When Jesus Took Too Long.
Today is the 23 day of Pentecost and our gospel readings could very easily be made into two homilies. In fact, most people think of the things described in todays passage as two separate events. It tells us of two people who were in two very different and very desperate situations. And it tells of how Jesus miraculously met their needs.
There are many lessons that we can learn from either of these two incidents all on their own. But I believe that they were meant by God to be thought of together. I believe that God has so interwoven these two events that they,together,emphasize one great principle to us of how Jesus works faith into our lives.
As he was speaking these things unto them, behold a certain ruler came up, and adored him, saying: Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus rising up followed him, with his disciples. And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout, He said: Give place, for the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. And when the multitude was put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand. And the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country. (Matthew 9:18-26).
Two seemingly different stories are being told to us in these verses. They both involve females - one a young girl, and the other a grown woman. And yet, if you think carefully about what Matthew and the other Gospels tell us about them, you'll see that there are some remarkable similarities between them.
Aside from the fact that both are the stories of females, we see that both of them are called "daughters". That word is one that has an affectionate feel to it. And so, the man tells Jesus, "My daughter has just died"; and Jesus tells the woman - who was much older - "Be of good cheer, daughter . . ."
We read in Mark's and Luke's telling of the story that this poor girl was only twelve years old; but we read that the woman had her ailment for twelve years. In other words, she suffered from her affliction for the same amount of time that this girl lived!
Both stories involved sickness; and both of the sufferers were, so to speak, at the end of their ropes. Mark tells us that, when the man came to Jesus, He said, "My daughter is at the point of death, " (Mark 5:23). And similarly, Mark also tells us that this woman "And a woman who was under an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things from many physicians; and had spent all that she had, and was nothing the better, but rather worse," (v. 25 and 26).
But though both stories involve severe suffering, both stories also give us examples of deep faith. The situation for both changed when Jesus came into the picture. Jesus had great mercy on both; and in both cases, Jesus healed as a result of a touch.
as we meditate on todays' gospel, I'd like us to look at these two stories in greater detail. And I hope that we can draw out just some of the many spiritual lessons that they have to teach us. But the thing to notice is not so much what we learn from them separately, but what we learn from them being told together. The Holy Ghost has chosen to weave these two stories into one, so that a very important lesson can be taught to us about the way Jesus works in our lives. Together, they teach us how, in a time of need, Jesus sometimes increases the faith in Him that we need by meeting the need of someone else first - and letting us see it and learn from it.
Let's look at a little closer at the two stories in this passage. The first thing to notice is that . . .
A GREAT NEED WAS PRESENTED TO JESUS
As he was speaking these things unto them, behold a certain ruler came up, and adored him, saying: Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus rising up followed him, with his disciples. (vv. 18-19).
Jesus had been speaking to the disciples of John the Baptist. And Matthew tells us that, while He spoke these things to them, His conversation with them was interrupted. A "ruler" came to Him in a state of great urgency.
Who was this ruler? The other Gospel writers tell us that his name was Jairus, and that he was a very important and very respected man. He was "the ruler of the synagogue" of that region.
The synagogue, of course, was the place the Jewish people gathered for worship and religious instruction. And "the ruler of the synagogue" was the man who had been chosen by the elders of the synagogue to oversee its operations. He did several things. He saw to the upkeep of the building. He supervised its times of worship. He was responsible to choose men to read the scriptures, or to pray, or to give instruction to the people.
There's an interesting story in the Gospel of Luke that gives us some insight into the role of a ruler of the synagogue. Jesus had healed a crippled woman in the synagogue during the Sabbath; and immediately, the woman began to glorify God. But the ruler of the synagogue was very angry that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. This was very irregular; and he felt that things needed to be brought to order. He stood up and said to the crowd,
"Six days there are wherein you ought to work. In them therefore come, and be healed; and not on the sabbath day." (Luke 13:14).
It was, of course, a silly thing for him to say; and Jesus proved him to be hypocritical. But this at least shows us how important a man the ruler of the synagogue was. It was his job to make sure that things were done decently and in order; and in full accord with the teaching of the scriptures.
