Jesus' Parables for Disciples
33. Raising of Jairus' Daughter (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56)
James J. Tissot, detail of 'The Daughter of Jairus' (1886-94), gouache on gray wove paper, 7.4 x 10.9 in., Brooklyn Museum, New York.
"40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, 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....
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. 'Your daughter is dead,' he said. 'Don't bother the teacher any more.' 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." (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56, NIV)
When tragedy strikes, it often comes with no warning, crashing down upon us. It happened that way, I believe, to Jairus. His name Jairus is a common Hebrew name (Numbers 32:41; Judges 10:3, 5), ya'ir, "he (God) enlightens."278
Synagogue Rulers in Jewish Communities
Jairus is a prosperous man, and well-regarded in his community. Luke calls him "a ruler (Greek archos) of the synagogue," and a few verses later (verse 49), the Greek term archisunagogos, "the official who has charge of the arrangements for the synagogue services."279 He isn't the attendant (Greek hypēretēs, Luke 4:20) who does the actual work, but the synagogue president, the leader. His duties include conducting the synagogue worship and the selecting of those who are to lead the prayer, read the Scriptures, and teach in the service.280
Grief-stricken Jairus' Request (Luke 8:40-42)
"Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying." (8:41-42)
But now this highly respected citizen of Capernaum (for that is where we assume this took place) comes up to Jesus in the multitude of pushing and shoving individuals. They make way for him out of respect, but Jesus is not there to pay his respects to the rabbi. He has been the one responsible for inviting Jesus to participate in the synagogue services since Jesus has taken up residence in Capernaum. But he doesn't come to greet an old friend.
His face is ashen, his hands tremble, and when he finally reaches the Master he falls upon his knees before Jesus. The Greek word in Luke's and Mark's accounts is piptō, "'fall down, throw oneself to the ground' as a sign of devotion, before high ranking persons or divine beings, especially when one approaches with a petition."281 Matthew uses the more specific word proskuneō, "(fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully."282 I see his head bowed, his shoulders trembling with emotion. Here is a paradoxical scene: the well-to-do synagogue president utterly humbling himself before the simply-dressed Jesus. He has been waiting for Jesus to return -- hoping he would return in time, and now he is here. Jesus is Jairus' last hope.
Mark records Jairus' plea: "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live" (Mark 5:23). Jairus is on his knees "pleading" with Jesus. The Greek word is parakaleō, which is variously translated, depending upon the context. Here it means, "request, implore, appeal to, entreat."283 Please come! Please! So Jesus goes with him.
Have you been where Jairus is? Desperate? Exhausted with worry? Sick with concern? This isn't just a daughter, one of a dozen children. Luke tells us that this is "an only daughter" (Greek monogenēs). You get the idea that she is the apple of her father's eye -- "Daddy's girl." And now she lies near death. She is twelve years old. We would consider her a child; I'm sure Jairus still did. But girls were considered adults at twelve, and boys not until thirteen.284 She was of marriageable age, and yet she lies at the point of death. Jairus is grief-stricken.
You can probably identify with Jairus. Perhaps you've been where he is. But now step back for a moment, oh disciple, and consider his faith. What is the condition of his faith? He has heard the report that Jesus' boat is coming, and so he has left his daughter's side and gone down to the beach to see Jesus as soon as he lands -- he and hundreds of others. From his words in Mark, he seems to believe: "Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live" (Mark 5:23). He believes that if Jesus will just touch the girl, she will be healed and live. The centurion knew that Jesus didn't even need to be present to heal, just to speak the word (7:7). The hemorrhaging woman had faith that if she could touch even the fringe of his cloak, she would be healed (Mark 5:28). But Jairus is staking his faith on a touch from Jesus' hand to pull his daughter back from the brink of death.
Jesus consents, and begins to move toward Jairus' home across town. But the crowd is so overwhelming that it is difficult to move at all, much less make rapid progress. Then, on the way, a woman touches him for healing, causing Jesus and the entire crowd to stop and listen to her story. Jairus hopes they will not arrive too late.
The Temptation of Not Troubling the Lord (Luke 8:49)
Jesus has just risen from talking with the woman and sending her on her way a whole woman for the first time in a dozen years. But at the edge of the tightly-pressed crowd Jairus can see one of his close friends pushing to where he is. The man's face reflects the message he carries, and when he gets close enough, his words are grim.
