The Power of God’s Touch
June 8, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”
Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be headed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.
Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your faith had made you well.”
While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”
But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”
Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”
The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I want to talk with you today about the scripture – this is so exciting – that we are studying today. Our title and our topic is “The Power of God’s Touch.” And here’s the good news: God has a healing touch for you, and God has a healing touch for those whom you love. Our task this week is to simply open ourselves up to it, open ourselves up to the will of God, which is always good. The will of God is always a blessing. I love what Reverend Marion talked about last week in her sermon. One thing in particular stayed with me – “Faith is living with an attitude of trust to the idea that God is good.” I love that. And God has a healing touch for you.
You know, there’s a beautiful painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome by the great artist Michelangelo, who challenged himself to put the words and concepts of the Bible into scenery upon this magnificent structure. There is one scene in Michelangelo’s fresco in which Adam is reclining, reaching up with his hand toward heaven, concentrating on the index finger that he is reaching up with. And from the other direction, Michelangelo has depicted the Heavenly Father, floating in the air, looking down upon Adam, and reaching back. And in this beautiful fresco, their fingers almost touch. What’s left to complete the touch? It’s Adam, reaching a little farther forward and touching the hand of God. (For a view of the fresco, see, for example, http://www.artbible.info/art/large/66.html.)
God has a healing touch for you, my friend. As you think about the sermon this week, I invite you to think about that picture from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, of God reaching down and of you reaching up and of the touch being complete. God has a touch for you—a touch that is forgiving; a touch that is healing; a touch that is embracing and accepting. God has a healing touch for you.
I don’t know if you’ve heard the song by Al Jarreau. He’s a popular singer, and he came out with a song some years ago called “Mornin’”. I love that song. I always turn the radio volume up a little bit when he gets to one particular part of the song:
“And I know I can
Like any man
Reach out my hand
And touch the face of God.”
I love that. What a promise! It’s true for you. You can reach out your hand and touch the face of God. God wants to reach out His hand and touch yours.
Touch. Such a vital part of our lives and our existence, isn’t it? Studies have been done in orphanages where babies are deprived of touch. Oh, let me just say, it’s not good for them, my friends. I read one study where there was an awareness of this lack of touch, and folks from nursing homes and senior centers were brought in just to hold the babies for a while. How those babies thrived when they had the gift of touch!
Do you remember a time when you’ve had the gift of a healing, blessing touch? I remember one in particular. It was a charge conference, of all times. The district superintendent said, “We’re going to stop now, and we’re going to bless the pastor.” She took a chair and said, “That’s going to be the healing chair. Pastor, you sit down there.” And I sat down, and you all came and put your hands on my shoulders and prayed individually. My only wish is that I could have had an internal tape recorder and captured every word. But I know the intentions were there. It was a wonderful moment. It was a healing moment. It was an uplifting moment, and I thank you. That kind of touch is available to you. God has a healing touch for you, today and every day, every time you reach out to Him.
Let’s think about this as we look at the gospel together. Now, I just had to bring you the account from the book of St. Mark, because it gives us more detail than St. Matthew does about the healing of the little girl and the woman. Be on the lookout of accounts of the healing touch.
Jesus was visited by Jairus, who was a leader in the temple, and when he arrived, he said to Jesus, “My daughter is dying, but if you come and lay your hands on her, you will heal her so she will live.” Jairus had faith. And what did Jesus do? He got up and went with Jairus.
But as He was heading to Jairus’s, a big crowd followed Him. They were pressing in on Him; they wanted to see what would happen. And in their midst, there was a woman who had an internal hemorrhage. But she had it in her mind that if she simply touched the fringe of Jesus’s robe, she could be healed.
Now, she had a problem—let’s put ourselves in her shoes for a moment. She was ritually unclean. She really wasn’t even supposed to be in the jostling crowd. She certainly wasn’t supposed to be touching Jesus, because that would supposedly contaminate Him. But, she thought, she must! If she could simply touch the fringe on the bottom of His robe, she’d make the connection and she’d be healed. So, somehow, she snuck in and touched that little bit of fringe on the bottom of his robe, just touched it. And she knew immediately that she was healed inside.
Jesus said, “Who touched me?” Well, she was terrified, of course, because she thought she’d done something terribly wrong.
The disciples said, “Lord, how can you even ask a question like that? Everybody is touching you. There are people all around.”
