Thursday, March 25, 2010

Luke 8:40-56 Commentary

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman
40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, [d] but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 "Who touched me?" Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."

46 But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me."

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. "Your daughter is dead," he said. "Don't bother the teacher anymore."

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed."

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Dig Deeper
I had seen high diving before on television many times but I had never before seen a real 10 meter platform before in person until the day I walked into the Schroeder YMCA. Even standing from the pool deck and looking up at the platform, it didn’t seem that bad. It seemed very high, don’t get me wrong, but it certainly seemed like it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to jump off of it. So, I climbed up rung after run and passed by several lower platforms of this diving structure and finally arrived at the top level, the ten meter platform. I was the director of the teen camp for the summer at the YMCA and we were having a day at the indoor pool. Normally they didn’t allow people to dive off the platform but they had given only the teen camp special permission to jump off. As I made it to the end of the platform and looked down, I realized that it seemed a whole lot higher from up there than it had seemed from down on the deck. As I peered down, I began to reconsider the thought of actually jumping down. I could think of a whole litany of excuses but when it came down to it, it was fear that stopped me. Just then I looked behind me and climbing up onto the platform was a small seventh grade boy that was a great kid, but was considered a bit of a “nerd” by the other kids. He asked if he could jump and I said “sure, go ahead,” but I was sure that he would get scared and back down once he saw how high it was. Much to my dismay, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. He took a deep breath and ran to the edge and leaped off. I watched him hit the water, disappear for a few moments and then bob up to the surface and swim off. I knew right then, that this little guy had taught me a lesson in courage. I needed to simply take a deep breath, run to the edge, and jump off. He had shown me what I needed in that moment.

It’s amazing how often we are stopped from doing things because of fear. Fear, it seems, can often be the biggest obstacle to our faith in God. Fear of the unknown, fear of what might happen, fear of what others might think, fear of being wrong. Fear can come in many forms but it almost always stands as an obstacle to fully loving God by truly trusting in him. Yet, just as amazing as all that can be, it is equally amazing at how many times we can be inspired to overcome fear from the unlikeliest of sources. We are inspired to jump because a young teen did it. We are inspired to trust God with our finances because we see someone with far less than us doing it. We are inspired to share our faith in public because we hear of someone who is painfully shy has trusted in God and boldly proclaimed the word of God and brought someone into Christ. Or, maybe the inspiration to overcome fear could come from a woman who was ceremonially unclean and who had every reason to say on the outskirts of her society in fear, yet who had so much faith that she overcame her crushing fear. Maybe that one has never happened to you, but it happened for Jairus.

Jairus was, by almost every measurable standard, an important man in the daily life of his community. He was the man who oversaw all aspects of worship at the synagogue which was, in many respects, the center of any given local Jewish community at the time of Jesus. He was the one that would see to it that the laws of Moses and the proper worship of God were upheld. He would have been greatly respected by all of those in the community. He certainly would not have been the type of man that people would have expected to humble himself before Jesus. In fact, doing so to such a controversial figure could significantly lower his esteem in the community.

Yet, none of that seemed to matter much when his twelve year-old daughter lay in her bed, on the verge of dying. When you are afraid for your child almost all decorum seems to go out of the window. Things that you wouldn’t have considered doing before now seem to be rather reasonable. The only thing you can think of is getting them well again and most parents are willing to grasp at any straws in order for that to happen. For Jairus to go to Jesus to heal his daughter may have seemed like grasping at one of those straws, but the only thing that mattered now was saving his daughter. He was willing to throw himself at Jesus’ feet and humble himself if Jesus would only have mercy on his daughter.

Jesus immediately agreed, although Luke doesn’t tell us exactly what Jesus said, and they were on their way. Jairus had certainly shown a measure of faith in Jesus but little did he know that he still had one more lesson to lean before this was all said and done.

