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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:Desperate Measures
Text:Luke 8.40-48 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from Trinity Psalter Hymnal

87B, 188, 230, 291


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, you’ve probably heard the saying “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” That basically means that when someone is in the midst of great danger or an urgent crisis, they may resort to extraordinary measures (go to whatever lengths necessary) to overcome or escape those circumstances.


Just a few pages back in Luke’s account, in Luke 5:17ff, we find a great story which illustrates this. We meet a man who was paralyzed; he couldn’t walk. His friends carried him on a mat, a stretcher, so that they could bring him to Jesus to be healed. But they couldn’t get to Jesus because the crowd around him was so massive. So, what did they do? Did they just give up?


No. Desperate times call for desperate measures. They would not be deterred. They found a way to get their friend to Jesus. They went up to the roof, removed the tiles, then lowered their friend, this paralyzed man on his mat right into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.


Can you imagine that? What a scene that must have been! That was a move of great desperation – yet it was a desperation driven by faith. And it paid off. The paralyzed man was healed –but even more importantly, as Jesus declared, his sins were forgiven. His soul was saved. God’s grace was the desperate remedy for an even more desperate disease – the disease of sin.


We see this same kind of desperation in the account tonight. The passage actually tells of two desperate people, two very different people.  One of them is a man of prominence. He is the ruler of the local synagogue.  He would have been known by everyone. His only daughter, a girl about 12 was dying and he fell at the feet of Jesus pleading for Jesus to come to his house to heal her.


The other desperate person we meet is a virtual ‘nobody’.  She’s only known to us as “a woman” in vs 43, and we often refer to her in this passage as the woman with the flow of blood. She was literally no none. Just another face in the crowd. Yet she was desperate. She had lived with her medical affliction for 12 years and no one could help her. So, she was determined to come to Jesus, to be healed by him.

And even though Jesus was on his way to help someone else, she would not be deterred; she would not be turned away. Her desperate condition drove her to do something that she shouldn’t lawfully have done - but as we said desperate times call for desperate measures, and here too we see that her desperation was also driven by faith!


Let’s consider this passage under the theme: A Desperate Woman Comes to Jesus for Healing.        

1) Her Hopeless Condition

2) Her Amazing Faith    

3) Her Peaceful Departure  


 1) Her Hopeless Condition

When we read this account in the book of Luke, we get the distinct impression that what happened here was ‘just another day in the life of Jesus the Messiah’. This is what ministry was like for Jesus day in and day out.  Wherever Jesus went, he was surrounded by huge crowds, and except for those moments when he would steal away to be by himself to pray, Jesus was confronted by needy, desperate people who all pleaded to him for help.


Jesus was especially a magnet for hurting people, for people on the margins, and beyond the margins – he was a Savior and a Shepherd for the outcasts and outsiders, for sinners, for the poor, oppressed, disabled and the diseased. Some of these people had lost everything in this life, they had very little left to live for. They had been rejected and written off by the religious elite. Jesus was their only hope.


Such is the case with this particular woman who comes to Jesus. Jesus was her last chance, her final hope.  She suffered from a bleeding condition which effects women. She had suffered from this affliction for 12 years. It was a condition that (if left untreated) would cause extreme weakness and fatigue (perhaps even death) due to the continual flow of blood.


This woman would have spent most of those 12 years living a very restricted life. Her condition would have left her unable to move about freely as freely as everyone else; it’s also quite possible that she lived in isolation.

We learn from Mark 5 (p. 973, a parallel account) where Mark tells her sad story also. Mark reveals that the doctors were of absolutely no help whatsoever.  In fact, they did more harm than good “as she suffered much at their hands” and her condition only worsened. In her case, the saying was literally true: the cure was worse than the disease.


What was even more depressing was that seeing the doctors was expensive. Mark 5: she spent all she had. She was not only still bleeding, but now she was bankrupt. She was broke.


In addition to the pain and suffering and bankruptcy), she also suffered spiritual consequences of her affliction.  According to Leviticus 15:19 ff whenever a woman had her monthly period, she was rendered ceremonially unclean for 7 days, and anyone who touched her would be unclean until the evening of that day.        


For 12 years, this woman was living in a state of perpetual uncleanness. Out of physical necessity as well as ceremonial propriety that this woman had to withdraw herself from all social contact.  Her life would have been one of profound isolation and alienation – where she would be cut off from human contact even with the members of her own family.