"While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. 'Your daughter is dead,' he said. 'Don't bother the teacher any more.'" (8:49)
At the words of his daughter's death, Jairus' heart is broken and he begins to weep. But the man's next words are curious: "Don't bother the teacher anymore." The Greek word is skyllō, "weary, harass," then "trouble, bother, annoy someone."285 What a strange expression at a time like this. The man who bears the bad news now advises Jairus to impose no further on Jesus.
Why do we imagine that our prayers, our requests for favor and intervention, are an imposition on God? That somehow he has better things to do? But I've observed over the years that this is a very common attitude indeed.
Does God view our prayers as an imposition on his time? Does he view the steady stream of supplicants before his throne of grace as a distraction from the more important things he has to do? No!
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
I was surprised to learn that the king of Saudi Arabia, still an absolute Oriental monarch in the twenty-first century, sets aside part of his time to hear the requests and problems of the common people of his land. He doesn't see it as an imposition, but as his duty and their right. While he is the absolute ruler, he is not to serve himself but his people's needs. How much more God!
A number of years ago I had a neighbor to whom I was seeking to witness. Sometimes in the evening I would walk down the street and chat with him and his wife, a new Christian, seeking to befriend him. We would drink cokes and play darts. (He was much better than I!) One day I learned that his bicycle business was failing. I offered to pray for his business, but he wouldn't allow me to, insisting that God had people with more pressing problems than his. As if God's communications system would become overwhelmed with too many incoming calls! How small is this view of God!
"Don't bother the teacher anymore!" That subtle command, my friends, was not a suggestion from God, but from God's enemy, seeking to cast God as one who is too preoccupied to love, too busy to listen, too weak to help in the face of death. And how often we believe such a word!
Comforting Jairus with Faith (Luke 8:50)
"Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, 'Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.'" (8:50)
Jairus is standing near Jesus as the news comes. He hears the words he has been dreading, and his immense grief now turns to inconsolable mourning. But like a friend at his side, Jesus intervenes. "Don't be afraid," he says, "just believe, and she will be healed." I can't imagine this scene without seeing Jesus' arm reach out to this grieving father and put his hand on his shoulder. Jesus feels Jairus' pain as deeply as he felt his own at the death of Lazarus, and wept salty human tears at his loss (John 11:33-35).
There comes a time sometimes when even solid faith buckles. We hope against hope and then our hopes are dashed. We are tempted to give up and walk away from Jesus. But Jesus doesn't let us go so easily. "Don't be afraid," he says gently. He knows our fears and our limits. But if he goes with us, he can carry us beyond our fears. "Just believe," he says, "and she will be healed."
Would that all the sick children of the world would be healed and never have to face premature death! Alas, it is not to be until Jesus' second coming. But in the case of this particular twelve-year-old girl on the threshold of womanhood, Jesus will not abandon his resolve to accompany Jairus to his house to heal the girl.
Jesus refuses to leave Jairus alone with his grief, but goes with him. If you will, Jairus comes to Jesus on the basis of his own worried, hoping faith. But when that fails, Jesus carries him with his own faith.
Excluding All but the Parents and Inner Circle (Luke 8:51)
"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." (8:51)
Why does Jesus exclude everyone but the parents and his closest disciples from the dead girl's room? To preserve the girl's privacy? Perhaps. To minimize the sensationalism of what he was about to do? Probably.
But I think it is most likely to exclude the mockers and mourners and unbelievers. When Jesus was in his hometown of Nazareth, Matthew records, "And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith" (Matthew 13:58). Mark goes even further and says, "He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them" (Mark 6:5).
Jesus excluded unbelief from the young woman's death chamber before he healed her.
Laughter at Words of Faith-Speech (Luke 8:52-53)
The atmosphere at Jairus' house was hardly conducive to faith for resurrection from the dead. While Westerners may try to hold their grief within at death and mourn privately, the Eastern custom of mourning for the dead is anything but quiet and private. Matthew and Mark describe the scene as a chaotic and noisy. The Greek verb is thorubeō, "be troubled, distressed, aroused ... in disorder."286 The mourners and wailers had begun. It was considered a duty to mourn with one's neighbor at the death of a loved one, and the neighbors were already at hand doing their duty. Perhaps the professional mourners had been hired already, but I think it would be too soon to have summoned them. Nevertheless, the melancholy sound of mournful flutes could already be heard (Matthew 9:23). It was hardly a faith-filled gathering.