And that makes it even more remarkable that this ruler - Jairus - came to Jesus in the way in which he did. He didn't try to meet Jesus under the cloak of night, as Nicodemus, in another story had (John 3:1-2). Jairus came before Jesus openly "and adored Him" (v. 18). In fact, Luke tells us that he "fell down at the feet of Jesus beseeching him that he would come into his house" (Luke 8:41). For this ruler of the synagogue to bow down to Jesus and worship him in this way was a tremendous testimony to what he believed about Jesus. Clearly, he had heard of the things that Jesus had been doing; and his act of worship before Jesus now indicated the kind of conclusion he came to concerning the things he had heard!
What was it that Jairus wanted so desperately from Jesus? He was pleading earnestly with Jesus to come to his home and lay His hand on his young daughter. He said, "Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live." (v. 18).
Think of that! What a thing for a faithful Jewish leader to say! He could only say such a thing because He believed the things he had been hearing about this Man Jesus - that He truly was the Son of God!
Now, just consider that man's faith in Jesus. He said, ". . . But come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live." (v. 18). Where would he have gotten such an idea? Where would such a conviction have come from? I believe that he got it from hearing that Jesus had mercifully healed others with just a touch of His hand.
I believe that Jairus heard of how Jesus had reached out His hand and touched the leper we read about in the beginning of chapter eight; and how the man's leprosy was immediately cleansed (8:3). And it may be that he also heard about the healing of St. Peter's mother-in-law, who was sick with a very high fever; and of how Jesus "he touched her hand, and the fever left her" (8:15). And as you think about all the other things he had certainly heard concerning Jesus, you can see why he made this earnest request of Jesus. He was convinced that if Jesus would come and lay his hand on his dying daughter, she too would live.
And look at the great mercy of our Savior! He never turns away anyone who comes to Him with such faith. Matthew tells us, "Jesus rising up followed him, with his disciples." (v. 19). Mark 5:24 tells us that a great crowd also went along with them.
There would have been many witnesses to the things that were about to happen.
So, Jesus goes with the man to save his daughter and to meet this great need. But as so often happens in life, one story goes on while another is beginning. In God's providence - and in accordance with His plan for good - those two stories intersect for His glory. And thus we see that . . .
A FAITH-BUILDING EVENT OCCURRED FIRST, BEFORE THAT NEED IS MET
And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. (vv. 20-22).
Now put yourself in Jairus' shoes for a moment. He was a desperate father. There would have been a sense of urgency in his request. Without a doubt, he trusted Jesus to be able to save His daughter from death. But he also wanted to get Jesus to his house as quickly as he could before death came and took his daughter away. There was not a moment to lose.
And so, you can just imagine how frustrated he must have been, as Jesus stopped to meet the need of a woman who also sought Him. I'm sure that, if he had a watch, he would have been looking nervously at it.
But let's turn, for a moment, from Jairus' situation; and consider this poor woman. Her situation was very desperate as well. Matthew tells us that she had been suffering from a flow of blood for twelve years! Can you imagine how much of a toll that would have taken on her physically? I suspect that she would have been quite drained and sickly. I even wonder if that's why she reached out to touch the hem of our Savior's garment. Perhaps she had become so weak that she couldn't reach higher. Perhaps her situation had even come to the point of being grave.
Her illness also took a toll on her financially. She apparently had some financial means when her illness began; but her money was eventually drained away. She had spent everything that she had - her whole livelihood - on doctors; and none of them were able to help her. In fact, all that happened was that she became both sicker and poorer. sound familiar? Some of us here today have suffered under illnesses like that - where we've tried to find answers to what was wrong with us; but the doctors could tell us nothing. In such cases, you're willing to try anything - traditional medicine, naturopathic care, homeopathic care. And yet, nothing seems to work. The doctors don't know what to do for you; and yet the medical expenses keep coming in. It's a horribly frustrating and scary situation to be in.
