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Sermon Message


"Wonders Along the Way"

Matthew 9:18-26
Theme: Jesus sometimes increases our faith in Him by showing His power in the life of someone else first.

(Delivered Sunday, October 16, 2005 at Bethany Bible Church. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version.)

This morning, we come to a passage that could very easily be made into two sermons. In fact, most people think of the things described in this morning's passage as two separate events. It tells us of two people who were in two very different and very desperate situations. And it tells of how Jesus miraculously met their needs.

There are many lessons that we can learn from either of these two incidents all on their own. But I believe that they were meant by God to be thought of together. I believe that God has so interwoven these two events that they - together - emphasize one great principle to us of how Jesus works faith into our lives.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let's begin by reading these two stories as they're presented to us in Matthew's Gospel. Jesus had just given words of instruction to the disciples of John the Baptist - along with the Pharisees listening in - about Himself and the principles of the Kingdom He was establishing. And then, we read;

While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live." So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well." But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour. When Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land (Matthew 9:18-26).

Two seemingly different stories are being told to us in these verses. They both involve females - one a young girl, and the other a grown woman. And yet, if you think carefully about what Matthew and the other Gospels tell us about them, you'll see that there are some remarkable similarities between them.

Aside from the fact that both are the stories of females, we see that both of them are called "daughters". That word is one that has an affectionate feel to it. And so, the man tells Jesus, "My daughter has just died"; and Jesus tells the woman - who was much older - "Be of good cheer, daughter . . ."

We read in Mark's and Luke's telling of the story that this poor girl was only twelve years old; but we read that the woman had her ailment for twelve years. In other words, she suffered from her affliction for the same amount of time that this girl lived!

Both stories involved sickness; and both of the sufferers were, so to speak, at the end of their ropes. Mark tells us that, when the man came to Jesus, He said, "My little daughter lies at the point of death" (Mark 5:23). And similarly, Mark also tells us that this woman "had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse" (v. 25).

But though both stories involve severe suffering, both stories also give us examples of deep faith. The situation for both changed when Jesus came into the picture. Jesus had great mercy on both; and in both cases, Jesus healed as a result of a touch.

This morning, I'd like us to look at these two stories in greater detail. And I hope that we can draw out just some of the many spiritual lessons that they have to teach us. But the thing to notice is not so much what we learn from them separately, but what we learn from them being told together. The Holy Spirit has chosen to weave these two stories into one, so that a very important lesson can be taught to us about the way Jesus works in our lives. Together, they teach us how, in a time of need, Jesus sometimes increases the faith in Him that we need by meeting the need of someone else first - and letting us see it and learn from it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let's look at a little closer at the two stories in this passage. The first thing to notice is that . . .


Jesus had been speaking to the disciples of John the Baptist. And Matthew tells us that, while He spoke these things to them, His conversation with them was interrupted. A "ruler" came to Him in a state of great urgency.

Who was this ruler? The other Gospel writers tell us that his name was Jairus, and that he was a very important and very respected man. He was "the ruler of the synagogue" of that region.

* * * * * * * * * *

The synagogue, of course, was the place the Jewish people gathered for worship and religious instruction. And "the ruler of the synagogue" was the man who had been chosen by the elders of the synagogue to oversee its operations. He did several things. He saw to the upkeep of the building. He supervised its times of worship. He was responsible to choose men to read the scriptures, or to pray, or to give instruction to the people.1

There's an interesting story in the Gospel of Luke that gives us some insight into the role of a ruler of the synagogue. Jesus had healed a crippled woman in the synagogue during the Sabbath; and immediately, the woman began to glorify God. But the ruler of the synagogue was very angry that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. This was very irregular; and he felt that things needed to be brought to order. He stood up and said to the crowd, "There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day" (Luke 13:14). It was, of course, a silly thing for him to say; and Jesus proved him to be hypocritical. But this at least shows us how important a man the ruler of the synagogue was. It was his job to make sure that things were done decently and in order; and in full accord with the teaching of the scriptures.