And Jesus said, “I felt the power go out of me. Who touched me?” and that’s the first thing we have to focus on. Jesus said, “Who was it? Who touched me? Who prayed that prayer? Who was it that touched me? Was it you? It was? Well, then, I have an extra blessing for you, because of your faith. Your faith has made you well. Rise, and go in peace.” Take a look at the beautiful words that Matthew remembered. “He said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” (Matthew 9:22)
That’s your Savior, friends. That’s what Jesus is like. That’s the One you’ve committed your life to. He says things like this. “Take heart, son. Take heart, daughter. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t let things get you down. Take heart. Your faith has made you well.” That’s the Savior we worship. So the first thing to remember here is that Jesus cares about individuals. “Who was it that touched me? Was it you?”
“Oh yes, it was.”
“God bless you. Your faith has made you well.” God cares about each of us as though there were only one of us.
Second thing to remember is that healing begins with hope. Oh friend, no matter what you’re going through, keep hope alive! As long as there is life, there is hope. Stay with hope, because that keeps the door open to God. Jairus said, “If only you’d come and touch her, she’ll be healed.” The woman said, “If only I touch His garment’s hem, I’ll be healed.” They had hope. Healing begins with hope. Keep hope alive every day. Keep the door open for God.
You know, that’s no small thing. As I talk with folks, I always encourage them about keeping that hope aspect going. Don’t give up on God; He never gives up on you. One of the teachers I respect so deeply, Eric Butterworth, has said, “God can work miracles in our lives…if we don’t make it too hard for Him.” Keep hope alive; hope is the beginning of healing. And remember that Jesus cares about us as individuals.
Now here is something that doesn’t appear in Matthew but does appear in Mark, chapter 5, verse 30: Jesus realized that healing power had gone out from Him. That’s a very significant phrase, “I felt the power go out from me,” said Jesus. It’s an important clue to the power of prayer, because I think what Jesus is saying is, “I felt an energy transfer.” That’s what happens in prayer. I believe God invests prayer power in each of us, and that when we pray for someone, energy goes out from us but does not diminish us, any more than a lit candle is diminished by using its flame to ignite another candle. Remember that you have prayer power within you, and that it flows from you and blesses other people.
And remember that you can be blessed by prayer power. If you feel a surge of hope when you didn’t know one could come; if you feel a surge of energy but didn’t expect it, somebody is praying for you. In this little verse, Jesus is giving us a hint about the power of prayer. It’s remarkable and wonderful.
So when somebody says, “Won’t you pray for me?” go ahead and do it right then. Say, “Let’s do it right now.” Touch the person’s hand and say a prayer; let the prayer power flow. It’s an important clue that Jesus gives us.
And finally, He says, “Your faith has made you well. Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.” Jesus cares about you in a deep and personal way. You know, this is the only time in the gospel that Jesus uses the term ‘daughter.’ He may have used it at other times in His speaking ministry, but this is the only time that it’s recorded. I wonder why. Could it be that there was something broken in this woman about her parent/daughter relationship, and when Jesus called her ‘daughter’, which He knew she needed, she was healed inside? I don’t know. But it sounds like the kind of thing that Jesus would do. And she was healed.
You have a Savior who came to set things right. You have a Savior who came into a broken world, to put it back together again. Oh, how fortunate we are to have a Savior like Jesus Christ!
And finally, after the woman was healed, He went on to the house of Jairus’s daughter, and even though the crowd was saying negative things, He dismissed them, and He said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” He blessed the little girl, and He said, “Get up.” And, holding her hand, He helped her up. That’s what Jesus does. Everyone was amazed. Jesus healed her, and then, as He was parting, He said, “Oh, by the way, don’t forget to give her something to eat.” He cared in every way.
And the Savior cares about you in every way, my friend. So my prayer and hope for you today is that you go forth from this place knowing that, whatever brokenness you may feel, whatever healing you may need, God has a healing touch for you. Be open to it, won’t you?
As we close today, I invite you to do a little exercise with me. Close your eyes for a minute. Take a moment to be still. Whatever doubts may have been on your heart when you came in here, just brush them away. And if you would, take your hand and just touch your forehead, while your eyes are closed, at the baptismal spot, and know in your heart, “I am touched by God. I am forgiven. I am healed. I am accepted and loved. Thank you, God. Amen.” And as you open your eyes, please know that God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski