“there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue” Luke 8:41
Considering some of those whom Jesus met along the way, considering what we might learn from them taht would enable us to deepen our friendship with Jesus, we come to the encounter with Jairus. It is an encounter that takes place in the worst circumstances we can imagine, Jairus’ daughter is dangerously ill, her life is in danger.
The story begins with a situation all of us would prefer to avoid, Saint Luke Chapter 8 Verse 40 says, “Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him.” When we are feeling low, when we are feeling vulnerable, when life seems unbearably bleak, the last thing we want is to have to face a crowd of people, what must have been going through Jairus’ mind at this moment? He has left his house, he has left the worst pain we can imagine, in the hope of finding Jesus, and he finds himself in the middle of this crowd, might his courage have failed him at this point? Might he have gone away in despair? It would have been a temptation, to feel that there was nothing that could be done, and to have turned for home in tears.
Verse 41 tells us that Jairus has the courage to continue, “Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue.” Jairus would have been known to everyone in that small community, he would have been a respected man, a man regarded as devout, a man whose faith would have been admired. Jairus feels that there must be something more than the religion with which he has grown up, something more than the religion which he himself represents, and so he goes in search of Jesus. Jairus shows us that faith is not about all the religious things we do, it is about meeting this man Jesus, about a friendship with him.
Jairus shows the depth of the feelings he is experiencing, Verses 41-42 say, “He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.” There would have been those in the crowd who would have sympathised with Jairus, but there would have been others who would have frowned at such behaviour; there would have been those who would have muttered that Jairus was behaving in a way that damaged the good name of their synagogue, that his conduct was not respectable. Jairus would have had his critics, even today there are people like them, people who put the organisation before faith, people for whom keeping their church the way they want it is more important than a growing friendship with Jesus.
Jesus agrees to go with Jairus and surrounded by the crowds, he feels that someone has touched his robe, a woman desperate for healing has come in faith that just to touch Jesus will bring her healing. Jesus stops, he asks who has touched him, presumably there is some delay, then the woman steps forward and Jesus talks with her before, in Verse 48, he says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Perhaps the whole thing lasted no more than a few moments, perhaps it took some minutes; for Jairus, each second must have dragged, each second he must have wished that Jesus would move on, continue on his way to Jairus’ house. Perhaps we have all experienced a little of what Jairus thought, wishing God would act more quickly, wishing that God would do things when we want them done.
Jesus seems to linger for too long, for devastating news arrives in Verse 49, “While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.'” Only those who have experienced the anguish Jairus must have felt at that moment will fully understand how devastating the news must have been. What does Jairus say, what would any of us say if we were confronted with such an awful reality?
Perhaps Jairus stood there in a stunned silence, perhaps he broke down in tears, Saint Luke does not report him as having said anything. Jesus must have looked at Jairus, must have sensed the overwhelming pain. Verse 50 says that when Jesus heard the news he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” Would Jairus have been able even to absorb what Jesus was saying? He probably stood there in a state of stunned silence, numbed by the shock of what he has heard. Sometimes, it is only later that we appreciate the significance of words or events.
Jesus sees grief as something deeply private and personal, Verse 51 speaks of the respect Jesus shows for the grieving parents, “When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother.” If the respect that Jesus shows for Jairus and his wife was mirrored in Ireland today, some of our funerals might be very different.
Jairus’ house seems already filled with mourners, but how sincere were they in their grief? If we look at Verses 52-53, we are told, “They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.'” People who shared the depth of pain that Jairus felt would have grasped Jesus’ words, they would have leapt at the faintest sign of hope, but instead, “they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.” What did Jairus feel at this point? Perhaps anger at the people in his house, perhaps despair as he thought about his daughter; would he have also felt hope, felt that Jesus could change the reality that lay before them?
Jesus defies death. Verses 54-55 say, “he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat.” Sometimes we might wonder what thoughts went through the mind of Jesus? When he set out that morning, did he anticipate the day taking such a turn? When he met Jairus in the crowd, did he expect that he would have to use his power in such a way?
And what about Jairus? Verse 56 says, the girl’s “parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.” Jairus’ faith has been rewarded, his tiny shred of hope has been fulfilled; what must Jairus have felt that evening when his daughter was well and all the crowd had gone away?
For Jairus, Jesus was someone who changed a situation, perhaps we do not see miracles in the same way, though even Jairus might be astonished at what we now see in our hospitals, but do we have confidence that Jesus still changes things? Jesus brought change into the life of Jairus, what change can he bring into our life?