Saved = 'Made Well' and Then Some

Matthew 9:18-26

Saved = Made Well and Then Some

February 18, 2018


Jesus saves: you read it on billboards and church signs and even bathroom walls. Jesus saves: you hear it from TV preachers and gospel songs. But what does it mean—Jesus saves? Is it limited to old-time, evangelical religion, or can 'Jesus saves' come alive in the gospel stories? Can 'Jesus saves' change our hearts and make us new this Lent?

The idea for this Lenten series comes from a sermon delivered years ago by my teacher, Fred Craddock. Dr. Craddock was widely considered one of the best preachers in America. To me, no one could touch him. I want you to experience him yourselves, a bit from the beginning of his sermon called "Jesus saves." It's helpful to know that Dr. Craddock was a minister in the Disciples of Christ, so when he refers to 'Disciples,' he means members of his denomination, their traits and characteristics. He begins the sermon telling how so many important words have fallen out of favor, but he goes on to say how some of them were being used again—for example, 'Jesus saves.' See what he does with that:

Video clip of Fred Craddock

The New Testament Greek word for 'saved' is sōzō, but as Dr. Craddock suggested, several different English words are used for sōzō, even in the same translation. In Matthew 1:21 the Lord appears to Joseph and tells him Mary will bear a son who will sōzō‑‑save--his people from their sins. But in Mark 6:56 Jesus meets some folks who are sick and sōzō’s them—only now it’s translated healed; and in Luke 8:36 someone with a demon is sōzō'ed—healed, again. But when they're perishing on a boat in a storm, the disciples cry out, "Sōzō us!" Now it's not translated "Heal us," but "Lord, save us!" Save Greek word. And in today's gospel reading, a woman who's been bleeding for twelve years thinks to herself, "If I but touch the fringe of his cloak, I will be sōzō'ed—made well, it says this time. And Jesus concludes the episode by saying to her, "Take heart, daughter, your faith has . . . made you well." But I'm with Dr. Craddock: She was saved; you can call it made well if you want to.

We have these different translations of the same Greek word because, unlike Jesus, we try to separate healing of the mind from healing of the body. We make a distinction between an individual's health and the wellbeing of the whole community. For Jesus there’s no distinction. All of these are part of the same saving/healing/forgiving/reconciling/life-changing power of God. 'Saved" is 'made well' . . . and then some.


As we've been learning, in order to understand the full meaning of Jesus' miracles, you have to see them as symbolic events. Again, that doesn't mean he didn't actually do them. That miracles are symbolic events means he really did them and they have a significance beyond themselves. The woman in today's reading had been bleeding for twelve years. Mark’s gospel provides the detail that the little girl whom Jesus raised from the dead was about twelve years old. Twelve is, of course, the number of tribes of Israel, a number that stands for the whole nation.1 That Jesus takes the trouble to raise a girl, in a culture that values boys, is important—honoring girls heals the whole community. And being touched by a woman with a flow of blood breaks so many religious and cultural taboos—removing barriers that keep women down enhances the whole community. There’s a lot going on in these miracles.


Let's think about what it means for this woman to be 'made well.' Having a hemorrhage for twelve years had undoubtedly left her weak and exhausted. She must have been horribly uncomfortable, liable to all kinds of infection, physically troubled in many ways. But that's not all. According to Leviticus 15, she is perpetually and permanently "unclean," in a ritual sense. She can't worship or even go out of the house. Everything and everyone that comes into contact with her is also rendered ritually unclean. Think of it—for twelve years she hasn't shared a bed with her husband, hasn't hugged children. She can't eat with others, since her very cup and plate become unclean. As Dr. Craddock puts it, she is isolated from her family, she has no place in the community, she has no place in the place of worship, she has been ostracized and oscillated and is a nobody.

And then . . . she touched Jesus, just the fringe of his cloak. And the hemorrhaging stops, but so much more than that. She is restored to her family, welcomed in her place of worship, she can go about and shake hands and sit with people. She is somebody. Again, you can call it 'made well' if you want to. But Jesus saves.

Of course we don't follow Leviticus 15 any more. We wouldn't keep someone out because of an OBGYN condition. But think of all the ways people are still isolated and made to feel like nobody. In one church I served there was a man who put himself in charge of baby patrol. If a child got fussy or started to cry, he would tell the parents they needed to leave. They were cast out, unwelcome, over a baby crying. But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them." Jesus saves.

At the other end of the spectrum, the way our families and society are structured, many elderly folks wind up feeling isolated and left out. Their kids and grandkids are always busy. Their contemporaries can’t get out to see them any more. And there they sit, lonely, their gifts and wisdom untapped. But 1 Corinthians 12 says that every member of the body of Christ is necessary and important. We may forget and neglect, but Jesus saves.

And we know there are still places where God's LGBTQ children are not welcome for who they are. After all, people insist, there are rules in the book. But the gospel says if we but touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak, we will be restored to community, welcomed in the place of worship, un-ostracized. You can call it 'made well' if you want to. Jesus saves!


Here’s the most striking thing to me about this story: the woman with the flow of blood touched Jesus and Jesus touched the girl who had died. In both cases, according to Old Testament law, Jesus was supposed to be “contaminated,” made ritually unclean. Bleeding women were considered unclean, and so was anyone who touched one. Dead bodies were the most unclean thing of all, and so was anyone who touched one. But with Jesus a funny thing happens. Instead of a dead body making Jesus unclean, his touch brings the dead girl to life. And instead of the bleeding woman making Jesus unclean, his touch makes her well. Jesus touched people he wasn’t supposed to touch, and they were made well. Jesus saves.

The sort of people we’re afraid of, the ones we try to keep at arm’s length, changes over time. In Jesus’ time it was this bleeding woman and dead bodies. In the 1980s it was people with AIDS, until we learned better. Then we despised people dealing with addictions, until that became us and our families. Now it’s refugees and immigrants. But everyone needs to be part of a community. Everyone needs to be accepted. Everyone needs love. The touch of Jesus restores, un-ostracizes, welcomes with open arms. You can call it ‘made well’ if you want to. Jesus saves.


When you feel isolated and ostracized, Jesus saves. When you feel untouchable and unworthy, Jesus saves. When you are bleeding and left for dead, Jesus saves. Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame, then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same. He touched me, O he touched me, and O the joy that floods my soul! Something happened and now I know, he touched me and made me whole.” You can call it ‘made me whole’ if you want to—Jesus saves.



Join with me, from the bulletin, in our Lenten Prayer


Lord Jesus, save me, for I need your help.

Save me from isolation and shame.

Save me from sin and guilt.

Save me from apathy and greed.

Save me from trouble and save me from myself.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy. Amen.



1 Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Fortress Press, 2002), 109.

2 William J. Gaither, song lyrics from He Touched Me, The United Methodist Hymnal, no. 367.

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