Christ the Healer
By Horatius Bonar, 1867
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for
twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said
to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." Jesus
turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed
you." And the woman was healed from that moment. Matthew 9:20-22.
Here, we may say, we have the record of one who had
learned to do justice to the love of God, and to the grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ. Not of many can this be said, in a world of unbelief like ours; but
here is one. We do not know her name; no other part of her history is told
us. She is brought before us simply as one who trusted in the Son of God,
who had tasted that the Lord was gracious. Like a sudden star, she shines
out and then disappears. But her simple faith remains as our example.
It is not the great multitude "thronging" Christ that
here draws our eye. It is the woman and the Lord; the sick one and her
Healer; the sinner and the Savior. From everyone else our eye is turned, and
fixed on these. In this brief narrative concerning them, we find such things
as the following:
I. The way in which these two are thrown together.
The Lord has just received the ruler's message
concerning his little daughter, and he is hastening to Capernaum. His direct
errand is about the dying child. But, on his way, the Father finds much for
him to do; and, by chance, as men say--this sick woman crosses his path and
detains him a moment; for it is only sickness, or sorrow, or death, that
either detain him or hasten him on. In his blessed path as the healer, he is
ever willing to be arrested by the sons of men; counting this no detention,
no trouble, no hindrance—but the true fulfillment of his heavenly mission.
Opportunities such as these were welcome to him; nor was he at any time too
busy, too much in haste, to take up the case of the needy, however suddenly
brought before him. To him no interruption was unwelcome which appealed to
his love or power.
These by-errands of the Son of Man were often his
most blessed ones, as at Nain, and Jacob's well, and the sycamore of
Jericho. I know not whether we prize our own by-errands sufficiently,
our "accidental" opportunities of working or speaking for God. We like to
plan, and to carry out our plans to the end; and we do not quite like
interruptions or detentions. Yet these may be, after all, our real work.
Little can we guess, when forming our plans for the day, on what errands God
may send us; and as little can we foresee, when setting out even on the
shortest journey, what opportunity may cross our path, of serving the
Master, and blessing our fellow men.
Whitefield, on his way to Glasgow, is drawn aside
unexpectedly to tarry a night in the house of strangers. To that family he
brings salvation. A minister of Christ misses the train which was to convey
him to his destination. He frets a little—but sets out to walk the ten miles
as best he may. He is picked up by a kind stranger in a carriage, a man of
the world, who has not been in the house of God for years. He speaks a word,
gives a book, thanks the stranger in the Master's name for his kindness, and
joys to learn some years after, that he missed the train in order to be the
messenger of eternal life to a heedless sinner!
II. The occasion of their being brought together.
It is the incurability of the woman's
ailment by earthly skill, that throws her upon the heavenly physician. Man
has done his utmost for twelve years—but has failed. She gets worse, not
better. But man's failure brings her to one who cannot fail. Man's
helplessness shuts her up to help that is almighty, and sends her to one who
can do exceeding abundantly above all she asks or thinks. How slow are we to
turn from man to God! Not twelve years—but many times twelve years do we
continue in our trouble, trying successive remedies—going to one and another
and another physician, crying--Heal me, heal me! We hew out cistern after
cistern; and still, as each one breaks, we try another. We go the round of
vanity, and pleasure, and sin, endeavoring to fill our empty souls; and
turning away at last with the despairing cry, "Oh, who will show us any
good?" But, like the prodigal, we begin to bethink ourselves. "There is
bread enough in our Father's house," we say—Shall we not arise and seek it?
We have tried man, shall we not try God? We have gone to earthly wells,
shall we not try the heavenly? Thus earthly disappointment is the
introduction to heavenly blessedness. The uselessness of human medicines
sends us to the balm of Gilead, and to the physician who is there. Nor does
he reject us because we have tried him last, and because we would gladly
have done without him if we could. He welcomes us as if we had come to him
first; nor does he upbraid us with our delay. Blessed failures, happy
disappointments, that thus throw men, with their poor aching hearts, upon
the loving-kindness of the Lord!
III. The point of connection between them.
It is the woman's malady. Incurability is the occasion of the
connection; but the point or link of connection is the disease
itself. Had it not been for this, she would not have sought the Lord. It
is not that which is whole about her—but that which is diseased,
that draws the healer to the sick one, and the sick one to the healer.
So, it is sin that is our point of connection with
Jesus. Not our good—but our lack of good--no, our evil, our total evil. Our
death and his life; our weakness and his strength; our poverty and his
riches—these are the things that meet and clasp each other. All connection
with the Son of God must begin with our sin; for he came not to call
the righteous—but sinners, to repentance; he receives sinners;
he saves the lost.
