The Woman Who Dared
We are told in the Gospel according to John that if a record had been kept of all the miracles Jesus performed when He was on Earth, there would be no end of books giving those records. He tells us there were certain miracles selected, I presume, not only by himself but other Gospel writers, for a special purpose. In his Gospel, John gives us seven miracles, and he tells us why he selected those particular seven. He says: “These are written that you might know that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing you might have life through His name.
He gives us these particular miracles to illustrate the divine power of a man from Nazareth, and that we might see in this ministration of power His deity and believe on Him as the only Saviour of men. This gives us the interpretation to the miracles that are recorded in the New Testament. They are all to illustrate the greater power of Jesus, doing a greater thing than the healing of the body.
As an instance of that, in the second chapter of Mark we have the story of a man who was brought to the meeting on a bed and was lowered through the roof. You remember how, when a man was lying there sick of the palsy, the first thing Jesus did was to say to the man, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” We are told by Mark that this He said when He saw the faith of the four men who brought the sick one to Him.
Now, in that congregation were a number who were not in accord with Jesus Christ, and they began to reason among themselves. They asked each other, “How can this man forgive sins? This is blasphemy. Nobody but God could forgive a man his sin.”
Let me say this: That is a fact. Nobody but God can forgive a man his sin. I want you to note that Christ did not contradict their statement, but He proceeded to prove that He was God manifest in the flesh. He did not say, “You are wrong in that statement,” but, “That ye may know that I have power on Earth to forgive sins, I say to the sick of the palsy: Rise up, take thy bed and walk.” And the man immediately arose, took up his bed and walked, and they said, “We never saw it on this fashion, and they glorified God” [Mark 2:12]. When it was demonstrated that they were wrong, they were prepared to acknowledge it.
You see, He healed that man to prove that He had power to do the greater thing—forgive him his sins.
Under four headings I want to discuss this narrative. We have—
I. A SAD NEED. A woman with an issue of blood for twelve years. Spending all her living to help her condition; was nothing better, but rather worse.
II. A SIMPLE FAITH. “When she heard of Jesus, she said: If I may but touch the hem of His garment, I shall be whole.”
III. A SURE CURE. “She came in the press behind Jesus and touched the border of His robe; straightway she was made whole, and she felt in her body that she was whole of that plague.”
IV. A SANE CONFESSION. “She fell at His feet and told Him all.”
I. A SAD NEED. She was a physical and financial wreck. She had spent all her living and was nothing better.
She was also a social outcast. According to the Levitical law, she was defiled, and defiled everything she touched.
Now friends, if there is anything that is taught plainly in the Bible, it is this: That all men everywhere are hopelessly and helplessly lost, apart from Jesus Christ, and I feel that this is a great truth that we must emphasize particularly.
God hath said: “We all like sheep have gone astray, every one turned to his own way.” “There is none righteous; no, not one.” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Even those of us in this room tonight, who have been quickened, as Paul says, we ourselves, “were dead in trespasses and in sins, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were BY NATURE children of wrath, even as others” and were “without God and without hope in this present world.”
Oh, beloved friends, if you are prepared to take this Book as God’s Word, you will certainly have all the conviction you need, and it is my opinion that we need more Bible conviction. I think we have been trying too much to appeal to people’s consciences with our own ideals.
It was an Old Testament prophet who said that “the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Then he asked this question: “Who can know him?” There is only one who knows the human heart, and that is God Himself. We do not know our hearts. We do not know the treachery of our own hearts. Even some of us who have been Christians for years are surprised to find out what possibilities there are for wrong-doing in our hearts. I believe when Jeremiah said that the heart of a man is deceitful above all things, he told a plain everyday truth. It is a fact. You remember Jesus was talking about this on one occasion. He said: “It is not that which goeth into the mouth that defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth.”
Peter said to the Master: “There are certain Pharisees that heard you make that statement and they are greatly offended.” They sent Peter for an explanation, and he asked for the meaning of those words. Jesus answered: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
That is not my opinion. That is Christ’s picture of a natural heartand if we can believe the records we are reading every day in our newspapers of the crimes being committed, we must accept the statement. I tell you tonight that I am more afraid of my heart than I am of any monster that is treading this Earth on two feet.
He is a wise man who is afraid of sin. It is a wise man who guards his heart. “Out of the heart are the issues of life.” You see Christ deals with first causes, not with results. When the heart is right the habits are right. He undertakes to remove the cause of those habits that we have already formed, and those that may be formed.
II. A SIMPLE FAITH. This woman had a very simple faith in the power of Jesus to deliver her. Notice the cause of her faith. It came by hearing. “When she heard of Jesus.” “Faith comes by hearing.” Wasn’t it a great day for us when somebody told us of Jesus!
