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Grown-Up Bible Stories

A Father's Faith

It wasn’t a doctor the anxious father sought in the Galilean village. Had he tried the physicians--and he might have already done so--he’d have found them ineffective. The doctors of 2,000 years ago didn’t have a very wide array of medicines. They’d never heard of germs. They were limited.

It wasn’t the faithful praying people of his synagogue that the father sought out that sad day either. Likely, they’d already prayed for his daughter. After all, he was a leader among them. He—and they--must have prayed long and hard already. He would have prayed as one of the chosen people of God. He would have prayed as a religious man. He’d have done his best, but it wasn’t good enough.

And yet, he couldn’t just shake his head and mutter something about the will of God. He had too much at stake. He had one child, a twelve-year-old girl. She was his only one, and she was ill, deathly ill. Religious man or not, it is neither natural nor right to walk away from a dying child and assume that her death is the will of God. So today, this man went to seek a religious figure from outside the local organization.

The father in question was named Jairus. We don’t know exactly what he’d heard about Jesus of Nazareth, but Jairus knew He healed the sick. In ancient Palestine, if you knew anything about Jesus, it would have been that he healed the sick. Today, the name Jesus has a distinct meaning. To some of us, He is God. To others, he represents a great ethical teacher. Others hate him. It is doubtful if the average person often stops to think that He always has been and always will be a healer. Healing is a major part of what the name Jesus has meant ever since a carpenter by that name began preaching.

In any event, Jairus went looking for Jesus of Nazareth. Finding Jesus wouldn’t have been difficult. It would have merely meant walking until he saw the crowd that always surrounded Him. They packed the narrow streets of the ancient villages. If He entered a house, they filled it and hung around outside when there was no more room. They listened to His teachings, yes, but they also came for the miracles. The number of people with significant illnesses who found complete healing at His hand was too great to record. Domination by evil spirits was also fairly common in a world that practiced idolatry. There were rituals to exorcise these demons, but Jesus didn’t bother with ritual. He told the demons to leave, and they left. He occasionally did something dramatic like putting mud in the eyes of a blind man and letting him wash away the mud to discover that he could see. Such demonstrations were the exception. By and large, the miracles of Jesus Christ were done with a calm authority. He healed as He taught, as One with a direct link to Heaven.

The idea that He had such a connection with Heaven sometimes rankled the religious establishment. The main problem was that their link wasn’t as strong as His, and they were jealous. There were also professional clerics who were in it for what they could get out of it and didn’t appreciate having someone who was real all the way through showing them up. Others were unwilling to accept the possibility that Jesus was more than an ordinary mortal. The Bible doesn’t say exactly which synagogue Jairus served, but it wasn’t far from the synagogue whose people had tried to kill Jesus. In fact, Jairus might have been there on the eventful Sabbath when Jesus barely escaped. Looking to this itinerant evangelist for help was a step away from the direction taken by many spiritual leaders. We aren’t told if Jairus was a bit embarrassed to be going outside of official channels, but that is possible. We aren’t told if he came with a trace of skepticism as to why God would hear a carpenter when the prayers of an official had failed. We only know that he made his way through a crowd of people and asked Jesus of Nazareth for help.

The request was fairly straightforward. It went something like this: "My little daughter is lying sick, at the point of death. Will you please come to my house and heal her?" In an era before modern medicine, Jairus was asking the impossible. But then, Jesus had a reputation for fixing the impossible.

And, true to His character, Jesus agreed to come. It is interesting. On another occasion, a foreign soldier asked Him to heal an ailing servant from a distance, and Jesus praised his faith. Jairus, spiritual leader though he was, seems to have lacked the faith for a distant healing. He wanted Jesus physically present. Jesus recognized the faith that had brought Jairus to Him without criticizing the inadequacies of that faith. Jesus, Jairus, and the crowd headed down the street toward Jairus’ dying daughter.

Then, Jesus stopped. As if the dying girl weren’t an urgent priority, he asked, "Who touched me?"

The twelve regular followers of Jesus, the disciples or apostles as we call them, protested. They were surrounded by people. How could Jesus have noticed one more elbow or one more bump from a nameless member of the crowd?

But Jesus was adamant. Someone had touched Him. They’d touched, and He had felt power going out from Him. The crowd, eager for miracles and parables, had to wait. Jairus, likely almost frantic to get Jesus to his daughter’s bedside before it was to late, had to wait. Jesus stood there and demanded. "Who touched me?"

Finally a woman came forward. She was frightened and trembling. She’d meant no harm. She’d had a problem with bleeding for twelve years. Her illness had led her to suffer many things at the hands of the primitive medical people. Not one doctor had been able to cure her. On top of it all, they’d taken her money. She’d spent herself poor trying to get well and was getting worse. She, too, had heard of the healing power of this Prophet from Nazareth. She’d heard and believed. Unlike Jairus, she hadn’t wanted to ask. She’d reasoned that if she could just get close, she could touch the edge of his jacket. (Your Bible likely says garment, but the garment was the long outer jacket or himation commonly worn in Bible times.) She figured that one touch of His jacket would heal her. So she’d planned, and so she’d done. Now, she felt the effects of that touch. No doctor had declared her healed yet, but she knew. Down inside, she could tell the illness was gone. Trembling in fear, she stood before the miracle Man and confessed.

