This Sunday, we looked at the account of Jesus restoring the life of a girl while at the same time healing a woman with a 12-year-long discharge of blood. Here’s the story (Matt 9:18-26):
While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district.
From the parallel accounts in Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56, we also learn:
- The ruler is an overseer of a local synagogue, specifically.
- The ruler’s name is Jairus.
- When Jairus first approaches Jesus, his daughter is not yet deceased (more on this textual dilemma below).
- When Jairus first approaches Jesus, he doesn’t just kneel before him, he throws himself at his feet.
- Jairus’s daughter was his only daughter.
- Jairus’s daughter was 12 years old.
- The woman with the 12-year issue of blood spent all she had on local physicians, but only got worse.
- The woman with the 12-year issue of blood has heard the reports about Jesus.
- After the woman touched Jesus for healing, Jesus turned around and asked, “Who touched me?”
- Just as Jesus healed the woman, a messenger from Jairus’s home arrived to inform them of his daughter’s death.
- When Jesus finally arrives at Jairus’s home, only Peter, James, John, and the girl’s parents enter to witness the miracle.
- As Jesus takes the deceased girl’s hand, he says to her, “Talitha cumi,” which literally means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
Some Background Information
To better understand the story, it’s also good to know:
- Based on Leviticus 15:19-30 (Old Testament laws about bodily discharges), women were considered unclean both during normal menstruation cycles and during extended blood discharges outside normal menstruation cycles.
- While unclean, anyone a woman touched would also become unclean.
- Furthermore, anything a woman laid on or sat on would also become unclean, and if anyone touched these things, they would become unclean, too.
- Professional mourners were customarily hired to assist at funerals, usually including flutists and wailing women.
- Based on Numbers 19:11-21, touching a corpse also rendered a person unclean.
- While the Greek word talitha literally means “little girl,” it’s cultural usage was one of endearment, as in our usage of “sweetie” or “honey.”
- Under Jewish tradition, girls who were 12 years plus one day in age were considered to have entered womanhood.
The Textual Dilemma
As mentioned during the sermon, a textual dilemma exists between the record in Matthew and the records in Mark and Luke. Specifically, Matthew records Jairus as saying to Jesus, “My daughter has just died” (Matt 9:18, emphasis mine). However, Mark and Luke both record that the girl was dying (Mk 5:23; Lk 8:42), not already dead.
Hendriksen suggests Jairus’s words in Matthew may have been a modified request after the messenger arrives to inform of his daughter’s death, after Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood. He writes: “According to Mark and Luke, Jairus had first asked Jesus to heal the child; then, when informed about her death… he now renews his request in modified form, namely, that Jesus may lay his hand upon the dead girl, adding, ‘and she will live'” (William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 1 of New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973], 430).
Calvin agrees: “But Matthew, as we have said, studies brevity, and puts down at the very beginning of his narrative what took place at various times. The manner in which the history must be arranged is this: Jairus first requested that his daughter might be cured of her disease, and afterwards that she might be restored from death to life” (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 16 of Calvin’s Commentaries [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005], 410).
Broadus follows suit: “Mark and Luke inform us that while Jesus was on his way to the ruler’s house, and after the healing of the woman, messengers came meeting him to tell the ruler that his daughter was now dead; and that Jesus told him not to fear, etc. Matthew makes no mention of this message, and we conclude that designing a very brief account, he has condensed the incidents so as to present at the outset what was actually true before Jesus reached the house” (John A. Broadus, Commentary on Matthew [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990], 204).
The overwhelming consensus is that Matthew presents a brief overview of the happenings, while Mark and Luke present a more detailed account. Therefore, what seems to be a contradiction is not.
What We Learned
We saw a story that involved faith, relationship (we noted the emphasis of the term “daughter”), and the touching of the unclean (a corpse and a woman with a discharge of blood). In this, we saw a compassionate Jesus who did not contract uncleanness, but instead cleansed, renewed, and restored, thus providing a picture of salvation and adoption into the family of God by faith. As Wilson suggests: “The narrative here is a micro-picture of the bigger story” (Jared C. Wilson, The Wonder Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles [Wheaton: Crossway, 2014], 87).
But in this micro-picture of the bigger story, we learned of three things Jesus values in his relationship with those who approach him in faith; namely, in the prayer life of people of faith:
1. Humility (v. 18):
We noted the fact that Jairus—a highly respected overseer of a synagogue—threw himself at the feet of Jesus as he pleaded for his daughter. The point: he approached Jesus in all humility. No self-righteousness. No pride, not even in his position. Only humble action. Why? Because faith understands our positions, our education, our accomplishments, our salaries, our careers, our prominence (or lack thereof), etc., don’t bring us to Christ. Faith also understands these things don’t save us, either. And so we’re encouraged to draw near to Jesus with prayerful humility, knowing we find grace at his throne (Prov 3:34; Heb 4:16).
2. Confession (vv. 19-22):
We also noted how Jesus did not allow the woman to leave quietly. Instead, she was drawn to publicly confess her 12-year state of uncleanness. Since physical uncleanness has pointed to spiritual uncleanness (sin) throughout the Scriptures, and since Jesus welcomes her as a “daughter,” we concluded: it’s pretty hard to have an intimate relationship without being fully known. And so the entire interaction encourages us—as well—to approach Christ with prayerful confession (Matt 6:12; 1 Pet 1:9).
3. Patience in Delay (vv. 23-26):
The story ends with Jesus finally arriving to Jairus’s home to restore his daughter’s life, foreshadowing his own death, burial, and resurrection. But we noted how Jesus was delayed by the woman with the issue of blood before finally restoring the girl’s life, And so we learned: faith remains faithful, even in God’s delay. Patience, however, is not a guarantee God will drive sickness and death away. Nevertheless, we can remain prayerfully patient, knowing prayer avails much (James 5:16). And we can trust: just as Jesus says “Sweetie” to the girl, he looks upon us with loving endearment as he continues to work to make all things new. In the meantime, faith reminds us to remain prayerfully patient and faithful to the Lord.
For Further Discussion and/or Meditation
Click here to download a PDF copy of Sunday’s insert with the order of service: Matt. 9.18-26 Insert. You’ll find Questions for personal meditation and/or for dialogue in your growth group.
With love in Christ,