Here is a personal gospel for all of us: the picture Jesus gives us of the woman healed of her infirmity. If you have read the Gospels before or grown up hearing Bible stories as a child, it often becomes more difficult to hear a personal message in the Word of God. My first instinct sometimes goes something like this: “Ah, yes, another miracle of Jesus. What a mighty God we have. I sure like the way Jesus puts all His adversaries to shame!”
The constant challenge of hearing the Word of God, as every preacher knows, is how to hear the Bible in its original context 2000-4000 years ago and then translate it into our contemporary experience. In attempting to apply this wonderful story of healing, you might begin by thinking about the greatest infirmity or weakness you have and how God will heal it. This is a faithful way of meditating on this text, but it contains in it a hidden danger. It’s a danger we’ll meet again and again in reading the Word of God, and it’s the danger in thinking that God is required to heal all of our personal infirmities, if only we are good enough or pray hard enough or have enough faith.
As some of you know, I have had chronic fatigue now for three decades – and counting! I have prayed faithfully for God to remove it, I have sought out a score of physicians and undertaken many diets and health regimens. Sometimes I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired! But does that mean that God has failed? How quickly we forget what we’ve just read in the Bible. Am I necessarily any more sinful than someone who is in complete physical health? Were the Galileans of Luke 13:1, those who had their blood mingled with their sacrifices, any more sinful than others?
I think God has something much more fantastic in mind for me and for you. I think there is a better way to apply the story of the woman’s healing. I might think to myself, “If only I were healed as this women was! If only one day Jesus came to me and took away my chronic fatigue!” But what if I thought instead of all the times that Jesus has already come to me? What about all the times He has already heard my prayers and even given me good things without me having asked for them? We are all the recipients of God’s goodness and grace. What if we spent more time looking at what God has already given and glorifying God for it, rather than looking at what we don’t have and complaining?The question, therefore, isn’t if you have been healed of your infirmity but when God heals you of various infirmities (which just means weakness) what has your response been? The woman who was healed immediately glorified God. How have you responded?
In case you missed the parallels, there is yet a deeper meaning of this woman’s healing. You are that woman, and you have been healed of the ultimate infirmity, if you are a Christian. Notice that for 18 years the spirit of infirmity has caused her to be bent over so that she “could in no way raise herself up.” Isn’t that the condition of every one of us? Isn’t it true that spiritually speaking we are all born bent and cannot make ourselves straight? That’s the meaning in C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet when he talks about bent hmana (men), those creatures who cannot walk straight spiritually. “We are all a bent race,” Ransom confesses to Hyoi (who is not a human) as Hyoi is dying.
We too are spiritually bent, even broken, and only Jesus can heal us of this ultimate infirmity. And if, as a Christian, you have been healed and made straight by Jesus, then glorify God, as this woman did.
Glorify God and rejoice!
Prayer: Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen. (The General Thanksgiving from The Book of Common Prayer)
Points for Meditation:
- In what ways has God brought healing in your life?
- In what ways do you still desire God to heal you? What might He want you to learn while you wait to be healed?
- How should you respond to the healing presence of God and His gospel in your life?
Resolution: I resolve to give thanks today for God’s healing, first for the salvation of my soul, and second for all of the earthly gifts that I should thank Him for, especially for helping me in all my weaknesses.
Christ healing an infirm woman on the Sabbath by James Tissot – U.S. Public Domain