And that makes it even more remarkable that this ruler - Jairus - came to Jesus in the way in which he did. He didn't try to meet Jesus under the cloak of night, as Nicoemus, in another story had (John 3:1-2). Jairus came before Jesus openly "and worshiped Him" (v. 18). In fact, Luke tells us that he "fell down at Jesus' feet and begged Him to come to his house" (Luke 8:41). For this ruler of the synagogue to bow down to Jesus and pay homage to Him in this way was a tremendous testimony to what he believed about Jesus. Clearly, he had heard of the things that Jesus had been doing; and his act of homage before Jesus now indicated the kind of conclusion he came to concerning the things he had heard!

What was it that Jairus wanted so desperately from Jesus? He was pleading earnestly with Jesus to come to his home and lay His hand on his young daughter. He said, "My daughter has just died" - or as I believe it can more literally be translated, "My daughter has just come to the end of her life"2 - "but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live" (v. 18).

Think of that! What a thing for a faithful Jewish leader to say! He could only say such a thing because He believed the things he had been hearing about this Man Jesus - that He truly was the Son of God!

* * * * * * * * * *

Now, just consider that man's faith in Jesus. He said, ". . . But come and lay Your hand on her and she will live" (v. 18). Where would he have gotten such an idea? Where would such a conviction have come from? I believe that he got it from hearing that Jesus had mercifully healed others with just a touch of His hand.

I believe that Jairus heard of how Jesus had reached out His hand and touched the leper we read about in the beginning of chapter eight; and how the man's leprosy was immediately cleansed (8:3). And it may be that he also heard about the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, who was sick with a very high fever; and of how Jesus "touched her hand, and the fever left her" (8:15). And as you think about all the other things he had certainly heard concerning Jesus, you can see why he made this earnest request of Jesus. He was convinced that if Jesus would come and lay his hand on his dying daughter, she too would live.

And look at the great mercy of our Savior! He never turns away anyone who comes to Him with such faith. Matthew tells us, "So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples" (v. 19). Mark 5:24 tells us that a great crowd also went along with them.

There would have been many witnesses to the things that were about to happen.

* * * * * * * * * *

So, Jesus goes with the man to save his daughter and to meet this great need. But as so often happens in life, one story goes on while another is beginning. In God's providence - and in accordance with His plan for good - those two stories intersect for His glory. And thus we see that . . .


Now put yourself in Jairus' shoes for a moment. He was a desperate father. There would have been a sense of urgency in his request. Without a doubt, he trusted Jesus to be able to save His daughter from death. But he also wanted to get Jesus to his house as quickly as he could - before death came and took his daughter away. There was not a moment to lose.

And so, you can just imagine how frustrated he must have been, as Jesus stopped to meet the need of a woman who also sought Him. I'm sure that, if he had a watch, he would have been looking nervously at it.

But let's turn, for a moment, from Jairus' situation; and consider this poor woman. Her situation was very desperate as well. Matthew tells us that she had been suffering from a flow of blood for twelve years! Can you imagine how much of a toll that would have taken on her physically? I suspect that she would have been quite drained and sickly. I even wonder if that's why she reached out to touch the hem of our Savior's garment. Perhaps she had become so weak that she couldn't reach higher. Perhaps her situation had even come to the point of being grave.

Her illness also took a toll on her financially. She apparently had some financial means when her illness began; but her money was eventually drained away. She had spent everything that she had - her whole livelihood - on physicians; and none of them were able to help her. In fact, all that happened was that she became both sicker and poorer. Some of us here today have suffered under illnesses like that - where we've tried to find answers to what was wrong with us; but the doctors could tell us nothing. In such cases, you're willing to try anything - traditional medicine, naturopathic care, homeopathic care. And yet, nothing seems to work. The doctors don't know what to do for you; and yet the medical expenses keep coming in. It's a horribly frustrating and scary situation to be in.