And what's more, this woman's illness took a toll on her in other ways. We're not told what the nature of her flow of blood was. It may be that it was of a very private nature - such as is mentioned in Leviticus 15:19-27. And if that's the case, then she would have been considered ceremonially unclean by her people. She would have had to be set apart from society. Anyone that she touched would have been considered unclean until evening. Everything that she laid on or sat on would be considered defiled; and whoever would have touched those things afterwards would also be unclean until evening. She would have been an outcast - unable to join into the cultural and religious life of her people. Imagine being in such a condition for a total of twelve years!
There's a sense in which she and Jairus had something in common: both of them had come to the end of their resources. They had no where else to go but to Jesus, and to hope for His mercy. She - like Jairus - had heard about Jesus; and having no other hope, she sought Him out as He made His way to Jairus' house. My guess is that, because of her condition, she didn't dare try to go before Him in a public manner. She wasn't sure how people would have reacted to 'a defiled woman' pushing her way through the crowd that was pressing against Him.
But look at what Matthew tells us about her faith in Him; "For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. '" (v. 21). Perhaps she didn't dare to think of touching Jesus Himself, or of asking Him to touch her. But she felt sure that, if she could just touch the hem of His garment, it would be enough. And so, driven as she was by her faith in Jesus' power to heal, she crept up from behind and reached out and touched the hem of His garment as He passed by.
Now, you and I would have hardly noticed such a thing. There was a large crowd of people pressing in on Him from all sides. But as someone has said, Jesus knows the difference between a press and a touch. This was a touch that came from faith; and He always notices those who have faith in Him.
By the way, I believe that this should be a great encouragement to you and me today. We may not be able to physically reach out and touch Him with our hand; but we CAN reach out and touch Him with our prayers. And when we do so in sincere faith, He always notices.
Look at how He noticed her! Matthew tells us simply that Jesus turned around and saw her. But Mark tells us more. He says that, as soon as the woman touched Him,
And forthwith the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the evil. And immediately Jesus knowing in himself the virtue that had proceeded from him, turning to the multitude, said: Who hath touched my garments? And his disciples said to him: Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou who hath touched me? And he looked about to see her who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. (Mark 5:29-33).
Why do you suppose she was so afraid? Why did she feel the need to "confess"? I suspect that it was because she was an unclean woman; and she feared that once she was found out to have "stolen" a healing in this way, she would have had it taken from her. But look at how tenderly and lovingly Jesus speaks to her! He says, "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole: go in peace, and be thou whole of thy disease." (vs 34)
And let's be careful to note the details. He calls her "daughter"; which is a term of endearment. It's a word that can refer to a young woman; and perhaps she was still relatively young - though she had suffered for twelve years. He tells her to "go in peace"; which certainly speaks to the fact that she was without hope, desperate, and very much afraid. In fact, the words He used would have include the idea of calling her to confidence and courage - that she was no longer an outcast among her people; and that her uncleanness had been taken from her.
And He told her what she may not have fully understood at first: that it was her faith that had made her well. Perhaps she thought it had something to do with touching His garment; but He lets her know that it was really a matter of her having sought Him in faith. The "touch" was just an expression of her faith in Him; and it was He Himself that healed her.
Matthew tells us simply, "And the woman was made whole from that hour." That is she was made complete. What a wonderful Savior! She was made whole! She found herself complete in Him!
Meanwhile , while Jesus was caring for this woman, Jairus stood impatiently by. His daughter was dying; and precious time was slipping away.
And then the heartbreaking news came. Mark tells us,
While he, [Jesus], was yet speaking, some come from the ruler of the synagogue' s house, saying: Thy daughter is dead: why dost thou trouble the master any further? (Mark 5:35).
What a blow! Jairus' fatherly heart must have sunk to his feet. It was too late. There may have been hope while she lived; but now, all hope was gone.
But notice what Jesus then does. Mark tells us that,
"But Jesus having heard the word that was spoken, saith to the ruler of the synagogue: Fear not, only believe."( vs 36).
