On the way to the house of a prominent ruler of a synagogue, Jesus encountered a poor woman who had suffered from an affliction for twelve years. She had tried everything and was at her wits’ end when she saw the crowd pressed around Jesus. She had heard the reports about him and believed in his power. She thought, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” Reaching out, shielded by the bodies that hid her from Jesus’ eyes, she touched the hem of his garment and immediately was healed. Perceiving that the power had gone out from him, the Lord asked, “Who touched my garments?” Knowing what had happened, the woman came to him in fear and fell down before him and told him everything. The Lord reassured her, saying, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (Mark 5:34, KJV). Most scholars believe that he was referring to more than her physical health. Her faith in Jesus had not only healed her of her disease, but had given her spiritual healing as well.
I have quoted from the King James Version because Jesus’ language (“thy faith hath made the whole”) reminds me of a scene in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, in which Levin’s brother-in-law, Stepan Arkadyevitch, analyzes him, trying to understand his inner turmoil. “You’re very much all of a piece,” Stepan says. “That your strong point and your failing. You have a character that’s all of a piece, and you want the whole of life to be of a piece too – but that’s not how it is….All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”
Stepan was right about one thing. Life as we now have it is not “all of a piece.” It is made up of “light and shadow.” We are unable to enjoy anything to its fullest extent. Sin has divided everything – our health, our families, our work, our play, our emotions, our devotions. It has all been splintered because sin has broken us into pieces.
That is why I am so impressed with the old rendering of Jesus’ encouragement to the woman who touched the hem of his garment – “your faith has made the whole.” Redemption is about putting the pieces back together, making a person whole again. We all long for that, but the only hope that we have for mending, for wholeness, is found in the cross of Jesus Christ. His blood was shed so that through faith we might be made whole.
The Jews have a custom of greeting one another with the word shalom, which means “peace.” Paul followed in this tradition in many of the greetings of his letters, saying “Grace to you and peace from God.” We usually think of peace simply as the absence of conflict, but the Jewish idea of shalom is much deeper than that. Shalom is wholeness and flourishing in every dimension of life. It is what Christ came to give us. It is life “all of a piece.” It is the promise recorded in Romans 5:1–2: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”