Two accounts in the Bible tell of individuals who sought healing from Jesus and found it, simply by touching the hem of his robe.
In one instance, a woman who had suffered from uncontrolled bleeding for 12 years approached him. She was convinced that if she could just touch his garment, she would be healed. Her mental call for help drew Jesus’ attention, and he said to her, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” The Bible states, “And the woman was made whole from that hour” (see Matthew 9:20–22).
In the second instance, soon after Jesus arrived in Gennesaret, people brought to him anyone who was sick to be healed. They pleaded with him to let them at least touch the hem of his robe. They, too, were healed (see Matthew 14:34–36).
In both accounts, the news of Jesus’ many healing works preceded his arrival. Those in great need longed to feel the healing power of the Christ and to be in close contact with the man who so fully manifested it. Jesus never claimed that his garment had any healing properties. He demonstrated that it was the Christ, his spiritual nature—and not his personality or anything humanly associated with him—that was the healer in every case.
The hem of the outer cloak worn by Jesus and the Jews of his day would have been down at their feet. It may have required kneeling, or bending low, to touch it. Because of their desperate circumstances, this made no difference to those seeking healing. In many cases they surrendered ego, the pride of status or social position, as well as fear or hesitation, in order to approach him. They were not going to lose this opportunity or allow anything to stand in their way.
In fact, it seemed that they were willing to do whatever Christ, Truth, would require of them in order to find freedom from their circumstances. For some, it may have meant giving up a measure of material gain, as was the case with the publican Zacchaeus in his encounter with Jesus (see Luke 19:1–10), or perhaps giving up compromising behavior, as in the case of the woman discovered to have been in an adulterous relationship (see John 8:1–11).
There are times when circumstances demand a change in thinking and acting, forcing us to look beyond ourselves to a power greater than our own.
There are times when we, too, may be loaded down with troubling circumstances and long for healing. We may even wonder if we can go any lower. But Christian Science assures us we are never so low that we cannot reach the hem of Christ’s garment. Whether we’re dealing with a troubling relationship and a deep desire for constructive change, the uncertainty of employment, discouragement over a chronic illness, or worries about having enough of something we genuinely need, each of us has within his reach the healing solution. We need only be willing to seek the Christ, the divine idea of God, with humility.
In other words, we need to be willing to yield up mortal states of thought, such as self-righteousness and self-justification, to the Christ, for only the Christ can dissolve them. Only the Christ can heal, can waken us from the earthbound spell of the material senses claiming we are separated from God, from good, and lift us into the understanding of our coexistence with divine Love.
It is the Christ that reveals to us our status as God’s sons and daughters, and thus the richness of our spiritual identity and our purpose for being. The Christ shows us the importance of being obedient to God and to the loving demands our Father-Mother makes on us for Christian living.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, once said she had to go “down and down in humility” during the many challenges she faced in bringing Christian Science to the world (Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority, p. 84). Those very challenges always caused her to seek the hem of Christ’s garment, and to find the comfort and healing she needed.
There was a time in my own life when I needed to feel that Christly comfort more deeply after I made a profound decision that had a direct impact on many, and some whom I loved dearly. It caused false accusations to be made, and some to withdraw from me. It was a very painful time, which was accompanied by feelings of alienation, deep sorrow, and uncertainty. Though I felt wounded by the actions of others, as well as by my own, I remained quiet and close to God in my prayers. And while I hungered for my motives to be better understood, I learned that the divine demand at these times is often for our spiritual understanding to increase. This required greater humility on my part—to go to the “hem” and trust all to God.
During the next two or three years of consecrated prayer, I became aware of how much I had always been loved and cherished by God, as well as by those nearest and dearest to me. The healing of feeling separated from them came as a result of drawing closer to God, and I regained my natural ebullience.
There are times when circumstances demand a change in thinking and acting, forcing us to look beyond ourselves to a power greater than our own. As we touch Christ’s hem, humbly placing our concerns in God’s hand, we are assured that God is leading us, supporting us, and that all is well.
Though our initial encounter with the Christ may be at the hem, the Christ, strong in Spirit, gently lifts us to our feet with its healing power, and we find ourselves whole, our lives restored. We then can fulfill our holy purpose.
John Quincy Adams is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in New York City. He’s also a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship.