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Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters
The Woman with the Issue of Blood
OUR Lord was on His way to raise the ruler's little daughter from the dead. Now, this woman who overtook Him on the way was not actually dead like the ruler's little daughter, but she often wished she was, for she was worse than dead. She had tried everything for her deadly disease. There was not a physician far nor near that she had not consulted as to whether he could cure her. She had spent all her living upon physicians, till, today, she is beside herself with downright despair. And so am I. I am not dead, but I often wish I were. For I, too, am all my life sick to death. And I have tried everything. Every preacher, every author, every discipline, every medicine of the soul. And I am worse tonight than ever I was. I am in a strait betwixt two. I love my work more than ever. I love my family more than ever. No man ever loved his family more than Martin Luther did, but all the time he told his hearers who had head enough and heart enough to understand him, that he had no real joy in his children because of his sin. And I, for one, am exactly like Luther in that.
But to return to the text. "And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered but rather worse-when she heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched the hem of His garment. For she said within herself, If I may but touch His clothes I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her plague." Well, blood is blood; and blood is bad enough; but blood at its worst is not sin. Sin is Sin. Sin has no fellow. Sin has no second, unless it is death and hell. Sin tries Christ Himself to His utmost, as this woman's bloody issue tried and found wanting all the best physicians in all the cities round about. Christ could cure a twelve year old issue of blood incidentally, and just by the way, as we say; ere ever He was aware He had healed that woman of her blood, but not for all her remaining life of her sin. All her days, you may depend upon it, she was nothing better of her sin, but rather worse. None of the three evangelists tell it, but it is as true as if they had all told it in the same words. She followed Him about with her sin wherever He went. She went up to Jerusalem after Him with her sin. She was one of the women who were beholding afar off when He died on the tree for her sin. She often went out all her days to the Garden of Gethsemane, and lay all night on her face because of her sin. And sometimes at a passover season, and such like, she felt in herself as if she was going to be healed this time; but, before the sun set, she was worse with her secret sinfulness than ever. And, till her innermost soul ran pure sin day and night, and would not be staunched of heaven or earth. And all that is our own very exact case to a scriptural parable. Long after we have sold all to win Christ; long after He has begun at times to shed abroad all that He has promised to shed abroad in our heart; long after that we will still be nothing better, but infinitely far worse. One stolen touch was sufficient for an issue of blood; but a long and close lifetime of absolute clasp of Christ will not heal us of our sin. Oh, the malice of sin! Oh, the height, and the depth, and the hold, and the absolute incurableness, of sin! Only, with all that we must not despair. We must not go back. We must not give over. Even if it is incurable, let us not say so. It is; but let us not say it even within ourselves. Let us be like this bleeding woman. Tonight, put out your hand and touch Christ. Never mind the gaping crowd pressing behind and before on Him and on you. They are nothing to you, and you are nobody to them. Never mind what they do, or do not do. They are not bleeding to death like you, and they are no rule to you. They did not come up here tonight on your errand. You are as good as dead, and this may be your last chance of Christ. Make a grasp at Him. Make a great grasp, however unceremonious and desperate, at the hem of His garment. Actually stretch out your hand where you now sit, and the stretch of your hand will sacramentally help your heart. Never mind the people in the same seat staring at you, and thinking you are mad. So you are, and you need not sit and look as if you were not. Never mind that you have not all your days till tonight so much as once touched Christ by faith. This woman had suffered enough to drive her beside herself for twelve years before she ever thought of the hem of His garment, and she went home that night healed of her plague. Press through, and grasp tight, and hold fast till you hear Him say, 'Somebody is detaining me.' And till you go home laughing in your guilty heart at your new-found peace and strength and joy. What a power you have, O sinner, and what an opportunity! "Somebody hath touched Me; for I perceive that virtue has gone out of Me."
