You can listen to the audio here.
One cold January morning in a Metro subway station in Washington D.C., a man removed a violin from its case and began to play. He performed six complex Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, rush hour, thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by before a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
The violinist received his first tip when a woman threw a dollar into his case without stopping her walk. A few minutes later, a man leaned against the wall to listen briefly but quickly looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly, he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3-year-old boy. His hurried mother dragged him along, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child started to walk again, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the forty-five minutes the musician played, only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About twenty gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected thirty-two dollars. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
There is a great YouTube video of these events. I will be happy to send you the link if you want it. 
No one knew or recognized violinist Joshua Bell, Grammy Award and Avery Fisher Prize-winning professor at the Royal Academy of Music, Music Director of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and one of the best musicians in the world, who has played with every major orchestra on six continents and before three American presidents. In the subway station, he played six of the most intricate pieces ever written on an instrument worth nearly four million dollars.
Two days before playing in the subway, he sold out a theater in Boston where the average ticket cost a hundred dollars.
Bell’s playing incognito in the Metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about the public’s perception, taste, and priorities. The question posed by the experiment was this: In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive genius? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context? In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, does beauty transcend? Bell did not play “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” or “What Makes You Beautiful,” popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls. 
One of the possible conclusions from this experiment could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
This is the Gospel of Grace for the People of Christ. Thanks be to God.
Did Jesus not know who touched Him? Were there things about the people in His path that Jesus did not comprehend?
You might want to answer “Yes” because of passages like Mark 6:6, which says that Jesus was “amazed” at the lack of faith of Jews from His home town. Luke 7:9 (the same as Matthew 8:10) says that He was "amazed" at the faith of the Gentile centurion. Does amazement mean surprise? Does it indicate lack of knowledge?
Think of your reaction the last time you saw a sunrise, were in the room when a baby was born, or smelled a rose. Perhaps you have seen the pyramids or watched Michael Jordan soar. Some writers call these “Aha moments.”
You have had “Aha moments.” The hymn-writer says that we stand amazed in the presence of Jesus. We wonder how He could love us – that wonder does not mean we are ignorant and need information; it means that we are awestruck by it all. I think Jesus was amazed in that sense, not in ignorance, but in awestruck astonishment that people can see the miracles of God and not believe. I was amazed at the concert Gena and I got to attend this week when I heard Josh Groban and Idina Menzel sing. But that does not mean that I do not believe that Groban or Menzel can do what they do. I believe it, and I understand it, but I am still amazed. Jesus was amazed, not perplexed.
The story of the woman who touches the hem of Jesus's garment is familiar. As Jesus is on His way to Jairus's home in order (as we find out in a few verses) to raise the man's daughter from the dead, His clothes are touched by a sick woman. She is immediately healed. Mark tells us that Jesus feels power go out from Himself and turns and asks, "Who touched my garments?"
I have often wondered about this little story. Why would Jesus ask this? As I mentioned earlier, a popular explanation is that the crowd around Jesus is so pressing and so large that He simply does not know which person among many has touched His clothes.
There are many who conclude that He asked this question out of ignorance in order to find out information, just like we do. It follows, then, that His asking who touched Him is a result of the fact that the crowd is so big and so dense that He just does not know who touched Him, probably could not even feel her touch His garment, so He does not know whom He has healed when power flows out. I have read many commentators this week who take just that approach. One talked about how “surprised” Jesus must have been that some unknown person was healed.
That explanation does not work for me. If Jesus does not know who has reached out to Him, then the healing is simply an impersonal passing of power from the Christ to a sick person, transmitted through touch of fabric by happenstance, without Jesus's independent knowledge of the faith of the one seeking the healing… sort of like people sending a handkerchief through the mail to a televangelist so that he can bless it and send it back to them to rub on their injuries. That interpretation, that Jesus felt power go out of Him and was confused and surprised and therefore was asking who the lucky winner was, sells Jesus short. Mark and Luke both tell us that the crowd was pressing around Jesus, so clearly many were touching Him; yet curiously no one else was healed.
