And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.…
It is not often that we are able to perceive the full purpose of any one of God's dealings. Seldom can we see the perfect fruit of the chastisement He allots us. And no wonder: the life of man is so short; the purposes and operations of God are so vast.
I. In the conduct of our Lord notice —
1. Christ's apparent harshness. He insisted on the woman's coming forth to tell her shame. But see Christ's real kindness. It was not in mere assertion of authority that He called her forth. It was to complete the blessing. He would give her His benediction before she went. Again, it was to purify and strengthen her faith. He would prepare her to confess Him elsewhere. Christ alone knew the trials to which this woman would be exposed at home.
2. So in like manner and with like purposes, will Christ deal with you, if you be of those who have come to Him with faith. The purpose of all Christ's discipline — the discipline that we experience — is exemplified in His conduct to this woman. First, we noticed that He called her forth to receive further blessing. She came for healing only, but He would give her spiritual grace. Like her, many now come to the Saviour, barely praying for pardon, for deliverance from punishment. But Christ did not achieve redemption merely to keep men out of hell — He died to take them to heaven. Now, to prepare for heaven much grace is necessary, and men must be summoned to return to Christ again and again, that they may receive far more than the blessing for which they first came. Christ has yet richer favours to bestow; and if His people do not apply for them they must be placed in circumstances where they will feel their want and their need, and hungrily ask Him for more. Next, we saw that He called her forth to purify and strengthen her faith. There is no need for me to tell you that your faith is both imperfect and impure. Would you not desire your faith to grow stronger and larger? Then it must be used and tried, exercised and trained. Again, we noticed that Christ was probably preparing this woman to witness for Him in time to come. He requires from all men the public profession of His name. Salvation is not a sort of spiritual luxury to be enjoyed in private. And, further, men never know what lies before them as messengers of God; they are ignorant of the high and arduous service to which, may be, they have been appointed. But Christ knows it; and He prepares them and exercises them in bearing testimony for God in one difficulty and trial after another, until they are ready for the work they have to do. Thus does He grant to His applicants, not only the healing they pray for, but also the strength which they are content to lack. As in the experience of this woman, so in His treatment of us, will Christ combine apparent harshness with real kindness.
II. For the further investigation of this subject shall we turn from the Saviour to the saved, and try to trace the feelings of this woman as the black cloud of Christ's seeming displeasure passed over her.
1. We find her full of sudden joy at feeling in her body that she was healed of that plague. Twelve years' misery, labour, expense, and disappointment are all at an end. How universal the joy must have been. No fibre of her frame that did not thrill with gladness. And there was another cause of joy too; she bad escaped the exposure she so much dreaded. But her joy was all at once quenched in awe and fear when He asked, "Who touched Me?" and when He asked again, and when He looked round about with a gaze that showed He knew her that had done this thing. So feeling, for a moment, she comes forward and tells Him all the truth. But, instead, sounds came upon her ear tenderer and tenderer, and stronger in consolation: "Courage, daughter; thy faith hath saved thee," etc. Ah! what feelings were hers, as she rose and departed. It would take her long to disentangle all their varied happiness. Did she not feel that the benediction of Christ amply made up for the loss of secrecy? She was really happier for the discipline through which He made her pass. Had she gone away as she hoped and planned, she would have carried with her none of this joy — the love of Christ. She would have received the cure, and that alone. And, on the other hand, she would have had doubts as to Christ's willingness to heal her; doubts as to His forgiveness of her intrusion and underhand application; doubts, too, as to the permanence of the cure — all would have been in uncertainty. But now she knew that His will healed her, His kindness welcomed her, His grace blessed her. Moreover, had she gone away as she hoped, she would have retained her superstition with her faith. It would have cramped and enfeebled it, and she might never have believed in Jesus to the salvation of her soul. And the weakness that made her come to Christ in the crowd behind might have betrayed her into greater fear of man at home, and she might never have been able to confess His name. But now she knew Him, and believed in Him — not in the fringe of His garment; now she had confessed Him before the multitude, and would not fear to confess Him before her friends. Would she not be sure that it was loving wisdom that deprived her of the convenience which she had yearned for, and substituted blessings of which she had not dreamed? And, further, was she not glad that she had been made to undergo all this? If she could have had her choice, and it were all to do over again, think you she would have wished to go away secretly without seeing Christ's beaming eye and hearing His "Courage, daughter, go in peace"? Surely not. She saw now that Christ's kindness, though it seemed harsh at first, was wiser than her own selfish cowardice, and secured her greater happiness.
2. This narrative shows us also a person undergoing harsh discipline, and perceiving herself in a few moments the kindness which appointed it. Now this makes it specially interesting. It is so seldom we can see both sides of any dispensation — the peaceable, happy fruit as well as the present grievousness — that every instance in which we can do so ought to receive most careful meditation. It is not always granted to Christians to see this happy change so suddenly; and yet some time or other in the experience of every believer as swift a vision of God's kindness in discipline is accorded. And from over us will the cloud sometimes pass as quickly as in this case. Many a discipline which we think harsh we shall find to be kind. Not only will it really be kind, but we shall know it to be so, and shall receive the joy of experiencing God's goodness. Many an exposure or trial that we would have avoided at any cost will turn out to be the means of bringing blessings which we shall reckon cheaply bought. Conclusion: It is painful when speaking of privileges and securities, to think that they are limited to a few. But I must warn you that none but those who come to Christ for salvation may hope that He is training them for eternity. Those who do not touch Christ by faith, their sorrows are but sorrows, their disappointments bring no outweighing joy, their troubles are not trials, only calamities. Of how much are you depriving yourselves by unbelief! Now that Jesus is near, is even waiting for you, will you not trust in Him and come to Him to be healed?
(J. Alden Davies.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.