Ms. Fringe-Grabber

Icebreakers

Use one of the following questions to open up discussion.  (If you have first-time guests, be sure to have people give their names as they answer the icebreaker question.)

  1. How do you define faith?
  2. What is the object of your faith?

Our Study:  Ms. Fringe-grabber

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

John 3:14-15

“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Matthew 9:12

Objectives

Small group members and guests will:

  1. Explore the Biblical connection between faith and healing
  2. Set Jesus Christ as the sole object of our faith
  3. Experience the healing that comes on the wings of the Messiah

Study

Read Matthew 9:18-26

18While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.

23When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, 24he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26News of this spread through all that region.

Who is this ruler?

The parallel accounts in Mark (Mk. 5:21-43) and Luke (8:40-56) both give the name Jairus.  The local leader of a synagogue would have been chosen from the lay members and would most likely be a well respected and wealthy member.

Why lay hands?

This is the only time in Matthew that Jesus is specifically asked to lay hands to heal.  Having direct contact with a dead body would violate the Jewish law and make the living person ritually unclean for seven days (Num 19:11-12).  A person who is ritually unclean may not enter the temple and must separate from the rest of the community;  what Jairus is asking Jesus to do is to intentionally become impure for the sake of healing his child.

Who is this woman?

The language used to describe the woman with the bleeding problem points to the bleeding being menstrual.  According to the purity code in Leviticus, a woman was ritually unclean during the time of her menstruation – anything she sat on or anyone who touched her became ritually unclean as well.  Since it was against the purity code to have sex with a woman during this time (Lev 18:19) it is most likely that she was single or divorced.

Why is the second healing account placed within the first?

In all three gospel accounts we have the second story – the woman with the bleeding problem – interrupting the first story.  I believe that the authors are highlighting a parallelism – we are told in Mark and Luke that the woman had been suffering for twelve years, and that Jairus’ daughter was twelve years old.  This is the only time in Matthew that a woman is called “daughter” by Jesus. Both healing accounts are set against the backdrop of Jewish ritual purity and how Jesus reverses those laws.  Finally both accounts deal with the necessity of faith in healing.

Why does she touch the edge of his cloak?

The word translated for edge or hem most likely refers to a specific type of tassel that was commanded to be worn on the edge of clothing (Deut. 22:12; Num 15:38-39) and grabbing these tassels was seen as a desperate entreaty (1 Sam 15:27).  I think there is something deeper going on with this passage – note that the woman specifically aims for the tassels and, for some reason, believes that by grabbing them she will be healed.  The Hebrew word used for “edge” or “hem” can also be translated “wing”; for example, in Ruth 2, Boaz praises Ruth for taking shelter under the wings of the Lord, and in Ruth 3 Ruth asks Boaz to spread the corner (or edge) of his garment over her: these are parallel constructions.  Malachi 4:2 has a Messianic prophecy: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings”.  I believe that the woman with the bleeding problem has faith that Jesus is the Messiah and knows that healing is available in his wings.  (Note also the parallel Messianic claim in the next story with the blind men who shout “Son of David” towards Jesus.)

What is the nature and extent of her healing?

Jesus highlights her faith as the necessary factor for her healing.  Jesus is not giving a systematic theology on healing – he is not saying that only those with faith will be healed, nor is he saying that those with faith will always be healed.  He is only saying that her faith has healed her.  As I’ve argued above, I believe her faith was that Jesus is the Messiah, and it is not faith “in general” but a scandalous, desperate faith.

The word translated as healed is the same word that they use for salvation, or to be saved.  Matthew uses this word for both physical (Matt 8:25; 14:30; 24:22; 27:40, 42, 49) and spiritual (Matt 1:21, 10:26, 16:25, 19:25, 24:13) healing.  That is, healing is salvation – salvation from sin and all of its affects.

What’s the deal with the band?

It was common practice to hire flute players and professional wailers as mourners at a funeral.

Is the girl dead or only asleep?

Calling someone “asleep” is a euphemism for being dead, much like we say that someone has “passed away” rather than saying that they have died.  Some people take this passage to meant that Jairus had only thought that his daughter was dead and Jesus corrects the notion, perhaps pulling her out of a coma (which is no small feat in itself).  I believe the girl was actually dead because I don’t believe a father would have made such a mistake, nor do I believe professional mourners, who could have easily distinguished a dead person from a living one, would have made that mistake either.

What does all this mean?

We have two parallel accounts of people who seek Jesus in need of healing with a raw, desperate faith.  The scandalous nature of this faith – that they are willing to force ritual uncleanliness onto a respected religious teacher – only serves to accentuate how absolutely radical it is: they believe in the total sufficiency in the person of Jesus to heal them to the utmost.  What motivates these people to seek Jesus is not some anthropocentric claim but parental love – the love of a father for his only daughter and the love of God for His daughter.  And finally this faith is not some “automatic magic” in healing, but faith in a Person.  This faith also recognizes our need: the synagogue ruler was a man of prestige and the woman with the bleeding problem was a social pariah and yet both had to kneel before Jesus and admit they needed His healing – we will never be healed of maladies we refuse to acknowledge.

Application

The story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac is all about the supremacy of the Giver over the gift.  Our faith is that Jesus is the Christ – and while the Gospels and the whole New Testament unpack exactly what that means, we must believe in Jesus, not in any secondary thing (even if it’s good!) that comes from Him.  That means the knowledge, the emotions, the music, the sacraments, the intimacy in prayer, the signs and wonders – all good things in themselves – are only means and not an end unto themselves; the supreme end of our faith is to glorify Jesus Christ.

There is a mysterious connection between faith and healing, but we can be certain that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ will be saved.  Healing is a subset of salvation, not something distinct or separate.  Let us not narrow “salvation” to an event that happens after we are dead – salvation is here and now or it is not at all; God is not God only of the eternal future but of all time, and there is absolutely no reason to not expect his grace to overflow our lives today.  Seek God for every need in every moment.

Prayer

  1. Let us thank God that He has made a way for us by sending His son to die in our stead.
  2. Ask God to bring into our lives spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who will guide us and walk along side us.
  3. Ask God for wisdom to highlight areas in which we are bogged down by sin and for freedom from that sin so we may run after Him whole-heartedly.
  4. Ask God to enable us to set our eyes on Jesus and on Him alone; that we might not be distracted by anything else; that we may settle for nothing less, no matter how good or noble it may appear.
  5. Ask God to not let us forget the shame and tragedy of the cross, that we might not become to prideful or arrogant but instead will find strength and resolve there as well undergo our own trials.
  6. Thank God that He has brought us this far, day by day, and let us petition Him all the more for grace to brings us to the conclusion.
  7. Hebrews 11 surveys the giants of faith and concludes:

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

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