"'Stop wailing,' Jesus said. 'She is not dead but asleep.' They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead." (8:52-53)
They saw the girl's stillness from man's perspective. They knew death. They knew its finality and coldness. The girl would probably be buried before nightfall. In the Near East, bodies didn't keep well.
But Jesus saw the girl's stillness from God's point of view, as sleep -- a temporary condition from which she would soon awake.
Who was right? The people or Jesus? It all depends upon your perspective. It all depends upon what you are trained to see.
To the untrained eye, a painting can be good. But to the trained eye of one who knows what to look for, it can be declared a masterpiece. The untrained ear listens to a symphony and declares it great music, but the trained ear of a conductor can pick out the voice of each instrument.
Our faith must be trained, too. That's what Peter, James, and John were doing in the room. They were in training. Training to have faith beyond the obvious. Faith to hear the voice of the Father state what his will is in the situation. Faith to speak the word of faith that brings God's will into reality. Jesus desires our faith to execute on earth the will of the Father.
In this verse, we see not only faith but laughter -- the laughter of unbelief. The scorn of the realist and the scientist who know the rules of this realm well, but are only babies when it comes to spiritual realities. "They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead" (8:53). But what did they know in the face of God?
Fortunately, Jairus and his wife cling to Jesus' words of faith, rather than the mockers' words of scorn.
The Gentle Command to Get Up (Luke 8:54-55a)
"But he took her by the hand and said, 'My child, get up!' Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up." (8:54-55)
Can you picture it? The chaos and unbelief of the household has been closed out. Jesus kneels by the girl's bed. He takes her hand in his, and speaks a gentle sound (Greek phoneō) into her unhearing ears: "Child, arise."
Mark quotes the Aramaic Jesus would have spoken to her: "Talitha cumi. Little girl, I say to you, arise" (Mark 5:41). In Luke's account Jesus calls her "child." The Greek word is pais, "child, girl."287 The word isn't specific for age. But Jesus addresses her directly as "Child." His second word is "Get up!" Greek egeirō, "to wake up, stir oneself, rise up, rise from the dead."288
And while they are intently watching, Luke records, "Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up." She didn't lie there waiting for enough energy to gradually raise herself on one elbow. The Greek word is parachrēma, "at once, immediately."289 This was an instant resurrection!
The Caring Command to Give Her Food (Luke 8:55b)
"Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat." (8:55b)
I love Jesus' calmness in the midst of this incredible miracle. He reminds the parents that she is hungry and needs some food. Perhaps she has been without food throughout her illness. Luke probably records it for two reasons: first, to indicate that she is well, evidenced by the fact that her hunger is restored. But most of all to indicate that she has been raised as a flesh-and-blood person, not a spirit that would not require food (see Luke 24:41-43).
Was she really dead, or only sleeping as Jesus first said? Of course, it's possible that the family was mistaken when they pronounced her dead. But certainly they thought she was dead. The fact that it is recorded in the Gospels is evidence that the disciples saw it as a miracle. The reason some try to disprove that she wasn't really raised from the dead is because their own world view doesn't allow miracles, especially miracles of resurrection.
The Guarded Command to Not Tell What Happened (Luke 8:56)
"Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened." (8:56)
Why did Jesus order the parents not to tell what happened? One explanation is that the more word spread of his astounding miracles, the more he would be mobbed, and the less easily he could move about. After the healing of a leper, Mark records:
"Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell this to anyone....' Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere." (Mark 1:43-45)
Another reason is Jesus' reluctance to be hailed prematurely as the Messiah. That would cut his ministry short, since it would accelerate plots against his life. In fact, he was arrested and tried for just such a concern on the part of the religious establishment (Luke 22:67).290
However, I wonder how could the parents keep the girl's resurrection a secret? The family and friends at the house knew she was dead, but after Jesus went into the room, she walked out well and hungry. The word spread, surely, but the parents weren't to tell the details of what happened. The disciples did tell the story, though, and that is how it came to be recorded in the Gospels.