Christ said to the demoniac, out of whom He cast the legion of devils, when he wanted to go with Him, preaching through the country: “Go home and tell thy friends what great things the Lord hath done for thee.”
The woman at the well left her water pot and went back into the village and told the people she had found the Christ, and the Lord never rebuked her, for it is the natural thingto do.
This woman, when she heard of the Master, said, “If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole.”
That suggests that her faith was not very intelligent. She had this idea: There will have to be a physical contact with His robe, and that robe will be a vehicle through which the power of healing will come to me.
There is no vital connection between her touching His robe and her salvation. This suggests an old error that has run right through the church. So many think that through some rite, or some ceremony, or some sacrament they are going to be brought in vital contact with Jesus Christ.
Just before I left Canada, one of the oldest members of my church, a woman who had been a Roman Catholic from a girl of fourteen, became very ill. She became so ill that she had to have a serious operation, and it looked as if she was going to die. My assistant was to visit her on a Thursday, and the operation was to be on Friday morning. He went down on Saturday morning to see her. He found the poor woman half unconscious. It was a Catholic hospital. When he went in the Sisters said to him, “We thought she was dying last night.” The Sisters of course knew about her having been a Catholic. Would you believe it, there was a rosary around her neck; a “sacred heart” pinned to her garment. Why, we were amazed when we found it out. When she came to herself and found this rosary about her neck, she called for the nurse and asked for an explanation. They said: “We thought you were dying. We called the priest and put these things on you to help you through the valley of death.” She said: “I don’t need these things. I have Jesus, and fear no evil.”
Those Sisters were sincere. They thought if she did not have this crucifix before her dying eyes, she would be lost. To me that is darkness. It is pitiful.
Baptism won’t save us. The Lord’s Supper cannot save us. Thousands of people baptized have never been saved. Thousands who sit down to the Lord’s table have never known His saving power.
You ask, “Don’t you believe in these sacraments?” Of course I do! They are not before the Cross. THEY ARE BEHIND THE CROSS. I am baptized because I am saved. I sit down to the Lord’s Supper as a Christian man to witness to others that I have accepted Christ. To whom did Christ give the broken bread and the wine? Why, to His disciples. I am emphasizing this because there are people who seem to think there must be some physical contact with something in order to be saved.
But the Lord is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and He always detects true faith, and there may be a real faith in spite of the error. I believe there are Roman Catholics, in spite of all that is unscriptural in their rites and ceremonies, who trust Jesus Christ. The history of that church gives the record of some very worthy saints. In spite of our ignorance, if our faith is simple enough to bring us to Jesus, He will make us whole. Bless His name for that!
Some time ago I read the review of a book. I think its title was, “From the Bottom Up.” It gave a number of remarkable conversions, some of them having taken place during the war years.
One that was especially notable in this review was that of a sailor by name of “Billy” Hicks. He was on a training ship in the British Navy. He was the best liked man among all those sailors; a splendid athlete, boxer, dancer, and a “bit of a wag.” He was also a first class sailor.
In connection with their training there was one feat to be performed in the rigging of the ship that was very dangerous, and one morning when the command was given for a sailor to carry out this order, he slipped and fell to the deck and was instantly killed. The next day when that same order was given to another recruit, a fear took hold of the others, who expected to see him fall, and sure enough, he did. The superstition of the sea is that if two are killed, the spell will not be broken until the third has met the same fate.
To the surprise of all on board, the commanding officer stated that the next morning “Billy” Hicks (favorite) would be expected to carry out this order. Although he was a brave fellow, they all observed that he suddenly turned pale, and seemed to be seized with great fear. That day he wanted to be alone, and towards evening he asked the officer of the ship for the privilege of using one of the signal lights. He was an expert at signaling. On the following day, when the sailors all expected the third man to be killed, they noticed that Hicks took his place in the line, looking brighter and better than he ever did in his life. In fact he seemed to be joyful. They wondered what could have happened. After the other exercises the order was given for Hicks to climb the rigging, as the others before him had done. He went up the ladder like a cat; carried out the order perfectly, and came down to the deck without any mishap whatever. So sure were the sailors he would be killed that they all stood from under, expecting to see him fall, and when he came back to the deck, old sailors ran to him and hugged and kissed him. They were overcome with joy.
Now Hicks was so greatly changed it was patent to all that some great change had taken place. The secret of it was not known until two weeks later, when a sister ship anchored alongside, and the officers of the two ships were dining together, when one of them from the visiting vessel asked if they had on board a man by the name of “Billy” Hicks.
“Why, yes,” said the officer in command. “He is our very best sailor.”