And what's more, this woman's illness took a toll on her in other ways. We're not told what the nature of her flow of blood was. It may be that it was of a very private nature - such as is mentioned in Leviticus 15:19-27. And if that's the case, then she would have been considered ceremonially unclean by her people. She would have had to be set apart from society. Anyone that she touched would have been considered unclean until evening. Everything that she laid on or sat on would be considered defiled; and whoever would have touched those things afterwards would also be unclean until evening. She would have been an outcast - unable to join into the cultural and religious life of her people. Imagine being in such a condition for a total of twelve years!

There's a sense in which she and Jairus had something in common: both of them had come to the end of their resources. They had no where else to go but to Jesus, and to hope for His mercy. But as the old hymn goes;

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.3

* * * * * * * * * *

She - like Jairus - had heard about Jesus; and having no other hope, she sought Him out as He made His way to Jairus' house. My guess is that, because of her condition, she didn't dare try to go before Him in a public manner. She wasn't sure how people would have reacted to 'a defiled woman' pushing her way through the crowd that was pressing against Him.

But look at what Matthew tells us about her faith in Him; "For she said to herself, 'If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well'" (v. 21). Perhaps she didn't dare to think of touching Jesus Himself, or of asking Him to touch her. But she felt sure that, if she could just touch the hem of His garment4, it would be enough. And so, driven as she was by her faith in Jesus' power to heal, she crept up from behind and reached out and touched the hem of His garment as He passed by.

Now, you and I would have hardly noticed such a thing. There was a large crowd of people pressing in on Him from all sides. But as someone has said, Jesus knows the difference between a press and a touch. This was a touch that came from faith; and He always notices those who have faith in Him.

By the way, I believe that this should be a great encouragement to you and me today. We may not be able to physically reach out and touch Him with our hand; but we CAN reach out and touch Him with our prayers. And when we do so in sincere faith, He always notices.

* * * * * * * * * *

Look at how He noticed her! Matthew tells us simply that Jesus "turned around" and saw her. But Mark tells us more. He says that, as soon as the woman touched Him,

Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowed and said, "Who touched My clothes?" But His disciples said to Him, "You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth (Mark 5:29-33).

Why do you suppose she was so afraid? Why did she feel the need to "confess"? I suspect that it was because she was an unclean woman; and she feared that once she was found out to have "stolen" a healing in this way, she would have had it taken from her. But look at how tenderly and lovingly Jesus speaks to her! He says, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.

And let's be careful to note the details. He calls her "daughter"; which is a term of endearment. It's a word that can refer to a young woman; and perhaps she was still relatively young - though she had suffered for twelve years. He tells her to "be of good cheer"; which certainly speaks to the fact that she was without hope, desperate, and very much afraid. In fact, the word He used may even include the idea of calling her to confidence and courage - that she was no longer an outcast among her people; and that her uncleanness had been taken from her.

And He told her what she may not have fully understood at first: that it was her faith that had made her well. Perhaps she thought it had something to do with touching His garment; but He lets her know that it was really a matter of her having sought Him in faith. The "touch" was just an expression of her faith in Him; and it was He Himself that healed her.

Matthew tells us simply, "And the woman was made well from that hour." What a wonderful Savior!

* * * * * * * * * *

And before we depart from this woman, let me make just one more observation. The words that Jesus used can literally be translated, "Be of good courage, daughter; your faith has SAVED you." The word He used can also mean "to save". In fact, He used the tense of the verb that refers to a completed actCould it be that He also saved her soul in the process? Well, consider that she had faith that He could heal her; and this couldn't have been for any other reason than because she had heard the many reports about Him (Mark 5:27). Surely the reports she had heard about Him would have confirmed to her what was also being said about Him - that He was the Son of God, walking upon the earth in human flesh. And what's more - as we can plainly see - her story had become an honored part of the story of the gospel, and has forever been recorded for us in three of the four written Gospel accounts. She must have been able to tell her story among God's people for it to have become known and recorded in this way.