Honoring Propped Up Faith
In the previous lesson we marveled at the pushing-through faith of the hemorrhaging woman. In this lesson we examine the propped up faith of Jairus. He finds Jesus and prevails upon him to come home with him and heal his daughter, but midway, when word of her death comes, his faith seems to have deflated. Now Jesus' faith takes over. "Fear not. Only believe, and she will be healed." And with that propped up, limping faith, Jairus hobbles to his house. There, too, Jesus supplies the word that is needed to clear the room, and tell the girl to get up. Jesus' faith is the active faith, with Jairus' faith being little more than compliant.
Sometimes we think it takes much faith to see healings and miracles, but Jesus taught his disciples to the contrary:
"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." (Luke 17:6)
The chief actor here is Jesus, not Jairus. Jesus takes over where Jairus gives out. And the marvel is that he is willing to do this for us, too. Yes, he is seeking to train us in mature faith, but along the way you may have to be carried over some stretches of the trail. But even compliant faith is important.
When Jesus came down the mountain after being transfigured alongside Moses and Elijah, Jesus comes upon his disciples trying to cast a demon out of a boy and failing. When Jesus takes over, the boy's father says:
"'If you can do anything, take pity on us and
"'If you can'?" said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for him who believes.'
"Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:22-24)
The man's "If you can do anything?" question doesn't reflect a great depth of faith, but Jesus says in effect, "I can help you if you can have faith. Everything is possible for him who believes." The boy's father was up to the challenge and affirms, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!" Great faith? No. Pedestrian, common faith, needing some propping up from Jesus.
Jesus is willing to prop up your faith, if you won't give up on him. Like he carried Jairus' faith part of the way, he'll carry yours, too, if you'll allow him to.
On the other hand, you may be one that Jesus uses to encourage and prop up the faith of others. When my children were young, I enjoyed hoisting them onto my shoulders and carrying them around that way. They enjoyed it, too, since it allowed them to see the world from an adult's point-of-view rather than a toddler's. We offer this sometimes to baby Christians. Not to make them dependent upon us and our faith, but to give them a glimpse of the Jesus we have come to know, and for a few minutes or a few hours they can see him through our eyes. Yes, there is a time to stoop down and let the children climb off our shoulders, but they'll remember what they have seen and have a new hope and drive to know the Lord.
The story of Jairus is filled with pain, and hope, and dashed dreams. Though it ends in resurrection, its spiritual summit is found in Jesus' comforting words to Jairus: "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed."
Father, we know what it's like to be afraid and believe, only to have our hopes dashed. I pray that you'd help us to take encouragement from Jesus' words, and take you home to work the miracles we need. I pray especially for my brothers and sisters who have broken hearts and broken dreams. Heal them, I pray, and restore their faith as they are willing to trust you in this process. Restore them to full joy and fearless surrender anew. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.
"Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed." (Luke 8:50)
Click on the link below to discuss on the forum one or more of the questions
that follow -- your choice.
- What do Jairus' actions in this story tell us about the state of his faith?
- Have you ever had a time spiritually when you felt God "carried you" in spite of your weak faith? If so, when? Has he set you back on your own feet again yet?
- Why didn't Jesus let Jairus give up?
- Why did Jesus exclude everyone but the parents and his closest disciples from the girl's room?
- What lessons does this passage teach you as a disciple? What do you think we disciples are intended to learn from this?
Lessons compiled in 805-page book in paperback, Kindle, & PDF.
 Ya'ir, BAGD 367.
 Marshall, Luke, p. 343.
 R.E. Nixon, "Jairus," in New Bible Dictionary (Second Edition, Tyndale, 1982), p. 549.
 Piptō, BAGD 658-659.
 Proskyneō, BAGD 716-717.
 Parakaleō, BAGD 617.
 Edersheim, Life and Times 1:618.
 Skullō, BAGD 758.
 Thorubeō, BAGD 362-363.
 Pais, BAGD 604-605.
 A. Oepke, egeirō, ktl., TDNT 2:333-339.
 Parachrēma, BAGD 623.
 Read more about this in my comments on Luke 5:14 above.
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