The Desperate Seek Jesus

18While He was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before Him and said, "My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live." 19Jesus got up and went with him, and so did His disciples.

20Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak. 21She said to herself, "If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed."

22Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," He said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment.

23When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, 24He said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at Him. 25After the crowd had been put outside, He went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26News of this spread through all that region.

Matthew continues recounting some of the miracles that Jesus performed: "While He was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before Him and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.’ Jesus got up and went with him, and so did His disciples" (vs. 18–19). We have seen, in the previous few sections, opposition to Jesus and His ministry from various sources, even in the midst of His performing great and marvelous miracles. Jesus has been called a blasphemer by teachers of the law (see Matt. 9:3); He has been accused by Pharisees of associating with the wrong sorts of people (see Matt. 9:11); even some disciples of John the Baptist have faulted Him for the way His disciples worship (see Matt. 9:14). Many, from the outside looking in, attempt to find fault with Jesus. And then there are those whom one would expect to find fault with Jesus, who seek Him instead, because they are brought to their end, brought to their place of need for Him. In this episode, a "ruler" came to Jesus, and "knelt before Him" in an attitude of worship. This "ruler", we are told in the Gospel of Mark, was a synagogue ruler named Jairus (see Mark 5:22). Being a synagogue ruler, a religious leader among the Jews, one might have expected opposition to Jesus from him. "That a member of the local establishment should seek Jesus’ aid probably means that he was desperate. It is clear that those in official positions were coming to regard Jesus as a dangerous heretic; thus there is every reason for supposing that the synagogue official would try every other source of help before turning to Jesus" [Morris, 228]. The desperate ruler made an astounding request from Jesus: no less than asking Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead. Jesus, without ceremony and without hesitation, "got up and went with him."

On the way to heal Jairus’ daughter, someone else sought Jesus’ help: "Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ He said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment" (vss. 20–22). Like the ruler, this woman was desperate. We learn from the Gospel of Mark that she had tried many doctors, and was out of money. Instead of getting better, she got worse (see Mark 5:26). Her desperation was made worse by the fact that she didn’t feel she could publicly come up to Jesus, for the Law said that she was ceremonially unclean (see Lev. 15:25). Thus, she resolved to sneak up behind Jesus, and just touch the hem of his cloak.

As Jesus healed, it is very interesting how Jesus responded to the faith of the people. Jesus, by His grace, always met the people at their point of faith. Earlier, a Centurion came to Jesus, telling him his servant was deathly ill. The Centurion told Jesus that He did not have to come to his house, but could heal Him with just a word. Jesus did just that. In this passage, the synagogue ruler asks Jesus to "come and put [His] hand" on his dead daughter to raise her. Jesus went with him to his house to do just that. And then, this woman, who believed she would be healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak, is healed in just that way. In fact, Jesus told her: "Your faith has healed you" (vs. 21). Note that it was not the cloak that healed her. It was the power of Jesus, together with "her faith". The Holy Grail does not have any magical powers, nor does the Shroud of Turin. "[Jesus] speaks of ‘your faith’; it is important that the woman understand that she had not been cured by magic of a kind that meant that anyone who touched Jesus would be healed. Her cure had been the result of a mighty power in Jesus, indeed, but it came to her because of her faith, not because of magic in a touch." [Morris, 230].

The delay caused by healing the woman must certainly have tried the faith of Jairus. But Jesus did continue on His way to Jairus’ house: "When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, He said, ‘Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at Him. After the crowd had been put outside, He went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region" (vss. 23–26). The "noisy crowd" spoken of here probably consisted of professional mourners. The "flute players" were also hired for the daughter’s funeral. The fact that the flute players and mourners were there is clear evidence that the girl was indeed dead. In that culture, it was customary to hire professional mourners for a funeral, who would wail loudly. Jesus looked ahead at what He was to do, and told the flute players and mourners: "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." Death, when confronted by the power of Jesus, is but sleep. The mourners, out of character, suspended momentarily their mourning wails and "laughed at Him." The mourners laughed in mockery. They had no faith that Jesus had power over death. "The crowd mocked Jesus, not just because He had said, ‘The girl is not dead but asleep,’ but even more because they thought that this great healer had arrived too late. Now He was going too far; carried away by His own success, He would try His skill on a corpse and make a fool of Himself" [Carson, 231]. It is a shameful, blasphemous thing to laugh at Christ. Yet, sadly, it seems en vogue to laugh at Christ. Here in America, there have been many movies, TV shows (especially cartoons), and so-called "art" exhibitions that laugh at Christ, in one way or another. This is extremely sad, for Jesus Christ did nothing but show love for everyone He met.

Jesus would silence the mocking laughter of the mourners. He met Jairus at his point of faith, and "took the girl by the hand, and she got up." Matthew reports this so simply, and we are so familiar with the stories of Jesus’ miraculous powers, that we take them for granted. Think of what Jesus did. He demonstrated His power over death by raising a girl from the dead. Do you have a son or daughter? Think of the joy you would have if Jesus did the same for your child! And also consider this: No one but Jesus has the power over death. You would do well to listen to and to obey the teachings of the one who has power over death.

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