The truth was out. Her deed was known, and she found that she had nothing to fear. There was no rebuke. Only those wonderful words, "thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." (Luke 8:48) Jesus didn’t posture and brag. He only pointed out her own part--she had believed. That he’d done the rest was obvious. Her willingness to trust Him had given her access to the greatest healing power the world has ever known.

Just at the close of this conversation, Jairus found himself facing the dreaded messenger from home. The message was what he’d feared. "Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master" (Luke 8:49). He was a father. He loved his daughter. He’d come to Jesus, the last resort, and he hadn’t gotten there in time. While Jesus miraculously healed one hopeless person, his own girl had died. If only Jesus had been there!

But Jesus didn’t see things that way. He spoke to Jairus also. "Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole." (Luke 8:50)

Try to place yourself in Jairus’ sandals. We aren’t told his thoughts, but how would you feel? Fear not? The most horrible thing a father could imagine was happening to him. He still had that long walk home. He still had a crowd of grieving neighbors. He still had a wife to comfort. There was a body lying in his house, a body that used to greet him and to eat at his table. The body of one he had loved like his own life was waiting for him to come and bury it. He was living an irreversible nightmare, and this traveling evangelist was telling him not to fear.

Or how would you have reacted to those two strange words, "believe only"? Believe? He’d tried that. He’d come looking for this representative of Heaven, and his daughter had died. Believe? Believe what? Every fact he’d ever believed in said it was all over. What little science he had indicated that once death had occurred, it was forever. His religion recognized the finality of death, at least until the end of the world. Everything he’d known and seen said that death was final. He had little choice but to believe what we all know.

But Jesus’ demand that he believe went beyond everything he knew. It was as if Jesus was saying, "I know it’s impossible. Medicine, history, religion, common sense, everything says that it’s all over. Jairus, I want you to believe in me to the exclusion of all else. Forget the lesser realities and come with me." Of course, Jesus wasn’t that specific, he only challenged Jairus to believe, but that faith was in One who claimed power over nature. Jairus could forget everything he’d ever known and believe in Jesus, or he could thank Jesus for trying and go home to bury his daughter.

We aren’t told what thoughts drove Jairus as he and Jesus walked toward his home. We don’t know if he believed at that point that Jesus would raise the dead. We don’t know if he walked in a daze, barely aware that the prophet from Nazareth was beside him. We don’t know how strong his faith was or wasn’t. We only know that he walked beside Jesus as they went to the place of his personal disaster. Strong faith or weak, Jairus stayed with the one who’d said, "believe only".

You wouldn’t have appreciated the scene that greeted the bereaved father as he brought Jesus to his home. It wasn’t the quiet grief of a family shut away in seclusion. A number of people stood around openly, audibly lamenting the departed girl. Mourning was big in old Palestine. Some people even hired others to come in and make a racket to help them hurt over the dead. Mourning was emotional, and people from outside the family were weeping loudly as the sad father and his Guest arrived.

Then, Jesus did something else that may have seemed strange and unpredictable. There, in the face of all those sorrowers, He declared, "Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth" (Luke 8:52). It was the kind of statement that you might expect from the One who’d just placed Himself over everything Jairus knew about death.

The mourners hadn’t heard Jesus say, "Fear not: believe only". To them, the situation was beyond fear. Besides, they didn’t believe. They broke from their weeping long enough to laugh at Jesus. In fact, the Bible says, "And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead" (Luke 8:53). They treated Him like they would a fool. They let Jesus and everybody in earshot know just how they felt about a man who’d declare a dead girl asleep. They laughed at Him. They mocked Him. They dishonored Him. They ridiculed Him.

Jesus, who had been patient with sinners, didn’t have time for a debate with scorners. He ordered everyone except the girl’s parents and three of his disciples out of the room. Then, alone with the corpse and her grieving parents, Jesus did what He does best. He brought the power of God into the lives of the believing. Reaching out, he touched a dead hand and said, "Damsel, I say unto thee, arise" (Mark 5:41). And the girl who was dead, not asleep, woke up. She woke up, and she was completely well.

There have been very few times in history when a truly dead person came back to life. Oh, I know, modern medicine shocks stopped hearts into beating again. First aid has taught us CPR and mouth-to-mouth respiration, but the truth is, that these things only work on bodies that have enough life left to catch hold on their own again. Only a handful of truly dead bodies have come into contact with a prophet close enough to Heaven to do the impossible. Three of these occurrences are described in the Old Testament. The rest were either done by Jesus Christ or in His name. (Or to Jesus Christ, but His Resurrection is in a class and category by itself.) It’s happened very rarely, and this great miracle was done, not for publicity, but in response to a father’s faith.

Are you a father? Do you have a father? The job has its discouraging and thankless moments. Yet, no father ever need despair. The man who brings the needs of his family to Jesus Christ keeps company with the greatest power the world has ever known.

To learn about finding the power of Jesus for yourself click:  How to Have a Relationship with God

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How to Have a Relationship with God

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