Being gospel papers by F. W. Grant.
The Healing of the Issue.
"And much people followed Him, and thronged Him. And a certain woman which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched His garment; for she said, If I may touch but 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 that plague." Mark 5:24-29.
That we should find in the miracles of healing which the Lord wrought upon the body, the types and patterns of spiritual healing, cannot be thought strange. This healing of the soul was certainly the great thing in His mind always. That of the body was a display of Divine power soon to pass away. The records remain not only as the witness of that power manifested in goodness among men, and manifesting the glory of the Son of God. According to His own words with regard to the healing of the palsied man, it was that they "might know that the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sin," that He bade him arise, take up his bed, and go unto his house. The bodily healing, which they could see, was to be the assurance of the reality of the spiritual healing which they could not see.
This, of course, was not saying that the one was actually a type or figure of the other, but it prepares us at least to find without much wonder the lesser miracle speak of the greater. Nor must we be surprised that no such interpretation of what is here is given us. The perfection of the picture is that it speaks to the eye for itself without the need of any. Even so has the healing of the bloody issue spoken ever since the day of its record here by one "moved by the Holy Ghost."
The expectation of a miracle had brought for a moment a crowd around the Lord. A ruler of the synagogue had besought Him for his daughter, lying at the point of death. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed Him and thronged Him." It was for the most part an idle crowd, just such as would be shouting at no distant time, "Away with Him! away with Him! crucify Him!" There is no hint of anything better as to them. Their thronging and pressing upon Him was no good sign, but the reverse. If they "followed Him," it was outside interest, not love or reverence for Him. No "virtue" went out of Him whom they pressed on, for their need, if need they had. They had no real dealing or intercourse with Him at all.
It is very like what is going on at the present day, when, in these professedly Christian times, a crowd is pressing in the self-same way around the Lord. There is much apparent "following." If we look closer, how much through outside influences, how little from real heart for Christ Himself. How few can speak of "virtue" which has come out of Him for them; of eternal life which they have gotten through Him; of justification from all things by His blood.
Amid all this, however, a need that nothing else can meet brings the soul to Christ, and the touch of faith finds virtue in Him as of old. "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 grew worse" — how many who read this, perhaps, will say, That is my picture. How many remedies have I tried for my condition, and I am as far from peace as ever, and more hopeless than ever now of finding it." But let us look at what is here more closely.
"An issue of blood twelve years." A slow, steady, unchecked draining of the life away. A thing not in all its dread significance perceived at once, but surely making itself felt as time goes on, paling the brightness of all the eye looks on and stealing away all vigor of enjoyment, until the pall and shadow of death lies everywhere, and life is labor, and all under the sun is vanity. Know it as we may, or not, this is everywhere a disease we suffer from. Little, if at all, understood in the flush and fervor of youth, when the world is yet untried, its reality gradually, but too soon, steals in upon us. "The world passeth away." There is a doom upon it. Its freshness fades. Its blossoms wither. He that drinketh of this water thirsts again, and it becomes more and more impossible to find even temporary satisfaction from it.
This is the effect of the "issue of blood." It is what sin has wrought. It is the mark of Cain, "a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth." Everything is fleeting, naught abiding. Death is the palpable mark upon sin. And oh, when the eye is opened, what a world! Could there be aught but death for it? Could it go on, such as it is, forever, under the eye of a holy and good God?
But it is my sin that brings the want and weariness and dissatisfaction everywhere into my own soul. It is that I am away from God. For if able to look up out of the midst of it all to One enthroned above it, infinitely good as infinitely great, and with Divine power working out unfailingly the counsels of Divine love, weariness and unrest would be gone, and acquaintance with Him would give peace, deep and unbroken.
But, alas! when I think of Him; conscience has its tale to tell against me, and cast me off from confidence in Him. My indifference, my enmity to Himself, become in my thoughts the argument (judging Him by myself) that He must be careless of or hostile towards me. Sin is upon me, alas, condemning me before Him, and sin is in me, accusing Him to my heart; and yet it is with Him I have to do. Here, then, is my issue of blood, draining out of my soul its all of life and joy and satisfaction.
"An issue of blood twelve years!" But that was not all with this poor woman. She had suffered many things of many physicians." The effort to get relief had thrown her into the hands of those who could accomplish nothing for her, but only added to her affliction. How sure a thing it is, if we have felt anything of soul-sickness, that we shall be prone to try any and every invention of man, rather than the Lord's own simple and effectual way of healing. And the equally sure result is, if we are under Divine teaching, that we find suffering instead of healing. God's gospel is the "gospel of peace;" all other gospels fall short of this. Indeed these others are all one at bottom; they bear the marks of one mind from which they all come, for if it is not God's truth we follow, it is the devil's lie.