This is the point in dispute between the Savior and the
self-righteous. This is the truth that we are so slow to learn; yet it is
the essence of the gospel. Did we but fully know and act upon this, how
differently would we treat the Lord! Distrust and distance would be ended,
for the cause of these would be taken out of the way. We stand aloof
from him because we do not see in him the receiver of sinners; nor
thoroughly recognize either his absolute goodness or our absolute evil. A
good thought, a fervent feeling, an earnest prayer, a sorrowful tear—these
are great things in our eyes; because we think they will recommend us to
Him, and form so many points, at which he and we may come into contact with
each other. Alas for our folly and unbelief; and alas for the misery and the
darkness which they produce! We will not trust him for his own grace and
goodness; we must bribe him to bless us! We would hide the evil in us, and
we would display the good--in order to induce him to take us into his favor.
But it is not thus that he receives. It is with sin he deals, and we must
bring him that. It is with disease that he deals, and we must bring him
that. If we refuse, there can be no meeting between Him and us, until we
meet before the judgement throne!
IV. The woman's need of Christ.
Hers had been a sore and long sickness; a great and a
long need. Yet it was her need that made her welcome. Blessed need--which
makes us welcome to the Lord! As with the woman, so with us. We need Christ!
And what an amount of need is implied in this! A man who needs a hundred
dollars is needy; but the man who needs ten thousand is far more so. That we
need Christ—nothing less than Christ, yet nothing more—is the most
appalling, yet also the most comforting announcement of a sinner's state
that could be made. Nothing could be said more fitted to awaken, to alarm,
to humble, than this—you need Christ! Such is the nature and the
extent of your need, that less than the Incarnate Son and his fullness
cannot avail you. We need Christ! This is the reason for our coming
to him, and for his receiving us. We go to him, we deal with him, we make
our case known to him—because we need him. It may be our sense of sin
or our lack of a sense of sin; it may be our ignorance, our stupidity, our
insensibility, our conscious absence of all goodness; it matters not. Only
let these bring us at once and directly to himself. The emptiness is ours;
but the fullness is his; infinite fullness dispensed by infinite love!
V. Christ's need of the woman.
Does it sound strange to say that Christ needed the
woman? It is true; and as blessed as it is true. The speaker needs his
audience, as truly as the audience needs the speaker. The physician needs
the sick man, as truly as the sick man the physician. The sun needs the
earth as truly as the earth needs the sun. You may say, what would the earth
be without the sun? Yes; but what would the sun be without an earth to shine
upon? What would become of its radiance? All wasted. It would shine in vain.
So Christ needed objects for the exercise of his skill, and love, and power.
His fullness needed emptiness like ours to draw it out—otherwise it would
have been pent up and unemployed. He is glorified, not simply in the
possession of his fullness—but in the using of it. If it remains
within himself, he is unglorified, and the Father is unglorified. He needed
opportunities for drawing out his treasures. He needed the tax-collector as
truly (though not in the same sense and way) as the tax-collector needed
him. He needed Mary Magdalene and the woman of Sychar, and Simon the leper,
and Lazarus of Bethany, as truly as they needed him. How cheering! The Lord
has need of us! He needs guilty ones to pardon; he needs empty ones to fill;
he needs poor ones to enrich! How precious and how ample is the gospel
contained in this blessed truth!
VI. The woman's thoughts of Christ.
Her thoughts of herself are poor. She is modest and
humble; unwilling to obtrude herself on the Master. She is in earnest about
her cure; but she takes the quietest way of obtaining it. Her desire to
touch his garment is not error or ignorance--as if supposing that some
virtue lay in its hem. Nor is her wish for secrecy, unbelief—but simply
humility—humility, accompanied with such faith in him, that she feels
assured that a touch of his clothing will suffice. She is unwilling to
detain or trouble him; and she has such high thoughts of him as to convince
her that a direct appeal is not needed. A touch will do; one touch of his
garment! Thus she thinks within herself, in the simplicity of her happy
faith. She knows his fullness is infinite, and that simple contact with him
in any form will draw it out. The healing virtue in him is irrepressible.
Like the sun--he cannot but shine. Like the garden--he cannot but give out
his fragrance. Only let her come within touch of his clothing--and all is
She touched, and as she believed, so was it done to her.
All was well.
Let such be our thoughts of this heavenly healer. He is
the same in heaven as on earth. There still goes virtue out of him to heal
the sons of men. Let us do justice to his love and skill—thinking no evil of
Him—but only good. The simplest form of connection with him will accomplish
the cure. Listening to his voice—that will do it. A look at his face—that
will do it. A clasp of his hand—that will do it. A touch of his garment,
even of its hem—that will do it. For "as many as touch him are made