The Hem of His Garment
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Matt. 9:20- “And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment.”
This account can be found also in the gospel of Mark and Luke. It will be best to use all three gospels so that we might obtain a clearer picture. This story concerns a woman who has had an issue of blood for 12 years. She has been to many physicians and has given all her money to them, but they have not helped. In fact her condition is continuing to get worse. Mark 5:26, “And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse”.
No doubt she had a strong desire to be rid of this plague. When she had heard of Jesus she said within herself, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole”. Mark records, “…If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole” (Mark 5:28).
What meaning can we derive from this incident? There is no doubt that it actually happened. But what can we learn from it? God does not introduce to us a story in His word just for the sake of entertainment. If we look at this account literally there is much we can learn. It is in our times of sickness and physical ailments that we should look to God for healing. God still heals! I don’t think this is an instruction for us not to seek professional medical doctors for physical and sometimes mental needs. I do believe that it is telling us that no matter what doctor we go to, only God can provide the healing that is needed. So while we allow the doctor to operate on us, our faith should be in God who guides the surgeon’s hand.
While the literal meaning of this story provides us with instructions on the healing power of God, there is also a deeper spiritual application that we hope to look into. We will first attempt to look at what this account is not saying.
The end result of this story is, “…thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace”. The word “whole” in the Greek is “Sozo”, which means “save”. This word is also used in Luke 7:50 where Christ spoke to the woman who came in and had washed His feet with her tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head. Christ said, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace”. So we see that whatever this story is talking about it is speaking of one who is saved by their faith.
Many scholars will interpret this story and use it to illustrate our need of eternal salvation. “You”, says the scholar, “must seek Christ and reach out to him by faith if you are to be saved”. And the penalty for not doing so will send you straight to hell! This interpretation only serves to cause further distress to the child of God and is so full of holes it won’t hold water!
We will only make note of a few observations that show a glaring contrast to the interpretation just mentioned. It is noted that her condition continues to get worse even after failed attempts with the many physicians that she has consulted with, Mark 5:26, “And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse”. I can’t imagine anything worse than spending eternity in the lake of fire, a place void of the presence of God Almighty. Hell is described as a place of tormenting flames. But I don’t see how this woman (who supposedly needs eternal salvation) could continue to worsen her eternal state if she were Hell bound to begin with. The bible says that she grew worse. And I don’t see how you could get any worse than eternal flames.
The scriptures tell us, “When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment”. This implies someone who has been influenced by the news of Jesus and then set out to seek and find him. These characteristics are contrary to the one without Christ, the dead alien sinner. Paul tells us in 1Cor. 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”. John 9:43,47 states in words to clear to miss, “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word”. “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God”.
While man can hear the letter of God’s word spoken by an audible voice, the dead alien sinner has no spiritual ears to hear and is not capable of hearing Gods word nor does he want to hear them. “They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely” (Ps 58:4). That seems like strange language that a deaf adder would stop up her ears. But it describes well the condition of the alien sinner who can’t hear spiritually and doesn’t want to hear.
The dead alien sinner will never be found to seek after the Lord. John 6:44 says, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day”. In Romans 3, Paul describes the man dead in trespasses and sins and starts out by saying, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God”. The dead alien sinner cannot come to Christ; neither does he seek after Christ. Life precedes action. A simple rule that can be used in rightly dividing God’s word is- never ascribe godly works to a dead man. If one has a desire to seek after Christ, if one has a love for Christ, if one has a hunger and thirst for the things that be of God, if he has an awareness of sin and conviction of wrong doing, he is not in need of eternal salvation but rather this describes one who already has eternal salvation.
If this woman, with an issue of blood, was not someone who was in need of eternal salvation, then what was it she was in need of? No doubt her faith saved her, but from what was she saved? There are a lot of things in this life that we need deliverance from. But one of the greatest things the child of God can be saved from in this life is false doctrine.
In another place we read a similar account, “And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole”(Matt. 14:35-36). Notice this passage is referencing those who already have knowledge of him! And what was the response? They went out into the country around them and brought unto him all that were diseased! It didn’t say they brought back all that would come, or all that could come, or even all that were healthy, they brought unto Christ all that were diseased. Such should be the effect of God’s word to us. O’ that we might rejoice in His word and desire to bring in those that are in need of healing! They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. Notice they too could be made whole by touching the hem of his garment.
Herein lays the diamond in the rough! Let us for a moment look more closely at this garment. Many things about the Jews were symbolic. Their sacrifices were symbolic; the type of food they were to eat (or not eat) as well as their clothing was symbolic. In Numbers 15:37-40 we have this recorded concerning the garments that the Jews were to wear; “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God”.
These garments with the blue around the borders were a constant reminder to them to keep all the commandments of the Lord. Whenever they were tempted to sin, the blue fringe of their garment would be a monitor to them not to break God’s commandments. The reminder was with them wherever they would go, they were wearing it. And if they kept not His law, the boarder of their garment was there for a reminder that they had transgressed. Even though the Jews were commanded to remember and do all the commandments of the Lord, the purpose of the law was not to make them wholly and without sin. The purpose of the law was to show sin as exceeding sinful.
