Touching the Lord’s Garments

Touching the Lord’s Garments

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well. (Mark 5:28)

Our story for today is taken from the fifth chapter of Mark, a chapter which is entirely focused on the theme of healing first, the Lord healed a man who had been possessed by a legion of evil spirits; then He was asked to go to the home of Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, because his daughter lay on the verge of death; and while He was on the way to see the young girl, the incident with the woman who had the flow of blood, which we read about in the second lesson, took place.

This incident revolves around a woman who has a disease where she was constantly loosing blood. The record of scripture tells us further that she had had this disease for 12 years, and during that time she had seen many different physicians, whose treatments were costly, caused her great suffering and pain, and did nothing at all to help her disease, but rather their treatments seemed to make it worse. When she heard that Jesus was nearby, and she heard of the miracles of healing that He had done, she thought to herself that this man was such a powerful healer that she did not need to bother Him. She thought, If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well (text). And so, she kept watch, listening for news of His travels, so that she could find Him and touch Him.

Perhaps He came to the town where she lived, or perhaps she heard that He would be near by and traveled to see Him there scripture doesn t tell us that. What scripture does tell us is that she managed to come upon Jesus while He was walking down a crowded street, surrounded by the disciples and many other people who wished to be near Him. The way was crowded, as was to be expected in a city street in those days, and the people were bumping and jostling each other, when suddenly Jesus stopped, and began looking around, asking who touched Me?

The disciples, completely unaware of what was transpiring, could not imagine why He would ask such a question while walking down a crowded street. Everyone was touching Him! But Jesus knew that someone had touched Him with a totally different intent someone had touched Him because of their belief in His divinity, because of their belief in His ability to heal, belief in His ability to save. Even the twelve disciples themselves did not yet have such faith in Him. And so He stopped to meet this special person. The woman was overcome by the power of the moment. On the one hand, she perceived that her disease had been healed, on the other hand, she may have felt that she had been caught “stealing” power from the healer. She may have simply been deeply moved by her sudden realization that He had the power to heal her. In any case, her reaction was to fall down on the ground in an act of contrition, begging forgiveness and to worship Him. Jesus told her that it was her faith that had made her well, and that she should now go in peace and be healed.

Like all the stories of the Word, this one also has many levels of meaning, many different lessons to teach us about the power of the Lord s Word to heal us of both our natural and spiritual diseases. Let us take a moment to look at what the woman and her disease represent. One of the key elements in this story is the fact that the disease has to do with the improper loss of blood. Blood is frequently mentioned in the Word, sometimes in reference to worship, as when the children of Israel sacrificed, celebrated the Passover, or when the Lord Himself instituted the Holy Supper; in other places it has to do with violence and death, as in “the shedding of innocent blood,” or when the Nile was turned to blood by Jehovah. In the good sense, when it pertains to worship, blood represent the truths of faith. In the opposite sense, where the subject is disease, violence, and death, blood signifies the truths of faith falsified and profaned (see AC 905011).

It is also significant that a woman had the disease, and that she had had it for 12 years, because as the church is the bride and wife of the Lamb, so a woman represents the church in its relationship to the Lord, and in this particular case, a Jewish women representing the Jewish Church. The number 12 is commonly used in the Word to signify all the goods and truths of the church, but in this instance, since it is referring to the duration of a disease, it has the opposite meaning of all evils and falsities that are with a church that has turned away from the Divine to worship things of the self and of the world. But there is one more important element to consider. The woman knew that she was sick and had been seeking help. So from these main points we can see that the woman represents that remnant of the Jewish Church whom the Lord came on earth to save, and who would form the basis of the Christian Church which He was about to establish, for although filled with falsities, and the loves of self and the world, yet there was the desire to be healed, to touch the Lord, to learn the new truths that would heal the spiritual diseases.

The woman, signifying a remnant of good people within the Jewish church, and all those people in any age whose spiritual health is threatened by falsity, sought help from physicians, who only made her condition worse and caused her even more suffering. The physicians stand for the knowledges of the world, as compared to spiritual knowledge. While such knowledge is essential for life in the world, it cannot be used to solve spiritual problems. The ability to do arithmetic is absolutely essential today, because we need to handle money all the time, but that skill does not do anything for our moral and spiritual life. In fact, if we insist on turning to “experts” in the sciences of the world to give us answers to our spiritual problems, we will find, as did the woman in our text, that we will give up all that we have, suffer even more, and still have our problems. It should be quite clear that we need to solve spiritual problems with spiritual truths. The opposite is also true The Word does not teach how to cure a cold, or build a better mousetrap. We should not turn to the Word for scientific knowledge, nor to science for spiritual guidance.

Once we have recognized that natural truths, or the works of men are not the answer to our spiritual dilemmas, the next step is to find the source of spiritual truths, and how we can make them our own. The woman decided that what she must do was to touch the border of the Lord s garment. We should note here that the Lord is consistently referred to as “Jesus” in this chapter, and the use of His name gives the leading idea of which of His qualities we are to think of in this context. “Jesus” means salvation (AE 81512), and so we should especially think about the Lord s power to save those who are spiritually unsound. That she touched His garments shows how we too should approach the Lord. She touched Him with the full belief that He was Jesus, the Savior, that He had the power to heal her diseases. This belief in Him is what set her apart from all the others who were also walking with Jesus that day. They too touched Him, but of all of them, only she reached out with a heart full of the intention to communicate her need to Him, and to receive from Him His answer, for By the “laying on of the hand” by the Lord, and also by His “touching” is & signified the communication and reception of Divine power (AC 100237, cf. AE 79).