Pulling a notebook from his pocket, the officer said: “I have something here I would like you to explain. Two weeks ago one of my officers observed a strange signal in the sky, and called me to interpret it. And this is what I read:
“Dear God, this is “Billy” Hicks. I ain’t no bloomin’ coward. I am not afraid of “Davy Jones’ locker,” nor am I a little kid fussing for candy, but tomorrow when I go out on that yardarm, give me the courage of a man with a clean heart, and, Oh, Lord, let me feel once again as I used to feel at my mother’s knee, when I said ‘Our Father!’”
It is evident that this was the secret of the change in “Billy” Hicks’ life. God interpreted the signal as a cry from a heart in need, and He can always discern simple faith, though it may be very unintelligent.
III. It was A SURE CURE. “She came in the press behind.” And I can almost see her bloodless hand. All those years that disease had drained upon her system. There was a great mob thronging Jesus for the loaves and fishes, but few were following Him. She puts her finger out and touches that robe as it passes by—and immediately, “STRAIGHWAY.” Man could not do it. She had spent all her money. Physicians could not help her. But, oh, how quickly God did it.
You remember the other morning we were talking about another passage in Mark—when the young man came to Christ and wanted eternal life. When the test was put to him he could not meet it. He turned his back to Jesus and went away, and as Jesus saw him going, He was sad, and said: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom.” One of the disciples said, “If that man can’t be saved, who can?” Listen to the answer: “With man it is impossible.”
You cannot lift yourself out of the mire and clay. You have got to get help from the outside. “With man it is impossible, but NOT WITH GOD.” Your case is easy for Him.
Have you ever noticed the desperate cases that He selected to illustrate His power? A LEPER—No one ever healed a leper, but when the leper kneeled before Him and said: “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” He touched him and his flesh came like the flesh of a child. A MAN BORN BLIND. He touched him and his sight came at once. A DEAD BOY on the way to the grave. “He touched him and gave him back to his mother.” A MAN FOUR DAYS IN THE GRAVE.
Perhaps the leper represents you; a filthy heart and filthy life. Jesus Christ can make you clean. He will not spurn you. Everybody else turned from the leper, but Jesus put His hand on him. Oh, thank God for purity that is never contaminated by touching the unclean! That is the kind of purity that Christ had.
It may be you are blind. You have not seen yet that you are ruining your own life. Oh, you think you are taking the right road and doing the right thing. Jesus Christ will give you sight tonight.
Who did He forgive? A harlot taken in adultery. The law said, “Stone her.” He said, “No; forgive her. Go in peace and sin no more.”
I am glad I have a Gospel like this to preach to this poor old world. God’s heart is moved with compassion for us. Here is another sinner down at His feet, washing them with her tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head. There is no case too hard for God. “Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” If you recognize tonight that your need is too great for man, then you are ready for God.
“And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she FELT in her body that she was healed of that plague.” Oh, yes, she had some feeling! Some folks tell us there isn’t any feeling in religion. But there is some feeling in religion. You remember Bunyan likened a sinner to a pilgrim on a journey with a great burden on his back, and all at once he comes to a hill called Calvary, and the burden rolls off. Don’t you think that fellow felt something? Well, I think he felt BETTER any way.
Thirty-eight years ago I accepted Christ. The next day, I went to town, and a merchant came out of his store and he said: “Young man, they tell me you gave yourself to Christ last night. Did you ever see this verse?” And read me John 5:24. I read it, and he said, “Read it again!” I read it once more, and he said, “Read it again!” Then he asked: “What does that say you have?” I answered, “It says I have ETERNAL LIFE and shall not come into judgment, but have passed from death unto life.”
DID I FEEL SOMETHING? Why, I had more feeling than I knew what to do with. A child of the world yesterday without hope and without God, and now a fellow-citizen with the saints, a joint heir with Jesus Christ. FEEL! FEEL! Why of course you feel!
“She felt in her body that she was whole.” Some of you are not going to have any feeling until you get to Heaven. I am having some NOW! You may taste and see that the Lord is precious.
IV. She made a SANE CONFESSION. I will just take time to say this. She fell down at His feet and told Him all she ever did.
You will observe that Jesus asked for that acknowledgment. He never requested a woman to do anything immodest. It is just as right for a woman to tell this story as it is for a man, and it is a good thing for the world that so many women are telling it. Indeed, I think that our sisters are more faithful than the men in this respect. There may be more male preachers than female, but when it comes right down to real witnesses, I think the women are away in the lead. May God increase their number!
I wonder if there is someone in this congregation who is conscious of a DEEP NEED, so great that no human remedy can meet it. If so, you are ready for the deliverance that Christ waits to give to the helpless and the hopeless who will put their trust in Him.
GOD IS YOUR SALVATION. “Trust and be not afraid.”