Mark 5:24-34

Sermon preached on March 2, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Carly Simon is a singer songwriter whose most famous song is, "You're so Vain". In an interview a few years ago Carly told a story about childhood. It had to do with her father. She said,

"when I was 10 and I found out he had had his first heart attack. That demolished me. So freaked out. 'I would knock on wood 500 times every night thinking that would keep him from dying. Compulsive behavior. The fact that he didn't die the first night I did it meant I had to keep doing it. I was so scared. I eventually began knocking less, getting it down to 300, then 100 in the last year, then he died.'"

Aren't superstitions horrible? Can you imagine knocking on wood 500 times each night? That has to be hard on the knuckles.

When I was growing up and played hockey some of the guys were superstitious. I remember one guy on my team had what he thought were lucky socks. He somehow got it in his head that we would win if he wore those socks while he played. He wouldn't even wash them. He thought that if he washed them they might lose their luckiness. I've also seen players who had a rabbit's foot and thought that that brought them luck.

Have you ever gotten an email or a Facebook notice that said something like,

"Share this Lucky Penny. You Will Receive Good Luck and Attract Money".

There is a TV ad or two that's on now that about doing whatever it takes to make your team win. In one a guy goes down the basement to get some drinks during a game and when he comes back to the room his friends are watching the game in his team has scored. I think he makes the connection that that happened the last time he went down to get some drinks.

Even in some branches of Christianity there are superstitions. In the past some people believed that there was like a magical power in relics. There are superstitions about baptism. Some people who aren't Christians, who don't go to church, who live their lives as if Christianity didn't exist—want to get baptized. They somehow think that it'll do them some sort of good, that it will put them in a better standing with God. Some people think that if a baby is born and is in danger of dying that it should be baptized right away, before it dies.

The text before us is one that might, at first glance, support such superstition. This woman who had a persistent problem with bleeding,

"When she heard about Jesus,
she came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak,
because she thought,
'If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.'
Immediately her bleeding stopped
and she felt in her body that
she was freed from her suffering."

This might suggest there was power in Jesus' clothes, that there was something magic about them because they touched Jesus.

There are several passages in Scripture that could be used to support such a notion, that show that there might be some validity to it. For example, in Acts 19:11–12 we read,

"God did extraordinary miracles
through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs
and aprons that had touched him
were taken to the sick,
and their illnesses were cured
and the evil spirits left them."

And in Acts 5 we read that the apostle performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. Many people believed in the Lord and, (verse 15)

"As a result, people brought the sick
into the streets and laid them on beds
and mats so that at least
Peter's shadow might fall on some
of them as he passed by."

It doesn't say that they were healed, but it seems so. As John Calvin writes,

"God put forth his power in their shadows just as much as in their mouths."

In John 5 we read about how Jesus healed the man at the pool at the Sheep Gate. A lot of sick people would gather at the pool because at certain times an angel would stir the water and whoever got in first would be healed. It was a supernatural occurrence.

In the Old Testament we have instances like this as well. To name one, in 2 Kings 13:20–21 we read,

"Now Moabite raiders
used to enter the country every spring.
Once while some Israelites were burying a man,
suddenly they saw a band of raiders;
so they threw the man's body
into Elisha's tomb. When the
body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life
and stood up on his feet."

Instances like those can lead people to miss what is significant. You can look at those things like they're magic and focus on the clothes, the handkerchiefs, the bones, the stirring of the water—and miss the most important part.

How was this woman healed? Was it by magic, as if there was something about Jesus' clothes that healed her? No. Others touched Jesus' clothes and were not made well and did not experience any miraculous transformation. No. It wasn't because any magic in the clothes. When Jesus stopped and confronted the woman about what she had done He made it clear that

it was the woman's faith that was important.

Jesus said to her,

"Daughter, your faith has healed you.
Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

One of the reasons Jesus stopped when she touched Him was to teach that people needed to look to Him in faith. He didn't want them believing in magic or superstition. This woman believed in Jesus. Verse 27 tells us that when she heard about Jesus she came up behind Him and touched his cloak. Jesus put emphasis on her faith. He said that her faith had healed her.

Christianity is not about magic. We must believe. We must have faith. The object of faith is not Jesus' clothes, the aprons that touched Paul, or Peter's shadow. No. We are to have faith in the person of Jesus Christ.

God's power is not something we can manipulate through magic. It's been awhile since I've seen it but I believe it was in the movie "The Raiders of the Lost Ark" that the Nazis wanted to find the Ark of the Covenant so that they could use it to win victories and control the world.

But that's nonsense of course. You can't manipulate God even if you controlled the ark of the covenant. Christianity is not about magic or power that exists apart from God.

Some of the ancient Israelites thought the same thing when they were being defeated by the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 4:3 we read,

"When the soldiers returned to camp,
the elders of Israel asked,
'Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us
today before the Philistines?
Let us bring the ark of the
Lord's covenant from Shiloh,
so that it may go with us and save us
from the hand of our enemies."