And why would Jesus encourage Jairus to believe? It was because of what Jairus had just seen. He had just seen Jesus heal a woman who had been sick of a bleeding condition for the same number of years as his own daughter had lived. He had performed many miracles of healing before this time; and now, before Jairus' own eyes, He had performed yet another. And now, Jesus encouraged Jairus not to be afraid of what he had just heard; but believe in the One whom he had just seen. I have no doubt that Jairus did believe - because on to the house they went.
And I hope you see the point. Jesus had just performed a faith-building act before Jairus - before his own concern was to be met. And now, . . .
AS A RESULT, JESUS MET THE NEED IN AN EVEN GREATER WAY THAN EXPECTED
And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout, He said: Give place, for the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. And when the multitude was put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand. And the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country. (vv. 23-26).
You see, I believe that this seeming "interruption" in Jairus' mission - and the delay it caused - was a key part of the plan all along. It was Jesus' intention not only to meet the need of this poor woman, but also to do so right in front of Jairus; and all in order to encourage Jairus' faith in Jesus for an even greater challenge than he at first thought. Now, he was going with Jesus - and Jesus was not going to simply heal his daughter; but even raise her from the dead.
They finally made their way to the house of Jairus. Already, the mourners where there. Professional mourners were often hired to assist in a family's grief for the dead; and it often included the playing of flutes and sad, mournful wailing. Even a poor family would have a few such mourners; but in this case - apparently because of Jairus' reputation - it was a large and noisy crowd of mourners.
And when Jesus saw this, He did something remarkable. Matthew tells us,
And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout, He said: Give place, for the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. (vv. 23-24).
Now clearly, the girl was dead. But Jesus said she was not dead. The girl had truly died. But Jesus said that she was "sleeping" because that's how our Savior sees the death of those He is about to raise. Do you remember when He was going to raise His friend Lazarus from the dead? He told His disciples, " Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." (John 11:11). His disciples misunderstood. They said, "Lord if he sleep he shall do well." He had to explain to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead" (v. 14); but then, He went to the tomb to raise him.
In raising Lazarus, Jesus proved, that He is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25); and now, He is about to do so in the case of Jairus' daughter as well.
It's ironic what happened after He said those words. The "mourners" laughed!" The word that Matthew used literally meant that they 'laughed Jesus down'. They mocked Him and derided Him. "Not dead?!", they scoffed. "Only sleeping?! How can anyone be so foolish!!" They switched from mournful wailing and weeping, to insulting laughter and scorn. And isn't this always the response of unbelief to the Savior's power?
They weren't laughing for long, though. And they weren't mourning for long either. I love it how Jesus brought funerals to a screeching halt.
Jesus doesn't look at all those who were mocking Him, and then tell them to follow Him into the girl's room and watch what He does - and then they'd all see something that would shut their mocking mouths! No; Jesus isn't that way. He doesn't put on shows for unbelievers. Instead, He put all the mourners outside.
I'm sure that they weren't very happy about this. It may not have been that they all left willingly or graciously; because the word that is used suggests that He cast them out with a little bit of force! But it reminds me of a principle found in Proverbs 22:10; "Cast out the scoffer, and contention shall go out with him, and quarrels and reproaches shall cease." If they're going to mock, let them mock outside - not inside, where He was going to raise the girl. Mourners weren't needed around anyway, not when Life Himself was there.
And then, Matthew tells us what happened in very simple terms; "And when the multitude was put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand. And the maid arose." Matthew almost says it as if it took no effort for Him to do it at all. All it took was a touch from His hand; and her life was restored to her. Luke tells us that He commanded that she be given something to eat. She was a typical twelve year old, after all.
Matthew then tells us, "And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country. " (v. 26). She became a famous young girl - but that was because she had been touched by an even more famous Savior!
So; here are two stories that have been deliberately woven together into one for us. And there are many great spiritual lessons they're meant to teach us about Jesus.
But again, let me remind you of what I believe is the great practical lesson their combination is meant to teach us. It's meant to show us that - in the midst of taking us along to meet our need - God may stop us and show us something that He does in the life of another. He may give us what one man called "a wonder on the way", in order to strengthen our faith for something even greater than we expected. His ways are interwoven. What He does for you is meant to teach me; and what He does for me is meant to teach you.