Even the Fringe of His Garment: Reflections on the Garment of Christ

In Matthew 9:20-22, we encounter the story of “a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years.” This woman pressed through the crowds in order to touch even the fringe of His garment, “for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.’” I have heard sermon after sermon after sermon attempt to teach persistent prayer from this passage of Scripture. But I think that such a use of this Scripture completely misses what is really going on here. Firstly, the woman was unclean according to God’s Law. In the second place, the woman had no earthly way of becoming clean. Luke tells us that “though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.”[1] Thirdly, Matthew tells us that the woman comes up behind Jesus only after Jairus, a ruler of the Jews, exclaims: “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.”[2] Similarly, Mark reports that “she had heard the reports about Jesus.”[3] And lastly, we are told that by Matthew that it is after the Lord Christ turns to the woman and declares to her “…your faith has made you well…”[4] that “…instantly the woman was made well.”[5]

The story is beginning to look a lot less like one that can be applied to prayer. Instead, it shows us (1.)an individual who is condemned by the Law of God, (2.)who cannot become clean by any earthly method, (3.)who hears the Good News about Christ the Lord who can heal her, (4.)who is declared clean by Christ upon her believing in Christ and reaching out to touch the fringe of His garment. Is the picture clearer now? By faith an individual who had no earthly hope of being declared clean by a priest reaches out to touch the Immaculate High Priest’s spotless garment, and upon His declaration – she is clean, entire, no longer under the condemnation or penalty of God’s Law. Isaiah asks: “Who has believed our report?”[6] And we answer him: the woman with an issue of blood. It is she who heard the reports about Jesus and, consequently, believed and reached out in faith to be healed by Him. This passage is, therefore, about justification by faith alone and not about prayer. It is about forensic justification, for Christ’s pronouncement precedes the woman’s healing. It is about the great exchange, for the woman’s illness is here laid upon Christ her substitute, and the power of His Divine righteousness is transferred to her via His garment.

What then is the significance of Christ’s garment? It is a picture of His righteousness, which covers our nakedness in much the same way that the skin of the unblemished lamb in the Garden of Eden provided coverings for the nakedness of Adam and Eve.[7] We see this theme running throughout the Scripture, starting in Genesis and ending in the New Testament. Hence, when we learn that it was not only the woman with an issue of blood but also the people whom He encountered in Gennesaret[8] who desired to touch just the hem of His garment, we are seeing a greater miracle than the healing of the body. We are witnessing, in a type or symbol, the justification of sinners on the basis of Christ’s garment. It is His garment that possesses power to heal, make clean, and restore to fellowship with God and His people. And while the  hem of His garment is sufficient to do these things, He tells us: “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”[9] He has blessed us, therefore, with not merely the hem of His garment, but the whole of it. And we are sons of God now because of His righteousness and not our own. We have been clothed with the proper wedding garments and will not be thrown out of the Marriage Feast, for we share in the holiness of our Husband and Redeemer: Christ Jesus![10]

-h.


[1] Luke 8:43b

[2] Matt 9:18

[3] Mark 5:27a

[4] Matt 9:22

[5] Ibid.

[6] Isa 53:1

[7] Cf. Gen 3:21

[8] Cf. Matt 14:34-36

[9] Zech 3:4b

[10] Cf. Matt 22:1-14 & Gal 3:23-27

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3 thoughts on “Even the Fringe of His Garment: Reflections on the Garment of Christ

  1. KG says:

    Very good initial observations. I was with you until you shifted into the allegorical interpretation. Still, I think you point out some important elements in the text. It is about faith not prayer.

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