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By George MacDonald
Used with the permission of Johannesen Printing & Publishing.
see www.johannesen.com

I COME now to the second group of miracles, those granted to the prayers of the sufferers. But before I make any general remarks on the speciality of these, I must speak of one case which appears to lie between the preceding group and this. It is that of the woman who came behind Jesus in the crowd; and involves peculiar difficulties, in connection with the facts which render its classification uncertain. 
At Capernaum, apparently, our Lord was upon his way with Jairus to visit his daughter, accompanied by a crowd of people who had heard the request of the ruler of the synagogue. A woman who had been ill for twelve years, came behind him and touched the hem of his garment. This we may regard as a prayer in so far as she came to him, saying "within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole." But, on the other hand, it was no true prayer in as far as she expected to be healed without the knowledge and will of the healer. Although she came to him, she did not ask him to heal her. She thought with innocent theft to steal from him a cure. 
What follows according to St Matthew's account, occasions me no difficulty. He does not say that the woman was cured by the touch; he says nothing of her cure until Jesus had turned and seen her, and spoken the word to her, whereupon he adds: "And the woman was made whole from that hour." But St Mark and St Luke represent that the woman was cured upon the touch, and that the cure was only confirmed afterwards by the words of our Lord. They likewise represent Jesus as ignorant of what had taken place, except in so far as he knew that, without his volition, some cure had been wrought by contact with his person, of which he was aware by the passing from him of a saving influence. By this, in the heart of a crowd which pressed upon him so that many must have come into bodily contact with him, he knew that some one had touched him with special intent. No perplexity arises from the difference between the accounts, for there is only difference, not incongruity: the two tell more than the one; it is from the nature of the added circumstances that it springs, for those circumstances necessarily involve inquiries of the most difficult nature. Nor can I in the least pretend to have satisfied myself concerning them. In the first place comes the mode of the cure, which seems at first sight (dissociated, observe, from the will of the healer) to partake of the nature of magic-an influence without a sufficient origin. Not for a moment would I therefore yield to an inclination to reject the testimony. I have no right to do so, for it deals with circumstances concerning which my ignorance is all but complete. I cannot rest, however, without seeking to come into some spiritual relation with the narrative, that is, to find some credible supposition upon which, without derogating from the lustre of the object of the whole history, the thing might take place. The difficulty, I repeat, is, that the woman could be cured by the garment of Jesus, without (not against) the will of Jesus. I think that the whole difficulty arises from our ignorance-a helpless ignorance-of the relations of thought and matter. I use the word thought rather than spirit, because in reflecting upon spirit (which is thought), people generally represent to themselves a vague form of matter. All religion is founded on the belief or instinct-call it what we will-that matter is the result of mind, spirit, thought. The relation between them is therefore simply too close, too near for us to understand. Here is what I am able to suggest concerning the account of the miracle as given by St Mark and St Luke. 
If even in what we call inanimate things there lies a healing power in various kinds; if, as is not absurd, there may lie in the world absolute cure existing in analysis, that is parted into a thousand kinds and forms, who can tell what cure may lie in a perfect body, informed, yea, caused, by a perfect spirit? If stones and plants can heal by the will of God in them, might there not dwell in the perfect health of a body, in which dwelt the Son of God, a necessarily healing power? It may seem that in the fact of the many crowding about him, concerning whom we have no testimony of influence received, there lies a refutation of his supposition. But who can tell what he may have done even for them without their recognizing it save in conscious well-being? Besides, those who crowded nearest him would mostly be of the strongest who were least in need of a physician, and in whose being consequently there lay not that bare open channel hungering for the precious life-current. And who can tell how the faith of the heart, calming or arousing the whole nature, may have rendered the very person of the woman more fit than the persons of others in the crowd to receive the sacred influence? For although she did not pray, she had the faith as alive though as small as the mustard seed. Why might not health from the fountain of health flow then into the empty channel of the woman's weakness? It may have been so. I shrink from the subject, I confess, because of the vulgar forms such speculations have assumed in our days, especially in the hands of those who savour unspeakably more of the charlatan than the prophet. Still, one must be honest and truthful even in regard to what he has to distinguish, as he can, into probable and impossible. Fact is not the sole legitimate object of human inquiry. If it were, farewell to all that elevates and glorifies human nature-farewell to God, to religion, to hope! It is that which lies at the root of fact, yea, at the root of law, after which the human soul hungers and longs. 
In the preceding remarks I have anticipated a chapter to follow-a chapter of speculation, which may God make humble and right. But some remark was needful here. What must be to some a far greater difficulty has yet to be considered. It is the representation of the Lord's ignorance of the cure, save from the reaction upon his own person of the influence which went out from him to fill that vacuum of suffering which the divine nature abhors: he did not know that his body was about to radiate health. But this gives me no concern. Our Lord himself tells us in one case, at least, that he did not know, that only his Father knew. He could discern a necessary result in the future, but not the day or the hour thereof. Omniscience is a consequence, not an essential of the divine nature. God knows because he creates. The Father knows because he orders. The Son knows because he obeys. The knowledge of the Father must be perfect; such knowledge the Son neither needs nor desires. His sole care is to do the will of the Father. Herein lies his essential divinity. Although he knew that one of his apostles should betray him, I doubt much whether, when he chose Judas, he knew that he was that one. We must take his own words as true. Not only does he not claim perfect knowledge, but he disclaims it. He speaks once, at least, to his Father with an if it be possible. Those who believe omniscience essential to divinity, will therefore be driven to say that Christ was not divine. This will be their punishment for placing knowledge on a level with love. No one who does so can worship in spirit and in truth, can lift up his heart in pure adoration. He will suppose he does, but his heaven will be in the clouds, not in the sky. 
