Jun 23

Radical Compassion. Divine Authority.

Article by Andrea Fast

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.

Matthew 9:18-25

Don’t you just dread the moment when you’re still in your pajamas, crowned with bedhead, sleep in the eyes, teeth unbrushed, and the doorbell rings? My heart drops into my stomach every time. If I’m honest, I usually just don’t answer the door, hoping another member of my household has already prepared themselves for the outside world and answers instead. Perhaps a year of COVID has lessened the stigma around being seen in all your morning glory. But still, there’s something innately awkward about being seen that way.

What’s the point of my confession? I think we treat Jesus like this a lot of the time. We’re sinful, weak, and messy people—surely the very Son of God doesn’t want to see us like that? So we hide our “impurities” by not saying a word about them, at least specifically—in prayer, we might make a general “I’m a sinner” confession, but then we move on quickly to praise and thanks.

And yet we want to be known, and known completely. And not only completely known, but cleansed and transformed as well. We want to be okay with being seen in our pajamas, but we also want to have a shower. Matthew 9:18-25 offers a solution to our dilemma. It reveals to us who really is in need, who Jesus is, and how the needy relate to Him.

Who is in need?

In order to understand the dynamics at play in this text, we need to keep in mind its Jewish backdrop. You might be surprised to hear it, but Jesus didn’t enter into a vacuum of space and time. He lived, about 2,000 years ago, in the land of Israel, and was Jewish himself (as we will see later). In Matthew’s gospel, however, we see him living out his “Jewishness” in radical, yet authoritative ways. The eyes of all faithful Jewish adherents were on him. Let’s take on their point of view – how would the individuals and interactions in this text have been seen through a Jewish lens?

The two prominent characters in need are the bleeding woman, and the dead girl (and by extension, her father the ruler).

According to Leviticus 15:19-33, the woman’s bleeding would have made her both physically and ritually impure in the sight of Jewish adherents. This woman would have been severely ostracized and isolated, since anyone this woman touched likewise would have been rendered unclean – in fact, Jewish teachers avoided touching women altogether because of this risk.

Likewise, according to Numbers 19:11-22, the dead girl would also have been considered ritually impure, along with anyone who touched her.

Much like you and I in our sin and weakness, these women were impure, and in need of cleansing. But who could possibly cleanse them if anyone who touched them became impure themselves?

Who is Jesus?

The first thing to note about Jesus in this text is that He is thoroughly Jewish. We read that He was wearing a “garment” with a “fringe” in verse 20 – this was in keeping with the commands found in Numbers 15:38-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12 which required Jewish men to wear cloaks with tassels on each of the four corners. So here is Jesus, a faithful Jewish man – but what does he do?

When the bleeding woman reaches out to touch the fringe of his garment – we would expect, from a Jewish man, a response of outrage and disgust at the nerve of this unclean woman. “How dare you do such a ghastly thing?! Shame on you!”

But what does Jesus do? “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (9:22). This is radical compassion.

As Jesus moves on to the dead girl’s house, we see him act again in this way. Instead of simply speaking a word to keep his distance from the impurity of the dead girl, with radical compassion “he went in and took her by the hand” (9:25).

Who is this man? Why would he act in this way?

Because He is the only One who has the authority to do so.

In direct response to his word, “instantly the woman was made well” (9:22). In direct response to his touch, “the girl arose” (9:25). In a display of radical compassion and divine authority, Jesus did not become impure through his interactions with these desperate women – rather, these desperate women were restored by their interactions with Jesus.

In other words, Jesus saw these women in their pajamas, but was not turned off. And further, He also provided a shower for them to become clean.

How do the needy respond to Jesus?

So where does that leave us? What are we to do with our own impurities? Come to Jesus, place your faith in him, and be cleansed.

Both the ruler and the bleeding woman found Jesus to be the rightful locus of their faith. The ruler, confident in Jesus’ ability to heal, plead with Jesus, “but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live” (9:18). The bleeding woman, likewise confident in Jesus’ ability to heal, thought to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well” (9:21). Christ City, they were not disappointed.

And lest we think we need some copious amount of faith for our restoration to even be possible – Jesus’ words to the woman, “your faith has made you well” (9:22) is not an indication that it is the strength of her faith that healed her, but rather that she placed her faith in the right location, namely, in Jesus himself.

You and I can fall into two ditches – either we don’t believe Jesus is radical enough to accept us in our “impurities,” or we don’t believe Jesus has the authority to forgive, restore, or heal us. Often we fall into both.

Who have you seen Jesus to be in this text?

He is radically compassionate. He is divinely authoritative.

He is not turned off by your sin, your weakness, or your pain. No impurity is too dirty for Him to cleanse. You can come to him in all your morning glory, bedhead and all. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but He won’t be disgusted. He might have a cup of coffee with you, but then he’ll provide a hot shower.

Confess your sin, weakness, and pain to Jesus – honestly, specifically. Ask Him to forgive you, to restore you, and to heal you – by faith in the One who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) to do so.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily held by everyone at Christ City Church.