“If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured” (Matthew 9:21). This is one of two miracles that we witness in this short passage from Matthew’s gospel. And in both cases the message is the same; it is the faith the individuals have in Jesus that causes, in one case, an instant healing, accomplished through a simple gesture done anonymously. In the other, a child is raised from the dead. This faith is what we must pay attention to here.
Faith is a kind of knowing. It is not like the knowledge gained through science with its theories and experiments. But it is a knowing so deep, so profound, that even though one can not fully explain it with words, one acts upon it as if it were the difference between life and death.
In the first case, we see someone described as an “official” who comes to Jesus and, in a gesture that is contrary to his status vis-a-vie that of Jesus who he sees as a carpenter’s son and an itinerant rabbi, he kneels before Jesus. Through tears of desperation and loss, he tells Jesus that his daughter has died. But he asks Jesus to come to his house and to simply lay his hand on his daughter. At some deep level within his heart and mind, he really believes that Jesus can bring her back to life with just a touch of his hand. To those who do not believe, or to those who believe only in science, this kind of thinking seems irrational. To them there is no “evidence,” meaning something that can be observed by one or more of the five senses, behind such thinking. And they are right. The “evidence” of faith is beyond the purview of the material world. It is not confined to the natural world because it is of supernatural origin. Jesus, though, sees into the heart of the official and recognizes his faith and responds to it.
In the second case, we see a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages of some kind for some twelve years. Anyone who suffers from a chronic illness or pain of some kind can relate to this woman’s suffering and understand her desperate need to be healed. She is not like the official. She is a “nobody” in the society, mostly unknown and unrecognized. She has no special place in society. But she is as important in God’s eyes as anyone else. Lost in the large crowd milling about Jesus, she thinks to herself, “If I can only touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” What an amazing thought! She did not come before Jesus, like the official. She simply stretches out her hand in humble anonymity, and trembling with fear and hope, she touches the dusty hem of Jesus’ garment as he passes nearby. She is as stunned as anyone when Jesus suddenly turns to her after having felt her touch and says to her, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you” (verse 22). And we are told that from that hour she was cured. The official’s daughter was raised from the dead, and the woman with the hemorrhages was healed of her disease because of their faith in Jesus. Their faith was a gift from God that they were open to in their need. And in that faith, they saw their deepest desires fulfilled. Jesus responded to their faith with love and healing, and so he does with us.
Lord, We believe; help our unbelief. We know that faith is not a product of either our intellects or our wills, but is a pure and generous gift from you. Help us to open our hearts more and more to this gift. We put our trust in you and pray this believing in the power of your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!
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