Put yourself in Jairus’ shoes and imagine his hopeful expectation as they made their way to his daughter. Would they get there in time? Would Jesus really be able to heal her? Was risking his reputation as synagogue leader by going to Jesus going to be worth it? He must have been filled with fearful hope. Continue to imagine, though, as they are stopped on their way by this woman who had been suffering from a bleeding problem for twelve years, the same amount of time his daughter had been alive. What would you feel at this moment? Would you be angry with her? Would you be frustrated with Jesus? Would the fear start to overtake the hope? Did this have to happen now? Couldn’t it wait? Why would Jesus stop at this moment when time was so much of the essence?

It must have taken great courage for this woman to even make her way into this crowd. She had been suffering from some unnamed problem for twelve years. She was not physically contagious but she was certainly ceremonially contagious (Lev. 15:25-30). Merely to touch her or have her touch you would leave you unclean. Yet she had such great faith that it was worth risking social ridicule and punishment just to touch the edge of Jesus’ garment. Perhaps it was a result of a common messianic belief among some Jews of Jesus’ day that the Messiah would have healing powers in the corners of his garment but that is just a bit of speculation. (This belief came from Malachi 4 which spoke of the Messiah rising with healing in his wings. The word “kanaf” or wings could also mean the “edge” of a garment and so many Jews believed that when the Messiah came one could be healed by simply touching his cloak.)

As she touched Jesus, she was healed physically through the power of the Spirit in Jesus and he knew immediately that someone had touched him in faith. It seemed ridiculous to inquire about who touched him with a pressing throng all around him but Jesus had a very intentional purpose. She had faith but wanted to remain unnoticed and in the background. This woman was unclean and isolated in society but Jesus knew that her quiet faith needed to be seen by others. Jairus needed to see it above all. This woman was surely afraid at being rebuked for touching Jesus and making him unclean but her desperate faith overcame over her fear. With Jesus asking who touched him, she had one more mountain of fear to climb. Her flickering faith needed to be fanned into a full blaze. Her faith in Jesus overcame her fear one more time and she stepped forward with every eye on her. As she did so, Jesus declared her fully healed for all to hear. She had been made whole by not only being healed physically but also by the fact that she could now be accepted back into her community as clean and healed. Now Jesus had completely restored her.

Surely, though, as this was happening, Jairus’ head was spinning and he must have been torn. This was all wonderful and touching but time was running out on his daughter. Then came the crushing news that it was too late, his daughter had died. It was even suggested that he could now leave Jesus alone and not bother him anymore. We can only imagine what he felt, but surely any seedling of faith that he might have had was flooded with a tsunami of fear that washed over him at that moment. He feared the worst and now it had apparently happened.

But at his worst moment, Jesus drew him immediately to what he had just seen. He was important in this community and the woman who had just delayed them getting to his daughter was nobody. She was unclean and marginalized, yet she had demonstrated an incredible amount of faith. She would have had every reason to give in to her fear and not reach out to Jesus, let alone to come forward after she was called out in public by Jesus, but she did it. She had exercised her faith over her fear and that is precisely what Jairus would need to do right now. This insignificant woman had shown him how. He needed more faith than fear. He needed to realize, as the old saying goes, “courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to overcome it.” He would overcome it with faith, the kind of faith he had just seen in that brave woman. This stop wasn’t an inconvenient delay but a necessary lesson. Now it was his turn to take the leap.

As Jesus arrived, the one thing that everyone there knew was that people do not come back from the dead. These people had no fear, but they had no faith either, so they wouldn’t be going in to see what was going to happen. Only those who had faith and needed it increased would accompany Jesus. Just as Jesus had calmed the storm at his word and it had obeyed, and just as the demons had obeyed Jesus at his word, so did death obey him at his word. There was no incantations or flashy ceremonies. It was simply a matter of his authoritative word being obeyed. As in many other previous instances, though, Jesus ordered them to keep quiet about what had happened, although surely word about a girl that was dead and was now alive was bound to leak out. Jesus, it seems, wanted the focus to be not on his miracles but on his teaching and the proclamation of the kingdom of God, a message which Jesus was about to make fully public (Lk. 9:2).

Devotional Thought
Can you identify with Jairus and the fear that he must have been feeling? When you are faced with fear what is your response? Do you return to Jesus and his word to increase your faith? What biblical examples (or even modern-day examples of faith) do you turn to for inspiration and encouragement when your faith is drowning in fear?

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