Truth be told, I’d rather preach on Mark or Luke’s version of this story, where we are told the woman “had endured much under many physicians;” where Jesus notices the power leaving him; where the disciples don’t get what’s happening (again); where the woman gives her testimony to the crowd. (See Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48.) So many things I love are missing from Matthew’s version of the story.
Yet what remains focuses us in on these two women that Jesus heals: the woman with the flow of blood and Jarius’ daughter. Neither are named. Both have intimate encounters with Jesus.
The woman actively seeks him out, desperate for relief from her illness. We don’t know if she is truly convinced that Jesus can heal her or if he is just one more attempt to do something. Really, what did she have to lose? Whatever is in her mind and heart, she makes an effort to go to Jesus, to touch the fringe of his cloak. (“The fringe.” I love that.) And, as Jesus says, her faith made her well.
The daughter, of course, does nothing to receive Jesus’ healing. She can’t come to Jesus because she has died. So Jesus makes the effort here. He goes to her house, walks through all the rowdy flute players, and kicks everyone out of her room. Then he helps her get up. In this case, it is not the daughter’s faith that makes her well. It seems to be more about her father’s faith—and Jesus’ compassion.
If we back up in this chapter we see a parallel healing, when some guys bring their buddy, who is paralyzed, to Jesus on a stretcher. The man on the stretcher may or may not have wanted to see Jesus; he was healed thanks to the faith—and the physical labor—of his friends.
Then we have the call of Matthew. And it’s true that Jesus comes to Matthew, but Matthew is the one who decides to get up and follow Jesus. And it is this act of faith that leads to Matthew eating with Jesus—receiving the type of healing Matthew needs in his life. His faith has made him well.
Sometimes it is our own faith—whatever that means—that heals us. Sometimes we find healing through the faith of others. And sometimes, faith or no faith, we just manage to stumble into the abundant compassion of our forgiving, healing, life-giving God.