Jesus' words to this poor woman then - as they are found in the original language - are words of gospel encouragement. They are words that every sinner - who truly comes to the end of herself or himself, and who reaches out to Jesus in faith - can take to heart: "Be of good courage; your faith has saved you."

What words of encouragement they must have been to this poor woman! What words of encouragement they ought to be to us! What words of encouragement they should be to the world!

* * * * * * * * * *

But while Jesus was caring for this woman, Jairus stood impatiently by. His daughter was dying; and precious time was slipping away.

And then the heartbreaking news came. Mark tells us,

While He [that is, Jesus] was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue's house who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?'" (Mark 5:35).

What a blow! Jairus' fatherly heart must have sunk to his feet. It was too late. There may have been hope while she lived; but now, all hope was gone.

But notice what Jesus then does. Mark tells us that,

As soon as Jesus hard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not be afraid; only believe" (v. 36).

And why would Jesus encourage Jairus to believe? It was because of what Jairus had just seen. He had just seen Jesus heal a woman who had been sick of a bleeding condition for the same number of years as his own daughter had lived. He had performed many miracles of healing before this time; and now, before Jairus' own eyes, He had performed yet another. And now, Jesus encouraged Jairus not to be afraid of what he had just heard; but believe in the One whom he had just seen. I have no doubt that Jairus DID believe - because on to the house they went.

And I hope you see the point. Jesus had just performed a faith-building act before Jairus - before his unique concern was to be met. And now, . . .


You see, I believe that this seeming "interruption" in Jairus' mission - and the delay it caused - was a key part of the plan all along. It was Jesus' intention not only to meet the need of this poor woman, but also to do so right in front of Jairus; and all in order to encourage Jairus' faith in Jesus for an even greater challenge than he at first thought. Now, he was going with Jesus - and Jesus was not going to simply heal his daughter; but even raise her from the dead.

* * * * * * * * * *

They finally made their way to the house of Jairus. Already, the mourners where there. Professional mourners were often hired to assist in a family's grief for the dead; and it often included the playing of flutes and sad, mournful wailing. Even a poor family would have a few such mourners; but in this case - apparently because of Jairus' reputation - it was a large and noisy crowd of mourners.

And when Jesus saw this, He did something remarkable. Matthew tells us,

When Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping" (vv. 23-24).

Now clearly, the girl was dead. But Jesus said she was NOT dead - that she was only sleeping. Because of this, some have suggested that there was no miracle involved in this story at all - that Jesus knew that the girl was not really dead, but was only in a coma. But how would He have known such a thing? And how could a whole household of professional mourners be so stupid?

No; the girl had truly died. But Jesus said that she was "sleeping" because that's how our Savior sees the death of those He is about to raise. Do you remember when He was going to raise His friend Lazarus from the dead? He told His disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up" (John 11:11). His disciples misunderstood. They said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." He had to explain to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead" (v. 14); but then, He went to the tomb to raise him.

In raising Lazarus, Jesus proved, that He is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25); and now, He is about to do so in the case of Jairus' daughter as well.

* * * * * * * * * *

It's ironic what happened after He said those words. The "mourners" laughed! The word that Matthew used literally meant that they 'laughed Jesus down'5. They mocked Him and derided Him. "Not dead?!", they scoffed. "Only sleeping?! How can anyone be so foolish!!" They switched from mournful wailing and weeping, to insulting laughter and scorn. And isn't this always the response of unbelief to the Savior's power?

They weren't laughing for long, though. And they weren't mourning for long either. I love it how Jesus brought funerals to a screeching halt; don't you?

Now, if I may put it this way, Jesus demonstrates "class" here. He doesn't look at all those who were mocking Him, and then tell them to follow Him into the girl's room and watch what He does - and then they'd all see something that would shut their mocking mouths! No; Jesus isn't that way. He doesn't put on shows for unbelievers. Instead, He protects the girl's dignity. He put all the mourners outside.