Romans 3:19-20 tells us, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin”. The Mosaic Law was not given to the children of Israel for a means of establishing righteousness (Gal.2:21 “…for if righteousness come by the law, then
Christ is dead in vain) but rather it was to show just how far from righteousness they were! It was impossible for the Jews to keep the law, for they were sinners. How discouraging and down trodden they must have sometimes been in their failures as they were constantly reminded of God’s law.
That same law is now written on our hearts. He has not written his law on tables of stone but in the fleshy tables of the heart. It is when the child of God is regenerated by the Spirit of God that this law is written on his heart. It is then that he sees the huge weight of the law pressing him down. The Apostle Paul wrote of his experience of Grace in Romans chapter 7. He said, “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died”. The law shines the light on our sinful nature and shows us who we really are; vile and polluted sinners!
It is then, under the heavy weight of the law that we see the plague of sin in our bodies. It is then that the child of God sees his helpless and ruined state. Only then will he cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death”? This woman of whom we speak has had a plague for twelve years and Mark 5:26 says, “And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse”.
There are many so called “physicians” out there who think they have the remedy for your terminal sickness. There is “Dr. Works” who says that you must do some work in order to save yourself from this terrible condition. And he has other Doctors that are under him. They are Dr. Baptism, Dr. Perseverance, and Dr. Fatalist to name a few. These worldly “physicians” will do nothing to help you, but rather you will only grow worse as the weight of sin continues to press you down. And they demand a lot out of you as well! Perhaps they have convinced you that you are cured by your own works only to have them question the effectiveness of the remedy!
But all these doctors use the law unlawfully. The same perverted use of the law is seen in the Pharisees of yesterday and today. Matt. 23:4-5 states, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments”. Matthew Henry comments on this verse,
“…The Pharisees were not content to have these borders like other people’s, which might serve God’s design in appointing them; but they must be larger than ordinary, to answer the design of making themselves to be taken notice of; as if they were more religious than others”.
It was an act of self righteousness that they would enlarge the borders of their garments. They would do this in an attempt to show others that they were within themselves a more holy people. But Christ could not be fooled. It is in this same 23rd chapter of Matthew that Christ repeatedly refers to the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites”.
There was only one that could keep the law of God. Christ said in Matt. 5:17-18, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”. Christ declared his righteousness by fulfilling the law. His temptation in the wilderness was not a test of his strength but rather it was to confirm with us that he could not fall into temptation. Therein lays the glaring contrast between man the sinner and Christ the righteous.
But the gospel message is one of comfort and good news to the diseased and plagued. It is a message of redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sin. How is it that God, who gave us the law, can forgive us who will never be able to keep the law? It is because Christ died a death of substitution. Our sins were laid on him on Calvary and his righteousness was given us. 2Cor. 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”. O blessed news for the sin sick soul! His work was complete on the cross at Calvary. “For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).
Matt. 9:21- “For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole”. It wasn’t her righteousness that would heal her, for she had none. It wasn’t the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, for neither did they have any but were only hypocrites. The true healing was trusting in God and His righteousness. Apostle Paul reminds us of the purpose of the law in Gal. 3:24, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. She declared to herself and others around her that her sole reliance for righteousness was Christ and him alone. The touching of his garment was a manifestation of the child of God who is justified by faith.
One who is justified by faith first sees his depravity, of which only God can show to the sinner’s heart in regeneration. It is then that for the first time he feels to be condemned and ruined, having no hope. He may seek comfort from the religions of this world, but that never does satisfy his longing heart. But then, through the gospel, he hears of the Kinsman Redeemer. He hears about the one who paid it all and has completed the work of salvation. He desires that comforting message and receives it into his heart and is given an earnest of the Spirit until the redemption of the purchased possession.
It is then that this poor sinner is saved. Not eternally saved, for he already has that. He is saved from false religion that would forever cast doubts and fears in his heart. He is saved from the just demands of the law that can never be fulfilled in him. He is saved! What a salvation that is in this life! Paul spoke of those who needed such saving in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”.
Paul speaks to the Ephesians concerning this great deliverance in Eph.1:12-14, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory”.
It was when she touched his garment that Mark 6:30 states, “And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” Christ knew who it was that had touched him, but he wanted those that were around him to know, that they might know where that virtue (power) came from.
She received healing power from God. John 1:11-13 states, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”. This receiving of Christ is not for eternal salvation, for they are already born of God. It is a receiving of Him in the gospel that he is the Christ that should come! It is receiving by faith the gospel message that salvation is entirely of the Lord and that without his bloodshed on Calvary Hell would be our lot. It is then, when we receive the message of Christ that he gives us power to become the sons of God. It is becoming the sons of God by manifestation. God gives the child of God power to manifest to himself and others around him, by his walk, that God is his salvation, his hope, and his all.
Dear friends, it is in the Lords Church that the spiritually diseased and sin plagued sinner can find a healing. His train fills the temple and it is there that we can gather around his open word and hear the message of salvation. It is there that we can touch the hem of his garment, the one who fulfilled the law to a jot and tittle, and find deliverance from every wind of doctrine that blows across this land. It is only then that the child of God can “go in peace”. May we receive the finished work of Christ on Calvary in our hearts, and may we be troubled no more, thanks be to Him!