This woman reached out to Jesus. English translations attempting to provide a clear and understandable story don’t give us the dramatic way the scene is described in Greek. In a more literal rendering, you should hear the string of participles that build up, finally culminating in the woman's action: "And a woman – having been bleeding for twelve years, and having suffered greatly from many physicians, and having spent all she had, and having benefited not one bit but rather having gone from bad to worse, having heard about Jesus, having come in the crowd from behind – touched his cloak." … What does it mean for this woman to tell the whole truth? Is she confessing something about her plan and her confidence in Jesus? Is she telling the truth about herself? Professor Mark Hoffman imagines her saying something like, "I was desperate, and you were my last hope." 
I imagine her, in her own way … tentative, unsure, without drawing attention … saying “Precious Lord, take my hand. I am tired. I am weak. I am worn.”
The healings of Jesus are personal extensions of Himself. I cannot accept the explanation that he was baffled by the identity of the person He had just healed. Jesus acts neither blindly nor randomly. The control of the when and how of His miraculous work is not ceded by Jesus to any person who happens to choose to reach out and touch Him at a coincidentally correct time.
If the Lord heals, even once, without knowing, without doing it intentionally, without choosing to extend healing to one who Jesus knows has reached out in faith, then everything we know about Jesus is wrong. That would mean that Jesus does not act out of love. It would mean that His extensions of grace are accidents.
But, of course, everything we know about Jesus is not wrong. He knows us and loves us and extends grace to us out of His immeasurable kindness. He tells the woman that He has healed her precisely because of her faith. There is a balm in Gilead.
Of course, Jesus knows immediately who has touched Him. He cannot be asking “Who touched me?” in order to find out information.
So, then, the issue becomes one that is interesting to me: Why does Jesus ask a question if he already knows the answer? Are there other examples of questions Jesus asks?
So, I counted. I bet I could have found something on the internet where someone else had done it, but I did it myself. Not counting repeated questions in parallel accounts, and not including questions asked by characters within parables, I count 175 questions asked by Jesus in the Bible. As I read them, not a single one is a question that Jesus asks out of ignorance or limited knowledge.
As I mentioned in a sermon back in the spring, the questions of Jesus fall into six categories. 90 of them are teaching devices, 31 are rhetorical questions, 30 of them are challenges, 13 are essentially "parental" questions, 10 are devices to set up miracles, and one is not really a question at all but rather a cry of anguish.
First are the teaching questions, devices to get the audience to think through issues: Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?... If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? … Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? … Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? … Saul, why are you persecuting me?
None of these arises from a need to know an answer. Each of them instead, like the query of a law professor using the Socratic method, is meant to force the hearer to think through a proposition and learn something important.
Next are the rhetorical questions. These are not asked to gain information, for it is obvious from the context that Jesus knows the answer and is using them to make a point: Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? ... Who are my mother and brothers? ... Why do you call me good?
The rhetorical question technique of Jesus reminds us of “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” from Shakespeare or even “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Jesus’s use of the device is much more serious, but the tactic is the same.
Then, there are the challenges, designed to make the recipient of the question step up to the plate, as it were, and make a decision or face facts: Who do you say I am?... Do you betray me with a kiss? ... Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for? … Do you believe I am able to do this?
One does not hear that and decide there is a need to explain anything to Jesus. You hear that question and look deep into your own soul.
I identify a lot with the next group, the “parental” questions. These are statements of fact put into a question, such as, "Jocelyn, don't you know that broccoli is good for you?" or reactions to situations others have gotten themselves into, akin to a mother’s reacting to her son with "What are you up to now?" or my asking my daughter Annessa, “Are you ever going to straighten up your room?" That question is not meant to illicit the answer "Why, yes sir, at 7:47 p.m. on Thursday I shall begin the cleaning process." These Biblical questions are in a similar vein: How long shall I put up with you? ... Didn't you know I would be about my Father's business? ... Can't you stay awake with me? ... Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say? … Why does this generation seek a sign?
There is the cry of anguish. "Eli Eli, lema sabachthani?" is not a request for an explanation or for information. Yes, it has a question mark on it, but Jesus knows the answer. This is a very human moment, but the limitations here, on the cross, are death and pain, not ignorance.