I'm sure that they weren't very happy about this. It may not have been that they all left willingly or graciously; because the word that is used suggests that He cast them out with a little bit of force!6 But it reminds me of a principle found in Proverbs 22:10; "Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; yes, strife and reproach will cease." If they're going to mock, let them mock outside - not inside, where He was going to raise the girl. Mourners weren't needed around anyway - not when the Lord of life was present.

And then, Matthew tells us what happened in very simple terms; "But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose." Matthew almost says it as if it took no effort for Him to do it at all. All it took was a touch from His hand; and her life was restored to her. Luke tells us that He commanded that she be given something to eat. She was a typical twelve year old, after all.

Matthew then tells us, "And the report of this went out into all that land" (v. 26). She became a famous young girl - but that was because she had been touched by an even more famous Savior! I have no doubt that we'll meet this little girl in heaven and hear her story first hand!

* * * * * * * * * *

So; here are two stories that have been deliberately woven together into one for us. And there are many great spiritual lessons they're meant to teach us about Jesus.

But once again, let me remind you of what I believe is the great practical lesson their combination is meant to teach us. It's meant to show us that - in the midst of taking us along to meet our need - God may stop us and show us something that He does in the life of another. He may give us what Spurgeon called "a wonder on the way", in order to strengthen our faith for something even greater than we expected. His ways are interwoven. What He does for you is meant to teach me; and what He does for me is meant to teach you.

And how do we apply this? I suggest that we do so by paying attention to what Jesus is doing in each other's lives; and learn to rejoice together in the things that God does for each other. We should joyfully testify to one another of what God has done for us; and thus be used by Him to build up one another's faith in Himself.

I suspect that Paul was testifying of this, to some degree, when he wrote to the Corinthian believers and said,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; let's remember that when God takes us through a trial or a difficulty, it's to show forth His own glory in and through us. And let's also remember that we ourselves may not be the only one that the trial is meant to teach! In fact, we may not even be the PRIMARY one that the lesson is intended for! We are being watched by one another; and perhaps our trial is meant to be the encouragement and uplift of someone else's faith.

Let's allow Him to make us good "faith-lessons" to one another!

1The Bible tells us the names of three rulers of synagogues; and all of them believed on Jesus. Crispus was the ruler of a synagogue in the city of Corinth (Acts 18:8); and after he heard Paul's preaching, he believed on Jesus. Sosthenes was another ruler of a synagogue in that city; and he was beaten for his association with the believers (Acts 18:17). But he too eventually became a believer; because Paul introduces his letter to the Corinthians along with "Sosthenes our brother" (1 Cor. 1:1). And of course, Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue in Capernaum, was a third.

2The word that Matthew uses to report what Jairus says is the Greek word teleutaġ. Compare this with what the other Gospel writers say. Mark has him saying, "My little daughter lies at the point of death" (5:23)2; and Luke has him reporting to Jesus that the girl "was dying" (8:42)3. This could suggest that the girl was near death when the man came to Jesus - almost as good as dead, and clearly just then "at the end"; but that she didn't actually expire until sometime after he left to find Jesus (see Mark 5:35; Luke 8:49).

3"He Giveth More Grace", by Annie Johnson Flint; Copyright 1941, renewed 1969 by Lillenas Publishing Co.

4The "hem" or "tassel" of His garment (tou kraspedou tou himatiou autou) may have referred to the tassels that the men of Israel were commanded to wear on the corners of their garments in Numbers 15:37-41. They were to serve as a constant reminder of the commandments of the Lord, and as a call to obey them. If this is the case, then we see how our Lord was faithful to every detail of the law of His Father, given through Moses.

5Katagelaġ; a compound word joining kata (down) and gelaġ (to laugh). It's an intense expression of derision and ridicule.

6Ekballġ; to throw or cast out.

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