|“The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter”
Edwin Long, 1889.
In my last post (May 13, 2013), we were following Jesus on his way to the home of Jairus, whose daughter was dying. Jairus, the leader of the Capernaum synagogue, had fallen at Jesus’ feet when he returned from his trip to “the other side” of the Sea of Galilee, and pleaded with him to heal his only child.
Jesus agrees to come with him to his home, but his trip is interrupted by a woman who is struggling with the hemorrhaging of blood, a condition she has lived with for twelve years. The Gospel of Luke (8:40-56) highlights that she has been battling hemorrhaging for twelve years, while Jairus’ daughter is twelve years old.
Twelve is often an important biblical number (twelve tribes of Israel, twelve disciples, twelve baskets of bread recovered after the feeding of the 5,000, etc.). Luke notes that the age of the dying child and the length of time the older woman suffered from hemorrhaging are both twelve years. Luke appears to be instilling sympathy in his readers toward the woman who has been a social outcast for as long as the entire life of Jairus’ daughter. The bleeding woman has been isolated and banned from the community because she is considered “unclean”; the daughter of Jairus has the advantage of a powerful father who loved and cared for her. Jesus does not acknowledge the distinction in the social status of these two women, but treats both of them as people who are valued in God’s sight.
When the bleeding woman touches the prayer tassel on Jesus’ robe and he stops and asks who had touched him, I can imagine how Jairus felt. Please hurry, my daughter is dying, we don’t have time for this. However, it is important to note that Jesus does not chide the bleeding woman for bothering him and neither does Jairus.
The story takes a tragic turn when, as Jesus calls the healed woman a “daughter” and encourages her with his blessing – “Go in peace” (shalom) – Jairus is informed that his daughter has died. He is told by another synagogue leader that there is no need to “bother the teacher any more” (Luke 8:49).
When Jesus hears the news, he says to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid (Shalom); just believe, and she will be healed.” Is it possible that Jairus has heard about Jesus bringing back to life the son of the widow of Nain earlier in his ministry (Luke 7:11-16)? This town is a day’s walk from Capernaum, so it is likely that Jairus has heard the news of this event. He must have wondered – is there still hope for my daughter?
When Jesus arrives at Jairus’ house, Luke points out that already funeral and mourning arrangements are underway. Jesus tells the mourners to “stop wailing,” and he takes Peter, James and John, along with Jairus and his wife, into the house. Jesus enters the girl’s bedroom and takes her by the hand. To an observant Jew, this is defilement – you never touch a dead person. Yet, just as with the bleeding woman, the “touch” of Jesus is the miraculous cure.
This part of the story is so amazing. According to biblical scholars, Jesus uses a pet name for her – something like “Honey” in English and then tells her, “Wake up.” And she does! Pastor Tim Keller notes the power and love of Jesus that is evident in this healing. Jesus has just faced a storm on the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, confronted a “legion” of demons who possessed a man, and now is dealing with death – the most feared enemy of humanity. No chants are needed, no special rituals – he just takes her hand and, like a parent, tells his child it is time to wake up.
Two very different women. One old, one young; one poor, the other from a leading family. One twelve years old; the other, battling hemorrhaging for twelve years. But both have felt the touch of Jesus, a touch that was forbidden by Jewish religious regulations. Jesus never hesitates to touch the sick, the blind, or even the dead, because he is demonstrating God’s power over Satan and Satan’s evil designs on people created in God’s image.
- When Tim Keller preached on these dramatic events in Jesus’ ministry, he noted that one of the main lessons to draw from this story is that you “always get from Jesus far more than you bargained for. It never works out the way you expected.” I would affirm that based on my faith journey. When you commit your life to Jesus, don’t imagine you are making any bargains in the process because what follows is often what you never expected!
- I also think that Jairus learns a big lesson in patience – in waiting on God’s timing. He has lots of reasons to be upset with the interruption caused by the bleeding woman, but he continues to trust Jesus. As our former pastor, Craig Barnes, used to say, “Jesus often seems to show up just after the nick of time.” We need to trust God in times when we are inclined to lose hope.
- The events covered in our last few posts – the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the demonic man, an incurable case of bleeding in a poor woman, and now death itself in a young woman – all of these stories in the Gospels are there to show us that nothing is impossible with God.