Then a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come home with him. His only daughter, who was about twelve years old, was dying. Luke 8:41-42 NLT
As a doctor, when I read an account like this I can’t help wondering what the girl was dying of. It was an era when infectious disease was the main cause of death, especially among the young. But she could as easily have been afflicted by cancer, or diabetes, or something equally incurable.
But this is not a story about disease or it’s treatment in the ancient world. It is a story about love, and risk taking, about faith and healing. Though in some ways the central person is a young girl, it is primarily a story about two men – Jairus and Jesus. As such it is a story about an interaction between God and humanity.
Jairus was a leader in the synagogue, and would therefore have been held in some esteem by the local community. He would also have had a relationship with the religious leaders, the Pharisees. Ordinary people were excited by Jesus and were flocking to hear what he had to say and see what he was doing. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were skeptical, and apparently felt threatened by Jesus. Jairus must surely have felt caught between these two groups in the community.
But his life had become dominated by anxiety. It is hard to know how long his daughter had been sick or what he had done to help her up to that time. But one thing is clear. He had come to the end of his resources. Her time was up. He could see she was dying. So could everybody else. The Pharisees, who had always been his source of wisdom and guidance, offered him no hope of a change in this situation. Maybe Jesus could help.
He had heard about Jesus. He may have seen the results of Jesus’ ministry. But he knew that Jesus was controversial. He had heard what the Pharisees were saying about Jesus, and he knew that if he went to Jesus it might well have consequences for his career, for his position in society, for the Pharisees were powerful men.
But his love for his daughter was stronger than his fear of the Pharisees, or his pride in his reputation. So he turned to Jesus for help. The result for his daughter was her restoration to life. The story doesn’t say if there were any negative consequences for him.
Jairus was a man caught between two worlds, the world of the natural, and the supernatural, the world of respectable human religion and faith in the unconventional Jesus, a person who claimed a special relationship to God. He made a decision to risk everything and throw his lot in with Jesus because of the failure of the conventional to meet his deepest need at that point, a sick daughter who he loved desperately. His love for his daughter drove him to Jesus, the only one who could save her. It doesn’t say how either the girl or her parents responded, but presumably their lives were so impacted that they became followers of Jesus. They put their trust in him. They chose him over all other people or institutions to be the object of their faith.
It is so that many of us come to Jesus. We recognize that we have needs and desires, that the world cannot fulfill, and we turn to Jesus, who can and does. We take a risky step, put our faith in him, and he comes through: we find new life. But there can be consequences, not least for doctors, in a medical world that is increasingly skeptical and hostile toward anything that smacks of faith, or the supernatural. But the truth is that medicine, with all its wonders, does not meet our deepest needs, any more than conventional religion could meet Jairus’ longing for healing for his daughter. Only Jesus can offer us the deep healing that we need and long for.
The interaction between faith and healing is fascinating. As doctors we see ourselves as practitioners of health and healing. But we are not taught to see faith as part of this. Yet for ordinary people faith has everything to do with healing – faith in a doctor, faith in a treatment. And if we are honest, we know that sometimes people recover when they should die, and sometimes people die when they should recover. Healing is something that involves more than nature, and our man made interventions in natural processes; I believe that most people know this intuitively. When we say that we operate only in the realm of science, and not in the realm of faith, we are denying a part of reality that, if we are honest, we know to be true.
For Jairus the result of this interaction, this meeting with Jesus, and this new found faith, was that the Pharisees forever saw him as at best a bit odd, at worse a menace. For he never stopped talking about Jesus and what he had done. Or so I imagine the effect on Jairus’ life. But I don’t think Jairus cared what the Pharisees, or anyone else for that matter, thought. He had got his daughter back. He would see her grow to womanhood, marry and have a family.
For those of us who have had the privilege of such a life changing experience at the hands of Jesus, it is often the same. We cannot leave him out of our lives, and we are prepared to put up with the puzzled stares, even the outright hostility, of our friends and colleagues, because we have found a better way. We have found a person who changes us, who surpasses all our human systems and wisdom. No matter how well we understand and work in the natural world, we can never discount the supernatural, the so called heavenly realms, for that is where Jesus is king, and we have seen heaven come to earth.
So we never stop praying, as Jesus once taught us, “your kingdom come, your will be done, as it is in heaven.”