News travels fast in a small town.

“Jesus is back,” the servant whispered in Jairus’ ear, hope fueling the boldness it took to disturb his distraught master. The girl, almost a woman actually, didn’t look any better than she had when Jairus sat down beside the bed hours earlier.

Jairus raised one eyebrow and sighed. Nothing else had worked. “Go. Tell him…” A ragged breath. Then standing up suddenly, “No. I’ll go.” Jesus might reject a servant, but surely he would respect a synagogue leader. Not that Jairus cared about respect any more. He would trade every ounce of influence in this entire town—in this region—to have his daughter well again. He squeezed her hand, as if to transfer some of his own life into her frail body. Then he turned toward the door.

The things we do in desperation…

Story break: Have you been there? Have you known desperation so deep that nothing was off limits? Have you been willing to trade anything for that One Thing? Where did you turn?

Half-walking, half-running to the lake shore, Jairus approached the crowd around Jesus. It parted silently. Everyone knew him, and everyone knew his daughter’s condition. The only surprise was his appearance in the vicinity of Jesus…and the sweat showing through his tunic. He fell onto the ground at Jesus’ feet without hesitating. (He would probably lose his position in the synagogue for this. They had talked about “the Jesus problem” ad nauseam.) Still trying to catch his breath, he pleaded with Jesus to come and heal his daughter.

Jesus agreed, but the crowd was so large and so anxious to be near Jesus. They moved slowly toward his home, stepping on feet and bumping elbows. Jairus urged Jesus forward, trying not to let his impatience show, trying to be respectful, trying to remain calm. Really, he wanted to storm in front of Jesus, elbowing people out of the way and shouting, “Make way!” Even now, his daughter could be taking her last breath. Silently, he begged for Jesus to hurry. Then the opposite happened.

Jesus stopped. In the middle of the road. Within sight of Jairus’ house. Jairus’ heart screamed “No,” driving tears out of his eyes and sweat onto his forehead.

Inertia carried the crowd along even after Jesus stopped, and for a moment, Jairus thought they might be forced forward by sheer momentum. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:45). Jairus felt his own exhale, like that last bit of air from a balloon before it falls limply to the ground, and his lungs hung useless inside his chest. He looked around. The crowd had backed off, leaving one woman crouched at Jesus’ feet. Jairus recognized the woman, a sharp intake of breath forcing itself through pursed lips.

She was like a pothole:
ignored if possible,
avoided if necessary.

He, too, backed away. He remembered the first time he had noticed her. Yes, his wife had been pregnant with their daughter—the same daughter who now lay dying just yards from here. He remembered the pain and the shame in her voice back then as she trudged to the market: “Unclean!” Walk a few feet. “Unclean!” In those first weeks, many whispered about her…condition, until something new fed the gossip mill. Now, twelve years and many trials later, she barely needed to mutter, “Unclean” as she trudged down those same streets. Everyone knew her—knew to stay away. She was like a pothole: ignored if possible, avoided if necessary. And she seemed to like it that way. So why did she choose this moment to cause a scene, this time when Jairus needed Jesus’ full attention? And more significantly, why did Jesus care about her? The bile of pride rose in his throat. He clenched his teeth to avoid spewing some hateful words toward her or—even worse—toward Jesus.

Jesus was completely unswayed
by status or wealth.

Story break:  Comparisons. We all do it. Have you ever thought you deserved God’s blessings more than another person? Jesus addressed this issue head-on in a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector in the temple (Luke 18:9-14). In our story today, who do you think deserved Jesus’ attention more? Remember, Jairus doesn’t know that Jesus can raise people from the dead. He’s working on a deadline here. They have to get to his house before his daughter dies so Jesus can heal her!

In Jesus’ eyes, the needs were equal. Jesus never said, “I’ll get back to you.” Or “Make an appointment.” He always had time for the person in front of Him. Isn’t that wonderful…and challenging?

We’ll look at this story from the woman’s point-of-view next week. Oh, it’s so beautiful!

Just as Jesus finished blessing the woman, Jairus recognized one of his servants pushing through the crowd with a grim look on his face. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore” (Luke 8:49, if you’re keeping up). There it was again—that feeling like his lungs had turned to steel, like all the tendons in his knees had just melted.

Before Jairus could speak, Jesus was beside him, giving Jairus His full attention. “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

Story Break (again):  How do you think Jesus phrased this statement? What was His body language? I imagine He took Jairus’ elbow and looked him in the eye. I think He said, “Just believe” really slowly and intensely—like there’s a mountain of meaning behind it that couldn’t be spoken. I think Jesus’ firm hand and confident words were the only thing to stop Jairus’ body from buckling right there in the middle of the street.

With God, even
distractions are by design.

Although it didn’t take long, the delay with the woman created space for the daughter to die. You know, delays don’t bother Jesus. Neither does death. Remember what he said before he raised Lazarus? “It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4b). This looks to me like the same kind of situation. With God, even distractions are by design.

Let’s finish the story with some points (because this post is getting too long).

  • When they finally stepped into the house, Jesus told the mourners to be quiet because she wasn’t really dead, and they laughed at Him. Jesus perspective on reality is different from ours.
  • Jesus said she was asleep. That’s the same thing He said about Lazarus (John 11:11).
  • In the room with just five other people, Jesus took the girl’s hand. According to Jewish law, touching a dead body made him ceremonially unclean. That’s twice in one day because the unclean woman had touched him a few minutes earlier. Jesus wasn’t too worried about the details of the law. Remember, his disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, too (Luke 6:1-5).
  • Jesus calls the girl my child (8:54). He called the woman in the street daughter (8:48). Clearly, He didn’t judge between the famous and the infamous.

The Scriptures say that Jairus and his wife were astonished by Jesus and what he did for their little girl—well, for them. Consider how much glory He gained for the Kingdom by waiting until she was dead.

Two desperate people: one famous, one infamous.
Both loved by Jesus.
Both restored.

A #NotAboutMe bit of #BiblicalFiction via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Next week, after we consider the woman with the bleeding disorder, we’ll get a fuller picture.

In the meantime, what strikes you about this story? The desperation of the father, the comparison between him and the woman, Jesus’ encouragement, how Jesus permitted the girl to die? Or is it something else? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Fame and Infamy: A Retelling of Luke 8:40-56 (part 1)

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