So even though she’s just nobody, a stranger, another face in the crowd, Luke captures a scene of her utter desperation (who himself was a doctor, by the way, and he would have known a thing or two about the hopelessness of this woman’s condition).


Someone defined the word desperate as “feeling or experiencing a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad so as to be impossible to overcome”. Some of you here may have felt or experienced that before. That’s where this woman is. She’s reached the point of complete desperation.


But this is also what makes this account so fascinating. At this moment of utter desperation -- who should come walking into town? None other than Jesus himself!


As we know from the life and ministry of Jesus – He did nothing by chance (as pastor Frank Lanting reminded us when Jesus went through Samaria to meet the woman at the well in John 4), Everything Jeus did, everywhere he went, everyone he met, there was a divine and perfect purpose. There were no accidents. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, had come to her town, at that time, for this very purpose: to help and to heal this desperate woman.


And the wonderful thing for us is that our comfort and hope today is really no different. Jesus declared: Come to me all you who are weak and heavy burdened and I will give you rest. We come to Jesus in our desperation; we come to Jesus in our brokenness, in our sin, in our helplessness and hopelessness.


We come to Jesus in our time of doubt and temptation; in weakness and uncertainty. We come to Jesus in our time of sorrow and heartache and loss; when facing sickness, disease and death. And we come to Jesus knowing this: there’s no remedy in this world for what really ails us.

There’s no amount of money in this world that can save our soul from sin and buy our salvation.


Today, we don’t need Jesus to walk into our town or to visit us in our home or to come to our bedside in the hospital. That’s because Jesus is already with us – His grace, His power and His promises are ours. Christ has gone to the cross for us, on the cross he died for our sins, and he rose the dead to vanquish the foe, to conquer sin and death and hell and the grave for us.


As our ascended Lord and King, by His Word and Spirit, through His precious promises, Jesus is with us always. We have hope in the midst of hopelessness. We need never despair. And we don’t have to go physically to Jesus, for he has come to us.


2) Her Amazing Faith    

So that is her hopeless condition.  Next, we see her amazing faith.  In verse 40 we’re told that when Jesus arrived in this region, the people were all there expecting him and welcoming him.  This woman must have also heard that Jesus had come, but getting to Jesus was a problem.


We know from Luke 5, huge crowds gathered around him. In vs. 42, we’re told that the people pressed in on him so much that the crowd almost crushed him. We know about this – people die at concerts because of the pressing crowds; they have the life, the breath squeezed out of them.


But somehow this woman managed to push her way through the mob to get within arm’s reach of where Jesus was standing.  And notice as well, somehow she knew in her heart that this was all it would take. This woman had such incredible faith in who Jesus was, and in his mighty power to save. She believed that all she had to do was touch the hem of his garment, and she would be healed. And that is exactly what happened. 


Look at Luke 8: 44: She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak and immediately her bleeding stopped.  That’s it. 12 years of constant bleeding; that’s 4380 days. It’s impossible for me, for us, to overstate the magnitude of this miracle. 12 years of pain and affliction and suffering; 12 years of disappointment and frustration, of fighting fatigue, of living in isolation, of being spiritually cut off as well – and of not knowing and feeling the comfort of human touch and affection.


All of that suffering was GONE in an instant -- with but a touch of Christ’s ‘garment of grace’ as one writer put it. And the wonder of it all – such as grace is -- it didn’t cost her a penny; and she had to endure no pain, no discomfort; no painful treatment. All she felt was instant wellness and healing – and all she did was touch her Savior’s garment.


And as amazing as this is, it’s arguably not even the most amazing part of this account. As it turns out Jesus felt something, too. Jesus sensed the healing power going out from him. So he asked his disciples: who touched me? When everyone around him denied, Peter pointed out the obvious. Master, you’ve got people crowding all around you. They’re pressing in on you and touching you on every side.        


What a strange question to ask, given the circumstances. And for us, this question might also strike us as unusual – knowing who Jesus was. First of all, the question Jesus asks clearly implies a certain kind of touching. Yes, people were pressing in on Jesus from all sides, but no where do we read that anyone bumped into Jesus was instantly healed of whatever ailed them. No. This woman touched Jesus in a special manner, in a way of trust, and faith, and belief such that (by her faith) the miraculous healing grace of Jesus flowed from his body to hers.

That leads to a second question:  Did Jesus really not know who touched him? Isn’t he God? How could he not know?


Remember, Jesus our Savior was fully God and fully man, and there are times when Jesus (in his human nature) truly did not know the things which His heavenly Father had not given him to know. And there were also certain things Jesus couldn’t do, because he was fully man.