Finally, then, as in our scripture today, there are the miracle setups, like the question from the hem of the garment story, the “Who touched me?” question. These are not seeking information. These are questions used by Jesus to set the stage for what He is about to do or to explain what He has just done. At Cana, when He asks Mary, "Why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come," He is not literally asking her to explain herself (obviously, since He does not wait for an answer). Instead, He is making a point. Similarly, at the feedings of the 5000 and 4000, "How many loaves do you have?" is not asking for data, as if the key to whether or not He will perform a miracle hinges on whether there is enough bread; instead, Jesus is asking them to notice the paucity of raw materials they have so that what He is about to do is clear. There are many other examples: To the man who sees what look like trees walking, the Lord asks, “Do you see anything?” He is not checking to see if He has botched a healing. He is asking the recipient to narrate the experience of being healed as it occurs. When Jesus asks, “How long has your son been like this?”, He does not need that intelligence report in order to heal, nor is He engaging in small talk. He is making a point to those around Him. When He asks, “Where have you laid him?”, Jesus does not need directions to Lazarus's tomb. This is classic scene setup. Think about questions like “What do you want me to do for you?” or “Have you caught any fish?”
The question is not answered by information but is instead part of the event.
In our scripture for today, when Jesus turns to say, “Who touched my clothes?”, He knows very well who touched Him. Jesus is making a point.
Do you know? Did you notice? Who touched me?
Jesus, who is on His way to the house of an important man with an urgent need, pauses that journey and (first!) heals a person who would be considered "unimportant" by virtually everyone around, and then Jesus takes the opportunity to teach. One lesson, of course, is that He wants a woman – this woman - to be noticed. He knows that her faith is exemplary, and He wants us to see it.
Another lesson is that her uncleanness does not dissuade Him from touching her, for Jesus is stronger than any affliction. He is not afraid of becoming unclean Himself. Despite what the Jews believe and fear about touching the unclean, Jesus is greater than their fears. When Jesus touches, He makes her clean.
But there is a much more nuanced lesson that we must not miss. Stopping His important trip, having quietly healed the formerly-bleeding woman, Jesus asks the question to make the point that only He had noticed her. He says to those with Him - undoubtedly Peter and Thaddeus and Judas and Matthew and the rest - "So, did you see? Are you aware? Of this whole crowd, who reached out to me? Out of these good people, whom did I heal? In the midst of this group, did you observe the power of God displayed? Were you conscious of the genius right next to you playing Bach on the multimillion-dollar Stradivarius?”
The disciples are clueless. “Master, there are an awful lot of people here. And besides that, we are focused on the important job of getting to this important man's house. You can't have expected us to notice anything else.”
Jesus could ask – and I believe He does ask – the same question today. We churchgoing Christians rush around on crucial errands. We direct Jesus in the way we want Him to go, aiming Him at the right person who has asked in the acceptable way for proper help. On the way, we are surrounded by many others, some of whom desperately need the touch of the Master. He gives just that touch right in our presence, and we are none the wiser. The greatest violin player the world has ever seen is playing the most awesome music that could ever be written, while dunking like Michael Jordan and singing like Josh Groban – all at the same time – and we do not sense it. We miss the Aha moment.
We do not stand amazed.
The sick and the seeking are stepping out in faith right under our noses. Triumphantly, Jesus sees them and their faith and responds as only He can. Tragically, we too often do not notice.
Maybe it is because we are distracted with serving Christ in a different way. Like the priest and the Levite who pass the wounded man in the Good Samaritan Story, we are too busy going to Jairus’s house. Too often, I fear, we miss the work of God because we are preoccupied with ourselves, our politics, our problems, our narrow views of how God works … our so-called important stuff.
The real possibility of unnoticed grace is a major reason our Catholic and Episcopal friends have developed a system of sacraments – tangible expressions of grace. For a Catholic, experiencing the Eucharist or confession and penance or receiving last rites is a physical manifestation of grace they don’t want to miss.