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that the Word is like a man clothed in some places, like the face and hands, the man himself is visible. These are the simple, plain teachings of scripture such as the 10 Commandments and the Lord s Prayer. In other places, the Divine truth itself is protected by many layers of clothing. Thus in the Word, clothing, particularly the Lord s clothing, represents the external forms that truth takes when it is brought into application in the world. We read, That a woman laboring with an issue of blood was made whole when she touched the skirt of the Lord s garment & signified that health went forth from the Divine extremes or ultimates (AC 99173), and further that Because the Lord s garment signified Divine truth, therefore also Those who touched the border of His garment were healed (MAT 920,21, MAR 527,28,30; 656; LUK 844) [AE 19519].

This is a message of hope to those of us who have spiritual diseases today we too can symbolically touch the Lord s garments simply by reading His Word, for the Lord s garments, His external coverings, represent the sense of the letter of the Word. And just as many touched the Lord as He walked down that crowded street, but were not healed, many people read the Word today and are not healed because they do not know, or wish to know, that the Word is Holy, and is Divine Truth itself. The big difference between the woman who touched the Lord and was healed, and all the other people in the city that day, was that she had faith in the Lord. But why was her faith so important? Why were the disciples unable to do miracles in His name until they had actual faith in Him? Why was the Lord unable to do miracles in His home town?

The reason is that the first and most important thing of faith is to acknowledge that the Lord is the Savior of the world, and because this is the first and most essential of all, when the Lord was in the world, He questioned those He was about to heal concerning their faith, and those who had faith were healed.

The faith was that He was the Son of God who was to come into the world, and that He had power to heal and to save (AC 100835). In order for Him to be able to heal them, they had to already believe that He had the power to do so otherwise they would not be able to ask with a genuine heart. Their faith was very simple, believing only that the Lord was Almighty, because He was able to do miracles of Himself. We can see that this faith is, in itself, merely historical. But there must always be this historical faith before it becomes a saving faith; for a historical faith becomes a saving faith with a person by his learning truths from the Word, and living according to them (AE 8153,4).

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that there were three reasons why this simple faith healed these people first, because they acknowledged His Divine power, and that He was God; secondly when people acknowledged the truth about His Divine, there was an internal agreement with the truth, which brought the presence of the Lord and the angels, and thus His power; and thirdly, all diseases healed by the Lord represented spiritual diseases, and while natural medicines can heal the diseases of the body, only the Lord (through the Word) can heal spiritual diseases.

While the Lord never intended that anyone believe in Him solely on the basis of the miracles that He performed while in the world, He did intend to use them to attract attention to Himself at first, and then direct attention to the truth of the message He brought. Every church was established first by miracles, and then by a true faith that grew out of the understanding of the principles and reasons behind the miracles. This is why the New Testament is full of the miracles that the Lord performed at that time, and why they are still being preached about today because they establish that He has the power to save, to lift up to heaven, from Himself. Then, from this “miraculous faith” we can afterwards come into “saving faith,” when our life becomes spiritual (AE 8159). And what is “saving faith?” “To believe in the Lord” signifies not only to adore and worship Him, but also to live from Him, and one lives from Him when he lives according to the Word which is from Him; therefore “to believe in Him” is to believe that He regenerates man, and gives eternal life to those who are regenerated by Him (AE 81512).

The woman came to the Lord to touch His garments because she believed in her heart that He could cure her diseases, and she was right her faith allowed Him to heal her. Through this miracle, and others, the Lord has shown us His power. And He has shown us, through the internal sense of this story, that each of us can approach Him, touch Him through the letter of the Word, and if we have faith, that is, if we bring our lives into His spiritual order, our spiritual diseases will be healed, and we too may live in true spiritual peace. AMEN.

1st Lesson 2KI 432-37(port).

When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed. {33} He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the LORD. {34} And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm. {35} He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. {36} And he called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite woman.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” {37} So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up her son and went out. Amen.

2nd Lesson MAR 525-34,

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, {26} and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. {27} When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. {28} For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” {29} Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. {30} And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” {31} But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” {32} And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. {33} But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. {34} And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”Amen.

3rd Lesson AE 815b

No other faith than that which is called historical, which at that time was a miraculous faith, was meant by this faith whereby the sick were healed; consequently by this faith many wrought miracles at that time. This faith was, that the Lord was Almighty, because He was able to do miracles of Himself; for this reason He also allowed Himself to be worshipped, which was not the case with the prophets of the Old Testament, who were not worshipped. But there must always be this historical faith before it becomes a saving faith; for a historical faith becomes a saving faith with man by his learning truths from the Word, and living according to them.

Spiritual diseases can be healed only by the Lord, and in fact by looking to His Divine omnipotence and by repentance of life. This is why He sometimes said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee; go and sin no more.” This faith also was represented and signified by their miraculous faith; but the faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them; the truths themselves and the life itself according to them make the quality of the faith. Amen.

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, we ask that You give Your blessing and protection to this, your child, who has come before You today to confess her love of You and her faith in Your Word. Give her the strength and power she needs to keep Your commandments, that she may enter into spiritual life, and be conjoined with You forever more in Your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

Closing Prayer

O Lord God, Savior and Redeemer of the world, descend into our hearts today and fill them with Your love. Help us to see and acknowledge our sins so that You can take them from us by Your power; heal us with the truth of Your Word. Amen.

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