In our first article, we looked at the faith that the hemorrhaging woman had—a faith that helped her press in through the crowd to receive healing from Jesus. In this article, we want to take a look at Jesus’ words to this woman: “Your faith has saved you” (Mark 5:34).
These are the same words he spoke to a number of other people in the gospels to comfort and reassure them. He spoke them to a blind beggar named Bartimaeus (10:46-52). He spoke them to a leper who returned to him after having been healed (Luke 17:11-19). And he spoke them to a sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed them with perfume (7:36-50). In this article, we want to take a look at these stories to get a picture of how we can experience Jesus’ salvation in our lives today.
We tend to think of salvation in religious terms, as in salvation from sin or eternal life with God in heaven. But the Greek word that the gospel writers used in each of these stories is sozeo, which can mean “to heal,” “to save,” and even “to restore.” It is a very flexible word, and it only emphasizes even more powerfully how deeply involved Jesus wants to be in every aspect of our lives. So let’s take a look at these stories to see what salvation can feel like.
Bartimaeus—Healing and Discipleship. Jesus and his disciples were heading out of the city of Jericho. As usual, a crowd of people was with them, and the jostling and noise were probably just as intense as ever. But one voice rose above the din: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Looking for the source of this roadside cry, the people saw a blind beggar named Bartimaeus sitting by the road. He must have looked pathetic in his tattered clothes and unwashed face. Some were indignant that so wretched a creature would disrupt their time with Jesus, so they tried to shut him up. But it didn’t work. He simply cried out all the louder.
Finally, his voice caught Jesus’ attention. Jesus asked him what he wanted, and Bartimaeus replied, “Master, I want to see.” Then came the familiar words: “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” At once, Bartimaeus was healed—He could see again!
Bartimaeus’ faith was similar to the faith that the hemorrhaging woman showed when she pushed through the crowd. It was the kind of faith that said, “I won’t let anything come between me and Jesus. I know how desperately I need him, and I will overcome any obstacle to get to him.” Bartimaeus could tell that Jesus was more than just a popular miracle worker. Calling him “Son of David,” he acknowledged that Jesus had a special relationship with God. He sensed that he could trust Jesus, that God would hear this rabbi and answer his prayer. And it was that kind of faith that “saved” Bartimaeus!
But the salvation that Bartimaeus received went beyond his physical healing. Jesus had told him, “go your way,” but Bartimaeus did something different: He didn’t follow his own way or his own ideas. Rather, he followed Jesus “on the way”—on the way of discipleship and obedience.
Bartimaeus could have gone home, found a job, and lived his own life. But instead, he threw in his lot with a poor, wandering rabbi. This path was riskier than a quiet life at home, but Bartimaeus had been changed. His spiritual blindness was healed, and he came to see Jesus in a new way. Now he felt compelled to stay close to him and learn all he could from him. And by following Jesus, Bartimaeus shows us that part of “being saved” involves being moved from our way to God’s way. It involves being rescued from a self-centered view of life to a Christ-centered view. It involves receiving the power to open our hearts to Jesus, to our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and to the cry of the poor and needy around us.
The “Tenth Leper”—Healing, Worship, and Intimacy. On another occasion, Jesus was met by ten people suffering from leprosy. Instead of healing them directly, Jesus sent them to the local priest for purification. But on their way, they were all healed. It must have been astounding: Rotting flesh was made new. Nerve cells were regenerated, and feeling entered their hands and feet again. All the ravages of their disease disappeared, and they were whole!
However, only one of these lepers—a Samaritan, no less—went back to Jesus and fell at his feet, thanking him and praising God. Deeply moved by the man’s response, Jesus told him: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19).
Surely there is more here than an assurance that the man has been healed! All ten had already been cured. The “salvation” that this man received must have been something else—another wondrous work of God in addition to his physical healing.
Again, as with the hemorrhaging woman and Bartimaeus, we are compelled to examine this man’s faith. And as we do, we can see that for this fellow, faith was deeply connected to a relationship with Jesus. The faith that Jesus commended him for was not just a matter of believing the unbelievable or of agreeing to a set of doctrines. Rather, it was a faith that moved him to surrender his life to Jesus in worship and adoration. This man didn’t just shake Jesus’ hand politely and say, “Thank you.” His heart was filled with adoration as he fell at Jesus’ feet in worship.
The Sinful Woman. Finally, let’s look at the story of a woman with a sinful reputation who burst into a quiet dinner party where Jesus was. Weeping tears of repentance mixed with love, she anointed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. Jesus’ host, a Pharisee named Simon, was scandalized by her actions, but Jesus reacted quite differently. He saw in her gesture an act of love, and he welcomed it warmly. Wanting to affirm the woman’s feelings, he reassured her: “Your sins are forgiven.” Somehow, she already knew that—It was what compelled her to anoint Jesus in the first place. But it wasn’t enough for her just to know she had been pardoned. Jesus went on to say: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48,50).
Of all the stories we have looked at, this one seems to resonate with people the most deeply—those who are healthy as well as those who are sick. This woman was not sick. Her body did not need Jesus’ healing touch, and her faith had nothing to do with Jesus’ power to restore her physically. The healing was spiritual and emotional. She had been deeply scarred by her own sins—and by the sins of those who had abused her—and her extravagant actions revealed how dramatically Jesus’ teachings had already touched her. Like the leper who returned in Luke 17, she too wanted to praise and worship Jesus for what she had begun to experience.
Jesus knew that this woman was being healed even before she entered the room. He knew that his message of repentance, forgiveness, and mercy from heaven had convinced her that she could put the past behind her and live a new life freed from sin. He saw that her willingness to cause such a stir in Simon’s home was the result of her experience of mercy. It was a response of faith to the one whose love was setting her free. And this was the kind of faith, Jesus knew, that opened the gates of salvation for her—and for anyone who turns to him for help.
This woman’s story shows us that while physical healing is marvelous, spiritual healing is even more amazing—and ultimately more important. She shows us that the salvation Jesus most deeply wants to give us is a salvation from sin and hopelessness, a salvation that frees us from every form of bondage and brings us face-to-face with him. She shows us that even if we are physically healthy, we all have spiritual needs—and Jesus loves to heal them!
Press In! Brothers and sisters, Jesus wants to see all of us have the kind of faith that Bartimaeus, the tenth leper, and the sinful woman had. He wants to see all of us respond to him in the wholehearted way that these three did. Have you felt God moving in your heart? Perhaps at Mass, in Confession, or in the course of your everyday life, have you experienced a glimmer of his promise or his mercy? Then be like these people and press in to find Jesus. Don’t be afraid to take a bold step. Know that these glimmers are nothing more than invitations to experience something far more dramatic and life-changing. They are invitations to seek the face of Christ—the love of Christ—and not just his healing touch.
We all tend to be very cautious when it comes to matters of religion. But these people threw caution to the wind as they cried out to Jesus. So don’t worry about overdoing it. Press in. Push through the obstacles, and you will find Jesus offering you the same promise he offered these people: “Your faith—your persistence, trust, and surrender to me—has saved you.” Then, you too can go in peace!