But now we come to the holy of holies of the story-the divinest of its divinity. Jesus could not leave the woman with the half of a gift. He could not let her away so poor. She had stolen the half: she must fetch the other half-come and take it from his hand. That is, she must know who had healed her. Her will and his must come together; and for this her eyes and his, her voice and his ears, her ears and his voice must meet. It is the only case recorded in which he says Daughter. It could not have been because she was younger than himself; there could not have been much difference between their ages in that direction. Let us see what lies in the word. 
With the modesty belonging to her as a woman, intensified by the painful shrinking which had its origin in the peculiar nature of her suffering, she dared not present herself to the eyes of the Lord, but thought merely to gather from under his table a crumb unseen. And I do not believe that our Lord in calling her had any desire to make her tell her tale of grief, and, in her eyes, of shame. It would have been enough to him if she had come and stood before him, and said nothing. Nor had she to appear before his face with only that poor remnant of strength which had sufficed to bring her to the hem of his garment behind him; for now she knew in herself that she was healed of her plague, and the consciousness must have been strength. Yet she trembled when she came. Filled with awe and gratitude, she could not stand before him; she fell down at his feet. There, hiding her face in her hands, I presume, she forgot the surrounding multitude, and was alone in the chamber of her consciousness with the Son of Man. Her love, her gratitude, her holy awe unite in an impulse to tell him all. When the lower approaches the higher in love, even between men, the longing is to be known; the prayer is "Know me." This was David's prayer to God, "Search me and know me." There should be no more concealment. Besides, painful as it was to her to speak, he had a right to know all, and know it he should. It was her sacrifice offered unto the Lord. She told him all the truth. To conceal anything from him now would be greater pain than to tell all, for the thing concealed would be as a barrier between him and her; she would be simple-onefold; her whole being should lie open before him. I do not for a moment mean that such thoughts, not to say words, took shape in her mind; but sometimes we can represent a single consciousness only by analysing it into twenty thoughts. And he accepted the offering. He let her speak, and tell all. 
But it was painful. He understood it well. His heart yearned towards the woman to shield her from her own innocent shame, to make as it were a heaven about her whose radiance should render it "by clarity invisible." Her story appealed to all that was tenderest in humanity; for the secret which her modesty had hidden, her conscience had spoken aloud. Therefore the tenderest word that the language could afford must be hers. "Daughter," he said. It was the fullest reward, the richest acknowledgment he could find of the honour in which he held her, his satisfaction with her conduct, and the perfect love he bore her. The degrading spirit of which I have spoken, the spirit of the commonplace, which lowers everything to the level of its own capacity of belief, will say that the word was an eastern mode in more common use than with us. I say that whatever Jesus did or said, he did and said like other men-he did and said as no other man did or said. If he said Daughter, it meant what any man would mean by it; it meant what no man could mean by it-what no man was good enough, great enough, loving enough to mean by it. In him the Father spoke to this one the eternal truth of his relation to all his daughters, to all the women he has made, though individually it can be heard only by those who lift up the filial eyes, lay bare the filial heart. He did the works, he spoke the words of him that sent him. Well might this woman, if she dared not lift the downcast eye before the men present, yet depart in shameless peace: he who had healed her had called her Daughter. Everything on earth is paltry before such a word. It was the deepest gift of the divine nature-the recognition of the eternal in her by him who had made it. Between the true father and the true daughter nothing is painful. I think also that very possibly some compunction arose in her mind, the moment she knew herself healed, at the mode in which she had gained her cure. Hence when the Lord called her she may have thought he was offended with her because of it. Possibly her contrition for the little fault, if fault indeed it was, may have increased the agony of feeling with which she forced rather than poured out her confession. But he soothes her with gentle, consoling, restoring words: "Be of good comfort." He heals the shy suffering spirit, "wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain." He confirms the cure she feared perhaps might be taken from her again. "Go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." Nay, more, he attributes her cure to her own faith. "Thy faith hath made thee whole." What wealth of tenderness! She must not be left in her ignorance to the danger of associating power with the mere garment of the divine. She must be brought face to face with her healer. She must not be left kneeling on the outer threshold of the temple. She must be taken to the heart of the Saviour, and so redeemed, then only redeemed utterly. There is no word, no backward look of reproach upon the thing she had condemned. If it was evil it was gone from between them for ever. Confessed, it vanished. Her faith was an ignorant faith, but, however obscured in her consciousness, it was a true faith. She believed in the man, and our Lord loved the modesty that kept her from pressing into his presence. It may indeed have been the very strength of her faith working in her ignorance that caused her to extend his power even to the skirts of his garments. And there he met the ignorance, not with rebuke, but with the more grace. If even her ignorance was so full of faith, of what mighty confidence was she not capable! Even the skirt of his garment would minister to such a faith. It should be as she would. Through the garment of his Son, the Father would cure her who believed enough to put forth her hand and touch it. The kernel-faith was none the worse that it was closed in the uncomely shell of ignorance and mistake. The Lord was satisfied with it. When did he ever quench the smoking flax? See how he praises her. He is never slow to commend. The first quiver of the upturning eyelid is to him faith. He welcomes the sign, and acknowledges it; commends the feeblest faith in the ignorant soul, rebukes it as little only in apostolic souls where it ought to be greater. "Thy faith hath saved thee." However poor it was, it was enough for that. Between death and the least movement of life there is a gulf wider than that fixed between the gates of heaven and the depths of hell. He said "Daughter."