Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. Matthew 9: 20-22
I am more partial to Luke or Mark’s telling of the story of the woman with a bleeding disorder (a “hemorrhage”) than of Matthew’s. Matthew seems almost in a hurry to get to the next story, which is one of Jesus bringing a little girl back from death to life. But Matthew pauses, just long enough, to tell us the remarkable tale of a woman who has been suffering for a dozen years. Luke tells us that she has spent all the money she had on doctors and still was not well. “If only I touch His cloak, I will be made well,” she thinks. Did she really believe it? Did she truly expect a miracle of miracles to happen in her life, when so much pain, sorrow, and even poverty had come to her?
Merriam-Webster says a miracle is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” A miracle, in other words, is something that happens we cannot explain by any other means than “coincidence” or act of God. Healing someone who has been bleeding for 12 years would qualify, yes? Or raising someone from the dead?
I was visiting my father in September and we were at his little Methodist Church, maybe 16 people in attendance, worshipping on a Sunday. No organ, just a simple piano. We began to sing, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee….” and, for no reason in particular, I was overwhelmed with emotion, barely holding it together, tears streaming down my face, as I continued to sing as best I could. A sudden awareness of God’s presence came over me that held a promise for me that I was in God’s power and presence and I knew, in that moment, that God was with me. A miracle…at least to me. Miracles are certainly the times when great things happen; yes, unexplained miracles of the universe when cancer is inexplicably healed or someone survives an impossible accident or tragedy. But smaller miracles happen all the time, if we are paying attention; those occasions when God breaks into our lives and reminds us that we are His, completely loved and held by His great and powerful grace. Miracles not only challenge us to believe but can, with God’s help, show us the way to a holier and fuller life.