Thus all men's religious inventions will be found to base themselves upon and suit themselves to the natural thought as to God. They suppose Him against men, and needing to have His heart turned to favor them; and for this purpose some work of man's own needed, to make (as they put it) their peace with Him. Herein is torture enough for a divinely awakened soul. For what is he to do, who has never yet done even his bare duty? How is he to make up for the past, who is for ever adding to his sin? Or if God's mercy will put away the past, still what about this present constant falling short? Will God excuse him again in this? If so, in how much, for this mercy must surely have a limit? "Keep the commandments?" This in the whole he cannot. But "do the best he can;" this too, he finds, he has not. Will God, — can He, accept less than even this? Where then draw the line, and upon which side of the line, — accepted or rejected, — does he stand?
Thus all is suffering here, for to such questions there is no answer. Under this system of treatment, if we are in earnest, like the woman in this story, we are "nothing bettered, but rather grow worse." The end is total bankruptcy, and that every way: "she had spent all that she had.
"None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good."
In such a condition there is one advantage, and that a great one: the "many physicians" disappear. For one simply "lost" they have no remedy, — can hold out no further hope. But one physician, and but one method of cure, remains.
What strange faith comes into the soul at the end of so many trials! "When she had heard of Jesus, she came in the press behind, and touched his garment; for she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole." What gave her such strange assurance? Just her need. He suited her so well. His grace in its freeness commended itself so to her. He was no vendor of patent medicines, made no profit of the help He brought her. This wondrous prodigality of blessing flowing out of Him for every need was the broad seal of heaven to His corn- mission. It spoke in her heart with all the sweetness of Divine authority, and she gave herself up to the joy it brought, without a doubt.
This is the kinship — so simple, and yet so much misapprehended — between "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." For repentance is indeed that which introduces us to the blessed reality of what He is. We "repent," and we "believe the gospel." Not as if repentance were a legal condition, or legality at all, but, on the contrary, the break-down of it. To "abhor ourselves" with Job is not self-righteousness; it is self-emptiness, the conviction of helplessness and evil, to which only the freeness and fullness of the gospel suit. It is not the doing of something for God, but the conviction of inability to do, which shuts us up to simple receiving of the "gift of righteousness." Then how simple indeed faith is, and how suited and sufficient a Saviour Christ becomes!
The faith of the woman with the bloody issue found its answer from the Lord. Faith always does, for all it counts upon Him for. "And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague."
Notice how the Lord's healing distinguished itself from all others. It was no lengthy process. He did not put this woman under a course of treatment, as some interpreters of His dealings with the soul would make Him in that case do. No, it was immediate healing. "Straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up." How blessed is this! How sure that as to soul-salvation the Lord's way is precisely similar. "Thy sins be forgiven thee" were His first words to the palsied man. "Thy faith hath saved thee," to many another. Nowhere did He put those who came to Him through a probationary course to get their sins forgiven and to find peace with God. And now we are assured in the gospel of a peace made, — a "peace preached," or proclaimed as made. "He is our peace." Faith welcomes this, and enters into it at once.
First faith, then feeling; "she felt in her body." "Ah," says some one who reads this, "that's what I am waiting for. I want to feel that I am healed." But observe, dear reader, she did not wait to feel. She said, "If I may but touch, I shall be healed." She touched, with the assurance that the touch brought healing with it. How much more should you come to Him now with the assurance that you are received, when He says, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Come to Him, saying, "I know Thou receivest me," and you will find feeling the result of faith; but if you wait for feeling to tell you you are received, you are dishonoring Him by discrediting His word; and how can you expect happy feelings while you are doing so?
Here all is in its place. Her feelings were the honor put upon her faith. She had hold of the blessing, never doubting it was hers, although she had no other assurance but the grace which was flowing out around. We have, on the other hand, the distinct positive word of the Lord that whoever comes to Him is received.
"Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up." And what a wondrous healing is that with us, when the "salvation of God" makes us to know the "God of salvation." Not against us, as we thought, but having righteous title to show Himself for us through the Cross of Jesus; our "issue of blood" healed by the shedding of the blood of our spotless Substitute. No work of our own sufficing; but no work of our own needed. And all revealed in such unclouded light, that not to have simple certainty of it is unbelief, and sin. How the heart is brought back to God by this wondrous manifestation of what He is, and is to us! He who has given Jesus for us is the One in whose hand all things are. To know this is quietness and assurance of heart.
One word more. In the case of this woman, the Lord claims from her the public acknowledgment of what she had got from Him. She would have stolen the cure and got off unperceived. But no! she must own Him now, that He too may own her before them all. "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." Let me urge this upon all healed ones, the claim which the Lord makes on them for open confession of Him. It is everything for happiness as Christians to be confessors of Christ, to be open, decided followers of His. It will cost us something before a world which rejects Him still, but it is a small cost, for an infinite gain; for the principle is always true, "Them that honor Me will I honor." The Lord give us boldness, beloved brethren, and devotedness to Him who has bought us with His precious blood, that we might be a people formed for Himself, to show forth all His praise.