And then, if you succeed in touching Him tonight, you must not do that once for all, and never again. You must touch Him every day; and if you will not call me extravagant, and carried away, I will say-Do the same thing every hour and every moment of the week. One thing all the week is needful. And that is to keep that hem firm in your hand. Even when you feel completely disenchanted of this scripture and this night and this house; even when you feel shame as you look back at your intensity tonight; even when you feel that this woman, and Christ, and this church, and the present preacher are all a piece of the same entire dream-still grope after His garment. Believe in Him and in His garment. Keep believing and keep praying when no one knows. Lift up your heart to Him even in the press of business, and among the cumber of the house, and week-day and all. And He will let down into your hand the hem of His High Priestly garment, all tingling with bells, and all laden with pomegranates, and all shining with strength and with beauty. And when again your evil heart runs with envy, and anger, and pride, and ill-will, and unkindness, and all the rest of the bad blood of hell,-all that the more grasp you at Him and at His garment. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garment: His grace and His Salvation, that is. Here love runs down, and here joy in your neighbour's joy, and here sweetness of temper, and here humility of mind, and here goodwill, and here attraction to people, and here brotherly kindness, and all the rest of that holy oil.
The healing of His seamless dress
Is by our beds of pain;
We touch Him in life's throng and press,
And we are whole again.
Now, why was it, did you ever think, that when our Lord healed so thoroughly this woman's sick body, He did not in an equally immediate, and in an equally thorough way, heal her far more sick soul? Why did He stop short at her blood? Why did He not work a far better cure on her sin? Was it because she was not sick of sin? Was it because she had not come, with all those twelve years, to know the plague of her own heart? Or was it because He did not come the first time to this world with a full salvation? Or was it, and is it, because sin is such a mystery of iniquity that it takes not only both His first and His second comings to heal our souls of sin; but long time, and great labour, and great pain, and great faith, and great prayer on our part also, before even His Divine power can perform and pronounce a perfect cure? Yes, that is it. Be sure that it is. Even if this woman had come on a very much better errand than she did come; and with a far better kind of faith and love; even had she come as David and Paul and Luther came all their days; she would only have gone home to a more horrible pit in her own heart than ever, and to a more corrupt and abominable and burdensome body of death than ever, and to a loneliness that the happiest home in Canaan could not have comforted; to a lifelong death indeed, of which her twelve years' issue of blood was but a far off and feeble emblem. Did you ever read Richard Baxter's Reasons why the Rest that remains for the people of God is never entered on and enjoyed here? What a splendid debate that seraphic preacher holds with all those saints of God whose hearts are broken continually with an unalleviable pain and with an insatiable hunger after holiness. What depths, both in God and man, Baxter sounds on that great subject, and what heights he scales! O my brethren, be pleaded with to read almost exclusively the books that are pertinent to your sinful and immortal souls-such as The Saint's Rest. Listen to the great saints as they come together to tell and to hear from one another what God has done for their souls. And O, as many of you as are torn to pieces every day with the torture of sin, as well as covered with inward shame at the degradation and pollution of sin, keep yourselves in life by hope. You are saved by hope. Keep every day numbering your days, and forecasting that Great Day on which Christ shall come to you and shall make you perfect as He and His Father are perfect. Give reins to your imagination and think,-all sin for ever gone! Think of that! All sin gone clean out of your sinful heart for ever! I cannot believe it possible. All things are possible to me but that. I, for one, will not be the same man, if ever that crowning work of Omnipotence is wrought in me. I will not know myself, that it is myself. Now, nothing but sin and misery; and then, nothing but love, and holiness, and unspeakable blessedness. This horrible and loathsome incubus, myself, for ever cast off, and for ever cast down into the depths of hell, never to come up again. And I set free from myself for ever, and admitted to the New Jerusalem to walk with Christ and with His saints, in all the holiness and all the beauty of the Divine Nature! "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? These are they which came out of great tribulation. And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said to me: These things are true and faithful."
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Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'The Woman with the Issue of Blood'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wbc/t/the-woman-with-the-issue-of-blood.html. 1901.
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13