Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.” The woman was well from then on. – Matthew 9:20-22 (The Message)
It’s a story set into a story, one which plays out so quickly that it could easily be missed if you weren’t looking for it. That’s too bad, because it is an amazing story that is never fully told. Perhaps God leaves it to our imagination to help us to appreciate it on our own. For twelve years this woman was hemorrhaging. That is unimaginable, especially in today’s world of modern medicine and twenty-four-hour clinics. But for years, well before Jesus began his ministry, this woman suffered from her affliction. There had to be struggles, down days, bouts with depression, and despair with no end in sight. I have no doubt that she decided to quit on more than one occasion with only one thing left to keep her going – hope. Her hope was that God was with her and wouldn’t abandon or forget this faithful woman. So, she carried on, struggling to live in spite of her condition. It had to be uncomfortable, both mentally as well as physically, but she maintained her hope. Imagine the prayers she must have offered to God, pleading for an answer: Why am I going through this? When will You deliver me? How can I make this stop? But then also imagine how in her prayers she also thanked God for His love, for His mercy, and for the hope that He would not forget her but would in His time and by the method of His choosing make good on the promise He made her.
Then it happened; the Son of God made man walking among His people to heal them from their sin, their guilt, and their pain. It had to be something inside of her that made her get up and go to see Him. Was it the excitement? The desire for healing? Perhaps in the flesh these things were there, but in the depths of her heart, it was faith. Faith is what got her out of the house that day to walk where Jesus walked. Faith moved her to fight the crowds of men and women who surrounded Jesus; all wanting to be near Him. Faith drove her past that point of cowardice – where the logic of her flesh may have convinced her to give up and go home. “If I can just put a finger on his robe,” she thought. She didn’t need a show. She didn’t crave the spotlight. She came into the presence of God, not wanting a face-to-face confrontation which would make her the center of attention. She didn’t need it. She only desired to touch Him; to humbly accept what God desired for her to have because in spite of her tremendous suffering she had obediently held fast to her faith. So, with that in her heart, she stretched out her hand to receive her blessing from the Lord.
He knew it immediately. Jesus stopped walking and turned to face her, to respond to her faith-filled boldness. You can imagine how time must have stopped as the fear and excitement of that moment filled her heart. What would happen next? Would Jesus be angry with her? Would merely touching his robe work? If summoning the courage to touch Him was hard, just imagine how difficult it had to be to face Him after being “caught.” It must have taken every ounce of strength within her to stay put, to stand firm, and to come face to face with the One who not only healed her body but saved her soul as well. His reaction was exactly what you would expect from the One who came to bring forgiveness and salvation to the world. He stood before her, gazed into her eyes, and with words of love that no poet could match revealed to her the true source of her healing. “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith and now you’re well.”
The comparison to our own lives is obvious. Since the day we were born we have set out upon a journey that has brought us ever closer to the heart of God. Our travels have not always been smooth. The pressures of life have taken aim at our hearts, trying to drive us away from the faith in which we stand, trying to steal the hope in which we live. But just like the woman from Matthew 9, we have chosen to stay strong in the faith that the Spirit has built inside of us. Through the times of struggle, worry, and doubt, we turn to God and ask those same questions in a desperate search for clarity, direction, and relief. But we also guard our faith so that our hope will remain unshaken. Be strong, because in all of this there is one thing of which you must have no doubt. The day is coming when Christ will be standing before you. On that day, your faith will move you to seek Him, to touch His robe, and to be delivered from a lifetime of pain. At that moment, as you stand alone before your Savior, He will greet you as a friend, gaze into your eyes and speak those words you’ve longed to hear:
“Courage ________. You’ve taken a risk of faith and through Christ you are well.”