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Sermon for Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26   -   The Healing Power of Touch
Proper 4
           

As Matthew's story begins this morning, Jesus, the great physician, is on his way to make an emergency house call. There was a little girl who was in a grave state and her father implored Jesus to come. We are told that a large crowd of the curious followed Jesus. Some were hoping he would succeed, others that he would fail; most probably got caught up in the excitement of the parade.

In this throng was one woman who was there for quite a different reason. We are told that for twelve years she had been suffering from a bleeding hemorrhage. Some modern scholars have theorized that this was a bleeding cancer. If this were the case she was, of course, beyond all medical help. Mark tell us that she had already been to all of the doctors and she had only gotten worse, and beside that they had taken all her money. Interestingly, Luke, who was a physician, tells this story as well, but he could not bring himself to tell that side of story. Call it professional pride but he is not about to say that she was taken for all her money by a long string of doctors.

How could she get the attention of Jesus? Her problem was of a very personal nature and she did not want to discuss the issue publicly. According to Levitic Law, a woman who was bleeding was considered unclean and under law could touch no one. There were many ancient taboos. She did not want to have to go through the disciples to see Jesus. She wanted the doctor and not the nurse.

She thus devised a plan. Having heard the stories of Jesus' power, she declared: If I but touch the hem of his garment I will be healed." We smile at that and say: How innocent, how naive.

She reached out from the crowd and touched the garment of Jesus. Immediately he stopped, bolted upright, and asked: "Who touched me?" The disciples were taken aback. Was this some kind of rhetorical question? Who touched you? Why master, look around, everyone is touching you. The New English version quotes their words as being: "What is the purpose in asking?"

Jesus replied with one of the most mysterious lines in the Bible. He said: "I felt power flow from me." For years I have been mesmerized with that verse. What exactly happened in that moment? Did the lady drain his battery? It sounds as though he is almost describing a power surge. "I felt power flow from me." Whatever happened the important matter of course is that in the midst of the crowd, Christ felt the touch of a single person. Don't ever say that in the enormity of the cosmos God cannot care about my concerns and me. Not only does God care, he actually solicits our concerns "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you peace."

Daughter, said Jesus (and I might add parenthetically at this point that that is the only recorded time in scripture that Jesus used that term) daughter, your faith has made you well. And, we are told, she was immediately healed. The desperation of her faith thus became the channel that led to her healing. The story is saying there are two kinds of touch:

1. The first being physical touch.
2. The other is spiritual touch.

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