But on the other hand, isn’t it also possible that Jesus did know who had touched him? Isn’t it also possible that Jesus knew that this woman had done this, and in stopping to ask this question, Jesus was forcing this woman to come forward, to be noticed by the crowds, to be noticed by his disciples, so that she might give her testimony before the crowds; that she might profess her faith before man!!


In the end, it matters very little if Jesus knew this or not. The result is the same.  This woman’s only offense was daring to believe; she had such remarkable faith that she knew that she didn’t have to beg Jesus to be healed, or even speak to Jesus, or to have him touch her for that matter. Such was her amazing faith.


But why would she try to sneak away?  Remember, the law required her to keep her distance. I don’t want to make too much of this – but I also don’t want us to ignore it completely. By law, she must remain at a distance. Think of Exodus 19 and mt Sinai. You’re unholy. You can’t approach. The law condemned this woman to an early death – such as the law would condemn us in our state of sin and unholiness.   


But only grace could set her free. Only grace could make her clean. Only grace could save her from certain death. The law condemned her but Grace could set her free. And that’s what Christ represented. That’s who He was and why He had come. And she, by faith, knew this.


So, it’s no mystery why she wanted to walk away discreetly. She had broken the ceremonial law of Leviticus. But in this case, it was right thing to do, at the right time, because Jesus would make those laws obsolete. Jesus had come to save her -- not just from her bodily impurities, but from the impurities of her soul. So, with a heart of faith, she believed in Jesus and she was saved.


Do we have faith like this, beloved?  Hebrews says that faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see. Faith calls for action; faith calls us to trust in things we do not see—because we know that God is in control. Faith calls us to hope for things that we do not yet have – knowing that in Christ, we already possess all things.


Faith drives and compels us to come to Jesus in prayer, to boldly approach the throne of grace, to call upon God as our Father, through His Son Jesus Christ, who has made the way clear for us to come – and on the basis of His righteousness, God allows us to lay hold of His garment of grace.


And God promises – not wholly and fully in this life, but surely in the life to come – to grant healing and wellness and purity. Psalm 103: Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my inmost being, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.   


Because God, in Christ, has come down to us to save us by his grace, these blessings are ours! But how do we access them? How do we claim them for ourselves? Perhaps you don’t now Christ. Perhaps you’re not a believer? Perhaps you’ve never come to Christ before.


The Good News is – you can access this grace, every spiritual blessings in Christ the same way I do – the same way every believer does, the same way this woman did. By faith. Faith is like the hand of this woman that reaches out to lay hold of the promises of God. We must accept these things with a believing heart. That is how we lay hold of God’s garment of grace – we simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – and we shall be saved.    


3) Her Peaceful Departure  

Thirdly and finally we see her peaceful departure.  When the woman saw that she could not get away discreetly, she came before Jesus and fell, trembling at his feet.  That is a safe place, a sacred place, a wonderful place to be for the child of God – at the feet of Jesus.  That is where we all long to be some day soon as well.


And why did Jesus require this of her?  Why not let her go away unnoticed?  You see, while the grace and healing was hers to keep, the testimony of what Jesus had done for her was not.  She had a story to tell, and Jesus wanted everyone to hear what about it.  That was not always the case – sometimes, as with Jairus (vs 56), Jesus told them not to say anything. 


But here, the Lord wanted this woman to confess before everyone what had happened to her, how she had faith to come to Jesus and how she had but touched but the edge of his garment and she was instantly healed.  When she had done that, Jesus called this woman daughter. Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in Peace. 


This is the only place in the Gospel accounts where Jesus refers to someone in this way; with these words Jesus clearly has in view her place in the family of God. She was indeed a child of the father, adopted by grace, through the faith which she had in Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. 

This daughter of God believed Jesus was the Christ; she believed that Jesus alone could heal her from her physical infirmities, and now Jesus confirms her faith and gave to her his parting benediction of peace.


At the conference over these past days, Rev Murphy has been talking about the theme verse Deuteronomy 14:2. In that verse, God declares to his people Israel: out of all the peoples on the face of the earth the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession. Here Jesus is saying the same thing to this woman – you are God’s treasured possession, his daughter, his child!


He’s saying the same thing to Karen as she professed her faith tonight. He’s saying the same thing to us who come to Jesus in faith. As 1 John 3:1 says: ‘Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called sons and daughters of God – for that is what we are! And that is why we have God’s peace. Amen.  

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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