An alien righteousness for alien people

Imagine for a moment that your only child, a twelve year old little girl, is in the ambulance on the way to the hospital with an immediate and impending threat to her life. The condition is utterly desperate. The sirens blare through the busy five o’clock traffic in the downtown area where the hospital is located, and the cars are packed bumper to bumper, greatly inhibiting the progress of this ambulance. Your daughter is on the doorstep of death and the traffic is only serving to work against her fate. You watch in horror from your car that you have been following the ambulance in as the ambulance driver stops the ambulance in the middle of the crowded road. What is he doing? Why would he possibly stop in a situation this dire? Your child lay dying and he has stopped? You then notice that he is walking toward a man on the side of the road who is obviously an illegal alien, and apparently needs help.

This is a modern parallel to what is happening in Luke 8:40-48. A ruler of the synagogue by the name of Jairus comes desperately to Jesus because his twelve year old daughter is dying. As Jesus is making his way toward Jairus’ home, he suddenly stops in his tracks and says “someone touched me.” Peter’s response is probably representative of what most everyone would have said. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been to a large sporting event, but as a frequent attendee of Gator games in the swamp, I can identify with Peter’s sentiment. What Jesus said here would be the equivalent to me at halftime of a Florida game going to the concession stand, along with 90,000 of my closest friends and as I stand in line telling my friend “hey someone just touched me.” Well no duh! But the omniscient Christ knew that this touch was more than a casual bump in a crowd. It was the touch of an illegal alien desperately searching for help. It was, in fact, the touch of faith.

What do I mean when I say she is an illegal alien? This passage rings loud and rich with Old Testament tones. In Leviticus 15, we are told that any woman (or man) who had any bodily discharge of fluid was to be declared as unclean, and actually cut off from the covenant community of faith. In other words, as long as she had this discharge, she could not be a worshipping member of the people of God. She was, for all practical intents and purposes, an illegal alien, forbidden to participate in the covenant blessings of worship at the tabernacle with the Old Testament Church. So deep was this alienation that not only was she pronounced unclean, but everything and everyone she touched while having this issue was to become unclean as well. This is the predicament that this woman is in. She is suffering physically with this infirmity. She is cut off from the covenant people of God as well. So not only did she suffer, she had to suffer alone. She was bankrupt, sick and alone with no hope.

Another Old Testament allusion in this passage is the reference to the ‘hem’ or the ‘tassel’ of Christ’s robe. In Numbers 15, Moses instructs the men of Israel to hang tassels on the four corners of their robes, which when worn would hang around their feet. The reason given by the Lord for this is so that they would remember the commandments of the Lord and do them (Numbers 15:39). The imagery conveyed is given in the Psalmists imagery of “walking in the commandments of the Lord.” The commands of God, represented in the hem of tassels around the feet of the robe signify that God’s commandments are to guide our steps so to speak.

The big picture we get in this Luke account of this woman, who because of her issue of blood, was cut off from the people of God. All physical infirmity and sickness is an allegory to our spiritual sickness. The  physical suffering that we face in this life points us to a greater reality of the suffering of our souls as they are alienated from God. This woman who was cut off from God’s community of faith teaches all of us that we by nature are “Gentiles in the flesh” and called “Uncircumcised” and we are separate from Christ and “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:11-12) This is our estate outside of Christ. In a very real sense, we are all born with an ISSUE OF BLOOD WHICH CUTS US OFF  FROM ETERNAL LIFE AMONG GOD AND HIS PEOPLE. The prophet Isaiah is very explicit when he tells us that we are “ALL AS AN UNCLEAN THING ( does this sound like the Leviticus 15 language about a person with a bodily discharge or what), and all of our righteousness is as DIRTY MENSTRAL CLOTHS.

The best any of us can offer to God amounts to nothing more than the unclean rags of the woman with the issue of blood. What then, is the significance of her touching the tassels? Remember what the tassels signified? Walking in the commandments of God. Jesus was the only man in history who ever has done that perfectly. When we are told that she touched the hem tassels of his garment, we get the picture of imputed righteousness. All of our righteousness is like her dirty rags, but Jesus, because he walked in the commandments of God offers us a perfect righteousness, or shall we say an ‘alien righteousness’ i.e. a righteousness that is foreign to us!! How astounding that her blood made her unclean and cut off from covenant life and blessings, but the gospel tells us that in Christ “we who were formerly cut off have been brought near BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.” (Eph. 2:13)

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