jesus. Presumably he was gone all of a day—maybe two—and when he got home the crowds were already gathered on the beach to welcome him back. Many of the Pharisees might not have liked Jesus, but the common people loved him.
And Luke tells us that there was a man named Jairus waiting for Jesus. He was one of the rulers in the local synagogue—one of the important people in the town. Knowing who he was and showing him respect, the crowd let him through to Jesus. And Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet—he take a position of humility—and he begs Jesus to come and heal his daughter who is sick and at the point of death. A lot of the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus. A lot of them were looking for dirt they could use against him. But not all of them. Back when Mary first heard that she was going to bear the Messiah she had sung out:
He has brought the mighty down from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate. (Luke 1:52)
Luke has shown us a lot of Jesus exalting the humble. Mary’s prophetic line about bringing down the mighty from their thrones is mostly in expectation of future judgement, but here we see one of the mighty humbling himself before Jesus. His daughter was dying and he had sense of what Jesus could do. He’d heard about the healings Jesus had performed. He’d probably heard about Jesus raising the widow’s son at Nain. And so he begs Jesus to heal his daughter. Notice that he doesn’t come, like the people of Nazareth, to insist that Jesus work a miracle because he deserves it. He comes in humility. That’s the sort of request that Jesus responds to. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about a conversation between the two men. Jairus humbly asked and Jesus went with him.
But as they head off to Jairus’ house, the crowd gets in the way. In fact, Luke literally describes the crowd as “choking” Jesus. It’s the same word he used in the parable of The Sower when he described the thorns choking out the growing plants. These are the only two times he uses this word. The crowd is enthusiastic about Jesus, but not for the right reasons and in their enthusiasm they’re choking him out. Look at verses 42-44:
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.
As modern people this woman simply sounds likes a sick person in the crowd. For First Century Jews she represented a lot more than that. What Luke describes is a menstrual disorder of some kind that caused her to bleed perpetually. And he highlights just how long this has been going on: twelve years. She’s been bleeding for as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive. And Luke also highlights the physical seriousness of her problem. At one point she’d had money, but now she’s destitute. She spent it all on doctors and none of them had been able to help her. We get a sense of the sympathy that Luke, as a doctor, had for her. He knew what it was like not to be able to heal a patient. But it’s not just that this woman has a medical problem that no one’s been able to heal in twelve years. This woman’s biggest problem is that she’s unclean.
Menstruation rendered a woman unclean. It also rendered anyone who touched her unclean until sundown. And that means that this woman with a twelve-year-old menstrual disorder had been unclean the entire time. She was shut out of the temple, shut out of the sacrificial system, shut out of the synagogue, and because contact with her brought uncleanness, she was shut out of society. She might as well have been a leper.
This now gives us a sense of the risk she was taking that day. The crowd was pressing in on Jesus and this woman was working her way through the crowd to get to him. Everyone she touched was rendered unclean, even if they had no idea who was bumping and jostling into them. And by touching Jesus, she officially or technically rendered him unclean too. But she catches up to him, touches his robe, and immediately she knows that she’s been healed. We can imagine her quietly slinking away, back through through the crowd. She’s overjoyed to be healed, but remember that she was still unclean. To be clean again a priest had to sign off on her healing.
But as she was slinking away, Jesus stopped. Imagine her dread at what happens next. Look at verses 45-46:
And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”
“Ack! Somehow he noticed,” she thinks. And so she hunches a little lower and shrinks back further into the crowd. She’s afraid. If Jesus exposes her the crowd of people she just rendered unclean is going to be really angry. Jesus might be angry. She made him unclean too. Imagine the crowd going dead silent. No one knew what was happening, but something was wrong. Jesus was asking who had touched him. “Maybe,” they thought, “Jesus just realised that someone had picked his pocket.” Peter reminds us of the crowd pressing in on Jesus. “Master, Anyone could have touched you. What’s the big deal?” No one says a word and the woman shrinks back even more in fear. The crowd is pressing in on her just as it’s pressing in on Jesus. She came to him in faith for healing, but now her fear, like the crowd, like the thorns in the parable, is starting to close in on her faith to choke it out.
But Jesus explains: “No. It wasn’t that someone bumped into me. Someone came in faith, touched me, and power went out from me.” It might sound like Jesus is talking about some kind of magic, but that’s not it. Luke’s reminding us that in the Holy Spirit, God was at work through Jesus. The woman had touched Jesus and somehow God had done something through that touch. Jesus knew someone had been healed, but he also knew that there’s more to healing than physical wellbeing. It wasn’t enough for this woman’s bleeding to have stopped. That was only the physical manifestation of the problem. For there to be full healing, for there to be shalom, there was a spiritual problem to be addressed too. Luke doesn’t say how long the silence lasted, but finally the woman realised there was no escape. She came trembling. Her faith was weak and being choked by the fear of the crowd, but even her weak faith finally brought her out of the crowd.
And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. (Luke 8:47)
Trembling the woman confesses what she’s done. The people around her would have been furious. They would have been outraged. This woman had no business there. Everyone around her was now unclean. But Jesus forces her out into the open to reveal his ministry and to reveal what real, saving faith looks like. She was an outsider—not very different from the leper. She lived apart from everyone. She was an outcast. But more importantly, because she was unclean, she didn’t even have access to God through the normal channels of Judaism. She might have been thinking that Jesus was just as angry as the rest of the crowd. She might have been afraid he was going to do something awful. But her faith was more powerful than her fear. And in response to her faith, Jesus says in verse 48:
“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
Jesus understood her real problem even if she didn’t. She just wanted to be healed physically. Once the blood stopped she was ready to go home. But Jesus knew that her bigger problem was being an outsider. She was an Israelite by birth, but her physical disease had forfeit her membership in Abraham’s family. And now Jesus, as the king and representative of God’s kingdom, addresses her, comforts her, calling her “Daughter”. He welcomes her into the kingdom. He assures her of her inheritance. That’s what she needed most of all. And Jesus not only tells her, but tells the whole crowd that it’s her faith that has made her well. It wasn’t some magical force that she connived out of Jesus. It was faith in this man she’d heard about. It was faith in this one who was so obviously by his preaching and by his miracles the conqueror and the lord over sin and death. She knew on some level that her sickness was connected with our fallen human condition—that because of sin our bodies are broken and subject to death. And so she came to Jesus, the Messiah, in faith, knowing that he was the solution. She trusted enough to risk the crowd. And her faith overcame the fear of public exposure and public shaming. And because of that faith, Jesus sends her off in peace—he sends her off not only physically healed, but spiritually restored, and spiritually restored because she’s been welcomed into the kingdom.
All this is wonderful, but what about Jairus’ daughter? Luke tells us in verse 49:
While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.”
It’s too late. While the crowd and the sick woman delayed Jesus, the girl had died. Maybe the servant hadn’t seen what had just happened. That, or he just plain didn’t understand Jesus—who he was and what he was about. A woman had just come to Jesus in faith knowing that he was lord over sin and death and Jesus now shows that her faith was well-placed and justified.
But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. (Luke 8:50-51)
Jesus goes to Jairus’ house anyway. Jairus and his wife believed and Jesus invites them in. He invites Peter, John, and James in as well. He keeps throwing tests at them and they keep failing. Here’s an opportunity for them to see something that will not only build their faith, but that will show them just who Jesus is. They just saw the woman in the crowd healed. He had declared that it was by faith that she had overcome her fear and it was the true and living faith—a faith not choked out by thorns—that found healing. Jesus is now saying, “Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. The woman in the crowd wasn’t a fluke. Believe—have faith—and you’ll see it happen again.” For everyone else it was too late. By the time Jesus got to the house the profession mourners were already there. These were people who made their living crying and weeping at funerals.
And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. (Luke 8:52-53)
They laughed at him. “Jesus, We’re in the funeral business. This is how we make our living. We know a dead person when we see one. Faith, shmaith—she’s gone!” But consider that the woman in the crowd could have said the same thing. “Faith? I’ve spent my life savings on doctors and none of them can heal me. And maybe the Lord could heal me—but I’d have to find some way to get into his presence first and I can’t because I’m unclean. It’s hopeless!” But that’s not what she believed. She had faith. And Jairus has faith too. That he came to Jesus in the first place shows that he had faith, but that faith was strengthened by what he saw in the crowd and that faith was demonstrated as he invited Jesus home, even after his servant had told him that it was too late. And so as the crowd laughs at him, Jesus goes into the house.
Taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened. (Luke 8:54-56)
People—including the disciples—doubted. They lacked faith. And Jesus responds to them not only by working miracles, but by specifically working the miracles that the Old Testament prophets had said the Messiah would work. Isaiah had prophesied that he would preach good news to the poor and that he would give life to the dead. And that’s just what Jesus does. He gave new spiritual life to the woman in the crowd. For all intents and purposes she was spiritually dead. She was a daughter of Abraham, but because of her sickness she was unclean, an outcast, and shut out from the presence of God. She was doomed. But because of her faith, Jesus gave her new life and restored her to the fellowship of God’s kingdom. If there was ever a case of good news being preached to the poor, that was it. And from there he goes to Jairus’ daughter and literally raises the dead to life. He confirms the faith of Jairus and his wife. Jesus doesn’t tell them to go in peace as he did the woman. He doesn’t call Jairus “Son”, but he doesn’t have to. Their faith has brought them into the kingdom too.
Jesus is ushering in the kingdom. He’s giving healing and restoration and calling people into that kingdom. And at the same time he’s establishing his identity. Think about it. There were two common things that the average person ran into fairly regularly that would render them unclean: death and blood. Both were common and both were things everyone avoided. And both are here. The unclean woman comes to Jesus, touches him, and instead of Jesus turning to the crowd to ask who just made him unclean, he does just the opposite: “Who just caused power to go out from me?” The uncleanness couldn’t touch Jesus. In fact, just the opposite as we’ve seen in the past. Jesus’ cleanness, his vitality, his life flow to those who come to him in faith. And it’s for that reason that he didn’t hesitate to go and lay hands on the dead girl. He made a point of touching the dead so that everyone could see that it’s death that has to worry about coming into contact with Jesus, not the other way around. When Jesus comes, demons flee, disease is undone, sin is forgiven, and even death runs from his life-giving touch.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus foreshadows here what he’ll do at the cross. He doesn’t flee from our sickness and our sin. No, just the opposite. He embraces us as sick and unclean and as tainted by death as we are in our sin. At the cross he took our sin upon himself. He suffered death for our sake. He suffered and died, taking our punishment on himself, but even the grave couldn’t hold him. On the third day he burst forth full of life, having conquered sin and death. We come to him in faith and he embraces us. He takes our sin himself and releases us to go in peace, cleansed and made whole, and welcomed into his kingdom.
Remember, God sent his Son into the world to redeem us from sin and death, from sickness and pain. These are problem that we human beings have brought on ourselves because of our sin. In the midst of suffering I’ve often had people ask why God is punishing them. Friends, that’s not how God works. Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
Jesus didn’t come to heap more misery and judgement on us. He came to heal and save because we were already suffering from the consequences of our sin. He came because we already stand judged and condemned by our sin. Remember, the Jews were suffering—they were living miserable lives in exile—and their prayer and hope was that God would come and smite all the pagan gentile causing their misery. Brothers and sisters, in Jesus God did come to visit his people, but in Jesus we see that our real problem isn’t the evil people around us, the people persecuting us or causing our misery. The real problem is our subjection to sin and the death that our sin has brought into the world. Not one of us is free from the corruption of sin.
If God had come to visit his people as the Jews expected it would have meant judgement and damnation for us all—Jew and gentile alike. But instead, in his lovingkindess, God visited his Creation by sending his Son to take our sin upon himself, to die the death we deserve, to make us clean and to set us free. He sent his Son so that when he does come at the end of history to judge the living and the dead, those who have believed in Jesus, those who have submitted to his lordship and trusted in his victory over sin and death, will be spared the punishment of sin. Jesus came to forgive and to welcome us into the kingdom he is establishing and which will be consummated on that last day. And so remember, God doesn’t afflict us. Just the opposite. He so desires to help us out of the trouble brought by our sin that he spared not his own Son.
And as he welcomes us into his kingdom, he sends us out into the world. As Jesus shared in our suffering in order to make us clean, he now sends us out to embrace those still subject to sin and death. Friends, Jesus had no reason to fear uncleanness because he was full of life. And we have no reason to fear uncleanness either. Jesus has washed us clean. He’s filled us with his own Spirit. He’s given us his own life. And now he calls us to go out into the world to preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, and sight to the blind. As we once came to him in faith, trusting in his victory over sin and death, let us go out in that same faith, trusting that through us, he will make his saving and redeeming victory known to the world.
Let us pray: Gracious Father, thank you for sending your Son into the world that me might be forgiven our sins and restored to life. Strengthen our faith that we might always trust in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, that we might always remember that he has conquered sin and death, and that we might go forth into the world in power to share his victory and to share his life. We ask this in his name. Amen.