“My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” “If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this evening comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Dear friends in Christ: “…and was made man.” Four words; one profound mystery. “…and was made man.” Many Christians throughout the centuries have bowed at these words, even genuflected, kneeling to the ground in adoration. You are free to observe these words in whatever way your personal piety directs, but you are not free to ignore them. “…and was made man.” These words are so profound, so amazing, so incredible because of what has been said just before them. “I believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” This same Jesus Christ, the Son of God, of one substance with the Father, was the very One who “for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” God became man; the Second Person of the Trinity took on our human flesh. He did not become an angel or some other creature—He was made man.
Faith clings to the Incarnation, it holds tightly to the wondrous words, “and was made man.” Faith adores the mystery, not as some sort of museum piece, a magic trick, but as a miracle absolutely essential to salvation. We have a God who can be touched, who can touch us, and that touch has great power, the power to save. We have a God who became like us in every way; who shared all of our sorrows, who knew all our griefs, who experienced all of our temptations, yet without sin. That is the God that we cling to; that is the God we cry out to.
Sometimes the voice of faith cries out boldly, confidently, assured of Christ’s deliverance, convinced that He will truly act. “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.’” Sometimes the voice of faith is confident, not in itself—no, faith is never confident in itself—but only in its object, the Word made flesh. Trust is placed in the Incarnation; that this man, walking this earth with the same anatomy as any other man, is God Almighty, God become man. The ruler doesn’t trust in a phantom, in an angel, but in a man: “Lay your hand on her, and she will live.” We are surrounded by death; death on the news, death among our friends, death in our families, death in our homes. The cruelty of death we have seen close up and personal; we have seen its cold fingers take those whom we love. There is only One who can save, only One who can help, and the voice of faith cries out with all boldness and confidence, knowing that He will come to our aid.
Sometimes the voice of faith cries out meekly, humbly, hoping against hope that the Savior will act. Sometimes the voice of faith is so beaten down by affliction that all it can do is repeat words of hope, earnestly wishing that the night of suffering is over, that the day has come. “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, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.’” Sometimes the voice of faith is hanging on by a thread, afraid to be bold and direct, simply yearning for the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table. Trust is placed in the Incarnation, that this man, walking the earth as any other man, is God of God and Light of Light, of one substance with the Father. This woman isn’t asking for help from a ghost, from the spirits of the saints of old, but she literally clings to a man, a human being, God in the flesh. “If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.” We are all dying; some more quickly than others, but from the moment when we take our first breath, we are coming closer to our last. There is only One who can help, and the voice of faith cries out in humility, knowing that it deserves nothing from the Word made flesh, but trusting in His compassion and His promises, the promises that sent Him to this earth in the first place.
And Jesus hears, He listens; He has compassion, He has mercy, He shows forth His love. “Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.” The touch of Jesus brings healing; His garment is grasped after by a desperate soul, clinging to the promises of God in the midst of a dozen years of affliction. Her faith was not shown forth in boldness, but in meekness and humility; she was the poor in spirit to who belongs the kingdom of heaven. His grip on her was much stronger than hers on Him; it is the object of faith, not faith itself, that makes all the difference. She who was slowly dying is given life in the midst of death; the Incarnation saved her. On His way to raise the dead, Jesus heals the dying. Then He comes to the house of death, the abode of sin’s penalty. He sends away the mourners, saying, “The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at Him. The world mocks the Incarnation, they cannot believe that any man can raise the dead. But this is not any man; this is God of God and Light of Light, very God of very God, who “was made man.” Just as the ruler so confidently declared, the confidence born only of faith in the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus heals with a touch. “He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.”
Jesus didn’t take flesh simply to ‘walk a mile in our shoes,’ or only to give us an example of how we should live according to God’s Word. We do have a God who became like us in every way; who shared all of our sorrows, who knew all our griefs, who experienced all of our temptations, yet without sin. This is all true and filled with comfort for us, but His coming in the flesh served an even greater purpose. He was made man “for us and for our salvation;” He was made man to bring life in the midst of death. Only as true man could the Son of God fulfill the Law perfectly in our place; only as true man could He be our substitute. And only as true man could the Son of God die. The Incarnation leads to the crucifixion; Christmas leads to Good Friday. We confess that this God made man “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried.” Only as true man could Jesus pay the price we owed, destroying the corruption of sin that leads inevitably to death. And only as true man could He conquer death for us by rising from the grave. “And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven.” The resurrection has meaning and significance for us, and is a true defeat of death, only if He rose again as true man.
And now, only as true man does Jesus interact with us. “…and was made man” is not some artifact of history, a tactic that God used to deliver us from our sin and then discarded. No, the same One who was made man still is man, and as man He “sits at the right hand of the Father.” And from that throne, as true man, He touches us with salvation, He drives away death from us. ‘Come and lay your hands on me, and I will live,’ we say. And He does, touching us with water joined to His Word, a washing that gives eternal life, that defeats death by giving new birth. ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be saved,’ we say. And we do, as we touch bread and wine joined to His holy Body and His precious Blood, the medicine of immortality, the antidote to death. His Incarnation touches us to give us life. Finally, on the Last Day, as true man “He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” In the new heavens and the new earth, as He is true man and remains true man, so we will be true man, truly human, as God created us to be, forever. Therefore, with joy, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”