Summary: In 2 miracles, Jesus turns what is unclean into wholeness; He overcomes death and defilement. He also removes the stain of sin.
This morning we’re going to look at a dad briefly mentioned in the Gospels, a man named Jairus who was deeply concerned about his daughter; a father with a sense of urgency.
Jairus was a prominent leader of the synagogue and a respected member of the community. Local synagogues were governed by boards of elders. They were responsible for supervising worship, caring for the scrolls (the Torah), running the school, encouraging faithfulness to the Law of Moses, deciding who would speak, and distributing alms to the poor. Jairus was a man of importance, yet he humbly knelt before Jesus. Was it difficult for a man like Jairus to do that? He likely had heard Jesus teach and saw Him heal people, even cast out demons. He may not have (yet) regarded Jesus as the Messiah, but knew Jesus was at least a powerful prophet. Jairus was a religious leader, but he was first and foremost a dad. We don’t know his daughter’s name; we do know she was his only daughter. We don’t know what she thought about her father, but I think she came to know that faith was important to her dad. What we need today are fathers who bring Jesus to their home.
We often see Jesus at odds with the religious leaders, but Jesus was pleased to help this distraught father. Religious leaders often assaulted Jesus with theological arguments. But this leader came with a broken heart. Nothing is harder in life than seeing your child suffer. It was a risky thing for Jairus to approach Jesus, knowing how unpopular Jesus was with the Pharisees. Jairus put the welfare of his daughter in the hands of Jesus, without reservation. He put his reputation on the line as well. He didn’t come at night, like Nicodemus, but in full view of the public. He could have sent a servant to find Jesus, but he came himself. Some things are too important to delegate.
Before they can get to the child, Jesus is interrupted by a woman desperate for healing. Because of hemorrhaging, she was regarded as ceremonially unclean and unable to worship in the synagogue. She couldn’t even touch other people or they would become defiled. She was cut off from normal relations with others and cut off from God. She was seen by many doctors and spent considerable money for treatments, but her condition was incurable. We understand the limitations of medical science. In contrast to the physicians of the world we see here the capability of the Great Physician. This woman superstitiously and surreptitiously touched Jesus’ garment; she was too embarrassed and ashamed to approach Jesus directly. The “hem” she touched refers to the fringe-like tassels Jews traditionally wore as a reminder that they were God’s people. The Pharisees lengthened their tassels to make them appear more spiritual (Mt 23:5). This woman’s last hope was Jesus.
Jesus turned and asked who touched Him. He knew, but He was making a point. The disciples pointed out that a lot of people were jostling Jesus; they were being pressed-in by the crowd. I can imagine Peter saying, “Lord, with all these people crowding in on us, who hasn’t touched You?” Jesus could have left this a private matter, and moved on to a more pressing issue--Jairus’ daughter--but He chose to pause to praise the woman’s faith. He also wanted to dispel the woman’s superstition--it was her faith, not her touch that cured her. His clothing held no magical powers, a reason we put no faith in so-called relics. I have seen relics on display in Europe, and they inevitably become objects of veneration. The power is in a Person, not a fabric or formula. The word Jesus used to say she is now clean is the word translated elsewhere “saved.” There is both a physical and spiritual aspect to this healing. By trust in Christ we are cleansed from the stain of sin. The woman wouldn’t have minded if Jesus hadn’t taken the time to speak to her; her main concern was being healed, and, looking at Jairus, she knew they were in a hurry.
If this woman ventured to touch a Pharisee, she would have been asked a similar question, but as a rebuke and reprimand: “How could you, an unclean woman dare to touch me?” If Jesus was interested in impressing Jairus, He might have ignored this woman. As a synagogue leader, Jairus knew all about ritual defilement, and we can only imagine his amazement at this unusual miracle. Jesus took time to commend the cured woman, and to single out the importance of faith, even an immature faith…for the crowd’s benefit, but especially for Jairus’ benefit. His faith was about to be sorely tested.
During this unscheduled healing Jairus was likely wishing Jesus would hurry up and share his sense of urgency. As they got closer to home, he was feeling a (short-lived) sense of relief. His optimism was dashed by blunt words from a messenger: “Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore.” Jairus must have felt at that awful moment the death of his hopes and dreams, and perhaps some resentment toward the sick woman who briefly interrupted them. Maybe Jairus blamed himself for not coming to Jesus sooner. It didn’t help having the mourners laugh at Jesus when He claimed the girl was asleep. These mourners likely were angry at Jesus because He was not weeping with them, which they misinterpreted as a lack of respect for the family. They had no idea that life was about to triumph over death. Jesus ignored the mourners; He encouraged Jairus to “fear not, only believe.” It is possible to overcome fear, even in the face of death. If faith can cast out fear in the worst-case scenario that we can face, then faith can eliminate fear for any situation.