The need of the two women of Matthew 9:18–26 was obvious. Jairus’ daughter, on the verge of womanhood, was on the edge of death. The woman with the issue of blood had spent all to no avail.

Most of us today do not come before Christ sick unto death or medically incurable, but we do come with our needs:

  •  our weaknesses and our idiosyncrasies
  •  our peculiarities and our odd ways
  •  our sinful tendencies and our failures.

For these, we still need the healing power of the Lord.

“Once more ‘tis eventide, and we

Oppress’d with various ills draw near.”

And if we might feel ourselves just that little bit more righteous than our fellow brethren and sisters, in reality we all need healing—we all have a need to be touched by the healing arm of the Lord. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Jairus and His Daughter

It is not hard to enter into the feelings of the father, seeing his daughter, twelve years old, about to have her life of promise cut short. There before all was the result of sin—all of us, including children, are gripped by mortality.

If Jairus’ synagogue was the synagogue at Capernaum (Matt 8:5), he had not long witnessed the successful healing of the Centurion’s servant. When the need was great, to whom else could he turn? So, with all humility, he worships the great healer (Matt 9:18).

All other hope had passed. Matthew records, “My daughter is even now dead”; Mark says, “at the point of death” (5:23); Luke adds, “she lay a dying” (8:42).

The appeal was terribly urgent; the twelve year old’s life was in the balance. Jesus appears to have responded straight away, but pulsating through Jairus’ mind would be the thought—if only Jesus would hurry. Why be slowed down by travelling with a large group of disciples (Matt 9:19)? Why not avoid the crowd altogether? “As he went people thronged him(Luke 8:42). But Jesus had passed through crowds before (Luke 4:30).

But all there that day had needs. The woman in the crowd with the issue of blood had a certain need. The disciples had the need for their faith to be strengthened by witnessing the healing from death. And Jairus himself had a need for confidence in the Lord. This confidence seems to have developed, as we read of no complaint as he pauses for Jesus to continue his journey. Most likely, we would have made an open complaint, focusing upon our own needs, anxious about the time of opportunity ebbing away, dismissing the needs of others. But it was never so with the Lord who, fully in control, extended himself calmly wherever there was a need.

Jesus also delayed in the case of Lazarus, and in both cases the delay would show more clearly “the glory of God” (John 11:4).

At the least, the delay caused by the healing of the woman with an issue of blood would give Jairus confidence that it had been the right thing to go to Jesus.

But as his hopes were increasing, they received an instant setback: “Thy daughter is dead, trouble not the Master!” (Luke 8:49). Where there had been life, there was hope. But as hope was poised to end for the distraught father, Jesus, ever mindful of the needs of others, interjects with the stirring words, “Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole(Luke 8:50). Mark records that he said this “as soon as Jesus heard the word which was spoken” (Mark 5:36). Before doubt could grow, Jairus was reassured.

This is the comfort that the Truth still provides: “we sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13).

The drama is added to, for when the crowd with its rekindled hope arrived at the house, they were met by another crowd who had no hope—“the minstrels and the people making a noise” (Matt 9:23) who “laughed him to scorn(Mark 5:39, 40), just as the world laughs at the stories of Jesus’ miracles and rejects the solution of the resurrection.

Jesus was obviously touched with the grief of the parents and concern for the girl, as he extends his hand and says in Aramaic, “Talitha cumi”, that is, “Maid arise” (Luke 8:54; Mark 5:41). He continues his concern for the girl with the command “that something should be given her to eat” (Mark 5:43).

The need to provide food shows that this was not a resurrection that led to freedom from mortality. Christ had yet to be the firstfruits. Also the raising was a pattern of the future resurrection at the last day, when there would be an entering into the marriage feast of the Lamb. Jesus himself promised that he would eat and drink “new in the kingdom of God” with his disciples (Mark 14:25).

For us, “thy touch has still its ancient power” as we in humility see ourselves in the same position of need as the daughter. Whatever our life and our age, we would be cut down with hopes and aspirations unfulfilled, were it not for the outstretched hand of our Lord.

The Woman with the Issue of Blood

Coming back to the woman with the issue of blood, there has been an amazing event—a miracle performed at the initiation of the one in dire need, though scarcely, we can imagine, without the approval of the Lord. The way the records are written, Jesus was unaware of her presence until “virtue had gone out of him(Mark 5:30).

It was not entirely unique. There was another occasion when “the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all” (Luke 6:19). In the days of Acts, some were healed by the passing of the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15).

The woman was desperate and no doubt embarrassed. For twelve long years (the age of Jairus’ daughter), she had been “diseased with an issue of blood” (Matt 9:20). Mark calls it a “plague” (Mark 5:29, 34). It sapped her strength, destroyed her vitality, reduced her to poverty.