My late uncle, Dr. Charles Wellborn, entitled one of his books Grits, Grace, and Goodness. His title comes from the story of the traveler making his first visit to the South, eating breakfast at a diner in Georgia. When the plate came, there was a side dish he could not identify. Told by the waitress that it was grits, he responded that he had not ordered grits. Her response – a truism any Southerner would understand without being told – was, “Oh, Honey, you don’t have to order ‘em. Grits just come.” Compelled by the universality of the image, Uncle Charles wrote that grace, like grits with your ham and eggs south of the Mason Dixon line, “just comes,” whether we order it or not.
There is, of course, Grace with a capital G. It is the “Amazing Grace” that saves us, the “marvelous, infinite, matchless Grace” that is greater than all our sin. We do not order, request, or earn saving Grace. It just comes, offered freely to all. It is up to us to respond to it.
There are many other kinds of grace, with a small g, ranging from the little to the mighty, from the unnoticed to the obvious, from the natural to the miraculous. This grace with a small g comes often, and it comes to point the way to Grace with a capital G.
God repeatedly sends capital-G Grace our way to give us every possible chance to accept the free gift of eternal life; and little-g grace comes every day because the kingdom of God is at hand. God loves us so much that He lavishes His unmerited favor on us in ways too numerous to quantify.
We do not put in a request for it…. Grace always comes, but we do not always acknowledge or even recognize it. Like the power that saved the bleeding woman, grace can go unnoticed. Maybe because we cannot earn it or work for it or deserve it – no matter how many good things we have done this week … maybe that is why we can miss it.
Once you start asking the question of what some Biblical examples of unnoticed grace are, you will find many of them. Think of manna. Think of Saul’s confusion that allowed David to escape, or Ezra’s finding amongst the rubble the book of the law to read to the people who have never heard it. The still small voice that came to Elijah. A plumb line. New grapes on the vine. The leap of a baby in the womb of an older mother-to-be. A way to shore for a wrecked ship. A vision for an exiled apostle.
To be sure, there are some divine actions that we can never ignore. Earthshaking movements of God like the raising of Lazarus or the parting of the Red Sea are impossible to overlook. We can reject them if we want. We can call them "natural" and choose not to see God's hand in them. We can even claim credit for them ourselves. But we cannot simply miss them.
But for every resurrection and each calming of the storm, there are thousands – if not millions – of discreet acts of grace that God carries out every day, and they indeed can go unheeded. Lamentations tells us that they are "new every morning." Carl Wesley Anderson defines this phenomenon of unnoticed grace this way: “The idea that your Heavenly Father has gone before you on your journey and prepared a surprise person or people, in the normal circumstances of life, to stumble upon.” Anderson calls it “holy coincidence.” 
A mistake in the roll call at the concentration camp that lets Corrie Ten Boom walk out. The decision to look up into the sycamore tree at just the moment the short man happens to be perched there. The survival of St. Paul’s Cathedral through the bombing of London. The fireman who gave his life in West, Texas so a few dozen others could survive the explosion. And on, and on.
Human history's first example of a simple act of unnoticed grace comes in the third chapter of Genesis, the passage that Debra read for us earlier. As you know, the first chapter tells the story of creation, and the second chapter tells us of the formation of Eve and the placement of the first humans in the garden.
We generally think of Chapter 3 as the story of the Fall, and indeed it is. It is the story of the first temptation, the first sin, and the first punishment for sin. But buried (to those who are not looking for it) in there is also this early act of grace, one that is unnoticed by so many.
Verse 7 tells us that Adam and Eve, having sinned, suddenly realize their nakedness. Verse 21, which comes before the banishment from the garden, tells us that God “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” They did not ask, and they certainly did not deserve, but grace, like grits, just comes.
Do you see it? Our loving God is always on the move to repair the damage that sin has done, usually before we are even aware of it. Where sin makes us naked, God makes us clothes.
Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. [Romans 5:20] Paul said it, but he learned it from Genesis 3.
Do you notice the clothing you have received to hide your nakedness? Do you hear the music of the great violin? Do you see the people all around you asking for – and receiving – the touch of the Master while you drive right on by?
Why does Jesus ask, “Who touched me?”
“Who touched me?” is not a request for information - Jesus already knows the answer. “Who touched me?” is a quiz, a rebuke to those followers of Jesus who wouldn't know a miracle if it happened in front of their face.