That's what they did. But in the battle that followed the Philistines defeated the Israelites—the slaughter was very great. We read, (1 Samuel 4:11)

"The ark of God was captured, and Eli's two sons,
Hophni and Phinehas, died."

They tried to manipulate the power of God. The reason they were defeated is because they were disobedient to God. They had abandoned Him. They were paying lip service to Him but their hearts were far from him. So the ark of the covenant didn't protect them.

We have another example of this in Acts 19:13-16. God did extraordinary works through the apostle Paul. Some people who were not Christians thought they would tap some of this power. We read,

"Some Jews who went around
driving out evil spirits tried to invoke
the name of the Lord Jesus over those
who were demon-possessed.
They would say,
'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches,
I command you to come out.'
Seven sons of Sceva,
a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.
[One day] the evil spirit answered them,
'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul,
but who are you?'
Then the man who had the evil spirit
jumped on them and overpowered them all.
He gave them such a beating that they
ran out of the house naked and bleeding."

Christianity is not about magic. It's about God working and responding to the faith of the woman.

God healed this woman. It's interesting how it happened. It reminds me of what Jesus said in John 11 just before He raised Lazarus from the dead. He said, (John 11:41–42)

"Father, I thank you that
you have heard me.
I knew that you always hear me,
but I said this for the benefit
of the people standing here, that
they may believe that you sent me."

Jesus raised Lazarus with the Father's power. So here we see that the Father healed this woman. Jesus wasn't aware of the woman until He felt power go out from Him. God the Father saw her faith and healed her. William L. Lane writes, (Mark, NICNT; p. 192-193)

"Jesus possesses the power of God as the representative of the Father. Nevertheless, the Father remains in control of his own power. The healing of the woman occurred through God's free and gracious decision to bestow upon her the power which was active in Jesus. By an act of sovereign will God determined to honor the woman's faith in spite of the fact that it was tinged with ideas which bordered on magic."

William L. Lane, p. 193-194,

"It was the grasp of her faith rather than her hand that had secured the healing she sought. Her touch had brought together two elements faith and Jesus and that had made it effective."

There was nothing magical about her healing. It wasn't Jesus' clothes that healed her. The object of the woman's faith was Jesus.

What this means for you is that

you are to have great faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 11:6 says,

"And without faith it is impossible
to please God, because anyone
who comes to him must believe that
he exists and that he rewards
those who earnestly seek him."

We believe in a personal God who is our Good Shepherd. The faith that we have is to be in God, in the person of Jesus. He rules and controls everything. As Chapter 5 of the Westminster Confession of Faith says, Of Providence,

1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently."

He controls everything. Every event in the universe, every breath you take, every atom in your body—God is in control. Acts 17:25 says of God,

"he himself gives all men life and
breath and everything else."

It goes on to say that God has determined the exact places where men live. Our lives are in God's hand. In Isaiah 45 and 46 God shows that He controls and rules all things. In Isaiah 45:5–7 God said,

"I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting men
may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things."

And in Isaiah 46:11 God says,

"From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land,
a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that will I bring about;
what I have planned, that will I do."

and Psalm 135:6 says,

"The Lord does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths."

Psalm 139:1–5

"O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out
and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely,
O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me."

When Joseph made Himself known to his brothers He acknowledged that God had sent him to Egypt to rescue them. God ordered all those events.

Proverbs 16:33 says,

"The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD."

And Proverbs 16:9 says,

"In his heart a man plans his course,
but the Lord determines his steps."

And Proverbs 21:1 says,

"The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases."

Since all those things are true—there is no place for superstition.

You must get rid of all superstition.

Don't have anything to do with it. Don't read horoscopes. Someone might say,

"But I just read it for fun."

That may be true but it's not good to do that. It's all nonsense—yet it's nonsense that the devil can and does use to deceive people.

The more one relies on superstition, the more one decreases their faith in God. Faith in God involves knowledge of who He is. The Bible tells us that He is the creator and sustainer of all things. He is the Good Shepherd who rules and controls all things.

Lastly, for those who are not Christians,

this shows that you need to go to Jesus.

This universe is not about chance. There is a personal God who created you for His glory and who will accept you if you go to Him.

Consider this woman. Her faith was defective, weak—she didn't approach Jesus directly and in the account of this story in Luke's gospel we read that at first she denied that she had touched Jesus. But Jesus had compassion on her. He called her 'daughter'. He told her to go in peace. He did this publicly. Norval Geldenhuys writes, (Luke, p. 261)

"If her cure had taken place without the Savior making it known publicly, she would have had the utmost difficulty in removing from the inhabitants of the town the prejudice and scorn she had met with for years."

John Calvin says,

"God deals kindly and gently with his people,—accepts their faith, though imperfect and weak,—and does not lay to their charge the faults and imperfections with which it is connected."

Go to Jesus. He will accept you.