Resting in the Assurance Offered in Christ
In my devotional time yesterday morning I was reading through Luke 8 when I came to the healing of the women who “…having an issue of blood twelve years” came to see Jesus. Y’all know the story well I am sure, and how at the end our Lord says to her, “…Daughter be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Every time I read that there are a couple of emotions that well up within me (yes, Presbyterians have emotions). First is just joy. The whole scene is worth its weight in gold. She’s been to doctors, faith healers, the works, yet the simple words of Christ is all that it takes for her to be made whole. The picture here of a poor lady, suffering immensely only by providence to see the consolation of Israel present, running to Him, and being relieved of all her pain and anxiousness, is really the story of all of God’s covenant people, and should move us to see a kindred spirit. Second, is a feeling of loss in a sense. I am sure there were many more people in that crowd who may have had similar needs as this woman, and their answer was right in front of them, however, they did not “see” nor seek that which could be found only by looking in the right direction.
There is some irony of course in that Luke 8 also includes the tale of the disciples on the waters freaking out because of a storm. There after Christ has calmed the seas we hear Him testify to the men, “Where is your faith?”. Talking about feelings again one of the ways in which our religion has been watered down in the past couple of centuries is by how the word faith has gone from being a sure and certain rock to being an emotional state. If we know ourselves at all we are fully aware that our sentiments can change like a chameleon’s skin. It is not a good barometer of things. If faith is a tangible reality it cannot be shaken or disturbed either by the winds and rains on the lake or by whatever circumstances may be around us, yet if it is merely a blind ephemeral concept it can never be of much help in the day of trouble. There is much more to be learned in how the Scriptures define the word than what cannot be brought forth by emotional manipulation.
The question next is what is it about what Jesus says to the lady and to His disciples that has such power? Well, when we start with the men why does our Lord lambast them for their lack of faith? The answer simply is that if they knew their Savior, in the way the women with the issue did, they would not have been concerned, despite the reality of the dangers of being on a boat in a whirlwind. They were told multiple times at this point that Christ had come to do His Father’s business, and the witness of the Old Testament was jam packed with promises of what the Messiah would accomplish in His life, death, and resurrection, so why are they fearful that they might die while the Redeemer slumbers? Simply put they do not have faith. They are worldly in their understanding.
There is another story in this 8th chapter of Luke which gives light to the problem. I like to use Luke 8 when doing gospel presentations because it’s like a mini-course in what it means to be a believer. As Jesus continues to preach and teach He tells them a parable about the sowing of seeds and what happens when those seeds fall where they may. At the close we hear Christ use His trademark saying, “…He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Then we get several stories which prove His point. For the disciples they were like the seeds that fell on ground choked by thorns. Adversity comes and they forget everything that had been revealed to them, most importantly the Lord’s divine person and calling. It is something the woman with the bleeding literally clings to in her desire to be made well. She knows that there is no answer in the flesh, only in the power that belongs to her Savior. It is a situation where her earthly understanding probably, and most likely, was dwarfed by the disciples. Yet what was more important in the moment? The head knowledge or the heart? She believed He could help. They did not believe He could save them from imminent danger.
However, we need to be careful not to be too hard on the disciples. Like ancient Israel or the Pharisees they are easy punching bags for our pointing and laughing. Your mother was correct that pointing the finger at someone else means there are three fingers pointing back at you. It’s time to close out our morning prayer and worship moment with an occasion of self-reflection.
What is it we can learn from these stories told to us by the Holy Spirit of the way of the word in real life?
In the case of the woman she went to Jesus after all else had failed. It’s not as if Christ was a “last-ditch effort”, but that she learned in the midst of failure that there is only one place to go for hope. Because there is only one place it can be found. The certainty and assurance of the promise of Immanuel, God With Us, is the reason why we can persevere through the most difficult of storms, as the disciples learned. Faith is the substance, which means that Jesus is the substance, the fullness in which we ourselves dwell. A keystone doctrine we believe in is that we are united to Christ by faith. That means we are in the boat with Him. There is a picture hanging in the hallway upstairs in the education wing at the Bethany church building which illustrates this for us quite well. Like Noah in the Ark, we are being brought safely and securely home.
Here’s a little more to contemplate:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church