But it brought her, as nothing else may have done, to the feet of the Son of God.

Many others who have suffered have in a similar way been brought closer to their God by having Him only as their comfort and help. The assurance is that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6).

The scourge on the woman was very severe. Since Jesus called her “daughter” (Matt 9:22), she may have been reasonably young and thus experienced the problem all her womanhood. After twelve years and no sign of diminution, she must have expected to be permanently defiled, cut off from society, with no hope of release. Her position illustrates the ugly outworking of human nature, which defiles and estranges from God.

Such was the lonely and isolated woman who in desperate need approached the Lord in the middle of a milling crowd.

To whom else could she turn? The crowd comprised men and women living normal lives who could be of no help. Doctors brought no hope. She “spent all her living upon physicians(Luke 8:43). She could not make an offering because of her uncleanness. The priests could only be approached after cleansing, so the Law was hopeless for her. The Law in Leviticus 15 specified that even beds and chairs used by anyone suffering from her complaint could pass on defilement. “Whosoever toucheth anything that she sat upon shall…be unclean” (Lev 15:22). The Law, emphasising the defiling nature of sin, bore hard upon her.

There was only one left to whom she could turn in her need, who could receive her in her defiled state and at whose touch defilement would recede. His touch would cleanse, not pass on defilement.

When in her isolated way of life she did touch him, “virtue” (or power, Grk dunamis) went out of him (Mark 5:30). Fascinatingly, both Jesus and the woman knew in themselves what had happened: according to Mark’s record, “She felt in her body that she was healedand Jesus was “immediately knowing in himself(vv 29, 30).

When Jesus said, “who touched me?” he singled out the woman with the embarrassing disease. Did the crowd really need to know what had happened? Sometimes Jesus commanded that his miracles not be spread abroad. Was not this a case where privacy would count? No one else needed to know. Besides, to stop and consider the case, would delay attending to Jairus’ daughter.

But the way of divine compassion was to bring her action out into the open. Without that, she may have been always troubled by her secret action. Now she could go in peace (Mark 5:34). Also by her confession she was brought to see Jesus as more than just a healer—he was one who could be freely approached and who would willingly extend mercy—for all of life’s needs.

The lesson is obvious to those who are bowed down by sin—the Lord can be approached with confidence in his forgiveness.

It took two attempts by Jesus before the woman identified herself. When she did, she came trembling “and told him all the truth” (Mark 5:33). The words “the truth” express the correct story of what happened to the woman, but they also widen the event to liken a person coming to “the Truth” and laying their burdens down at the feet of the Lord Jesus.

She knew that she needed but to touch his garments (v28). What was important about the clothes of Jesus? Clothes were given in the Garden of Eden as a covering for sin.

Jesus was the very covering for sin to which those early clothes pointed.

Matthew refers to the hem of his garment (9:20). Luke points out that it was the border of his garment that she sought to touch (8:44). This was the hem of blue placed as an aid “to remember all the com­mandments of the Lord…that ye may…be holy [or separate] unto your God” (Num 15:37–41). She had been separate through her disease, but now desired the separateness of a disciple of Christ.

It was not the hem, but her faith that saved her (Matt 9:22). As a result, she was told to “go in peace”, with her conscience clear and sins forgiven. Whatever our need in life, we can be helped. And if the Lord helps us, then surely we must help others. Our aim in ecclesial life is helping men and women gain the Kingdom.

The Result

The incidents with the two women finish with the words “and the fame hereof went abroad into all that land” (Matt 9:26). Interestingly, the event seems to have been remembered even on the other side of the lake, for there they “besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment; and as many as touched him were made perfectly whole” (Matt 14:34–36).

If the Lord lifts us from sin and death, heals our idiosyncrasies, binds up our wounds, then should we not do the same for others? To reach out to those in need is the challenge for ecclesial life.

Reference Material:

• Parts of this article rely upon material in Chapters 13 and 14 of Michael Ashton’s book Miracles, Wonders and Signs (CMPA, 1995).
Other reference material is:
• Melva Purkis—A Life of Jesus Book Four, Chapter 20
• Robert Roberts—Nazareth Revisted Chapter XX
• L G Sargent—The Gospel of the Son of God Part III, Chapter 4

Some Questions and Thoughts for Discussion Around the Daily Readings from Matthew

1 What in the record ties together the story of the woman with the issue and the girl on the verge of womanhood?
2 Why did Jairus have such confidence in Jesus while his daughter was still living?
3 Why did Jesus not heal Jairus’ daughter from a distance?
4 Why do the records refer to “virtue” going out of Jesus to heal the woman?
5 Why did Jesus bring the woman’s action out into the open, when she sought anonymity?
6 What are lessons for ecclesial life that we can derive from the two healings?