Luke XXXII: Lk. 8:40-56
[Note: A recording of this sermon is available here.]
Like the two episodes earlier in the chapter, these two are paired together intentionally: it’s a tale of two daughters and the power of faith in Jesus to save.
The Two Daughters
Notice all the similarities between the two stories: First, it does not seem at all accidental that while on his way to heal the only daughter of Jairus (8:42), Jesus stops and heals a woman that He calls “daughter” (Lk. 8:48). The daughter of Jairus is twelve years old (Lk. 8:42), and the woman has had a flow of blood for twelve years (Lk. 8:43). The ruler of the synagogue falls down at the feet of Jesus (Lk. 8:41), and the woman comes trembling and falls down before Jesus (Lk. 8:47). Related to these acts is the fact that both Jairus and the woman have come to Jesus in desperation: a dignitary of the synagogue falling down before an itinerant teacher suggests desperation and we know that the woman has spent all of her living on physicians (Lk. 8:43). This desperation is due to the fact that both face incurable sickness (Lk. 8:43, 49). Both the flow of blood and the dead body of the child ought to make Jesus ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:19-30, Num. 5:2, 19:11ff), but once again (cf. Lk. 5:13), it is touching or being touched by Jesus that brings healing (Lk. 8:44, 54). Notice that Jesus says faith is instrumental in both stories as well: “Daughter, your faith has made you well…” (Lk. 8:48) and Jesus tells Jairus: “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be made well” (Lk. 8:50). This last similarity reminds us of the forgiven woman at the feast in Simon’s house (Lk. 7:50). Likewise, when Jesus calms the storm on the sea, He asks the disciples: “Where is your faith?” (Lk. 8:25) And it was persevering faith that was the difference between the good soil and the other soils (Lk. 8:12-15).
There are a number of indications that these two stories are meant to be understood not merely as interesting examples of healing, but also as a commentary on the nation of Israel. The number twelve immediately reminds us of the twelve tribes of Israel, but the fact that it is a ruler of the synagogue is also striking, since thus far, synagogues haven’t received Jesus very warmly (e.g. Lk. 4:16-37). Jairus represents Israel’s predicament and need. The other detail that suggests we think about Israel is the laughter (Lk. 8:53). In fact, the woman with the flow of blood is presumably a barren woman, and it’s hard not to think of Sarah and Abraham with these stories so closely linked together. When Sarah is told that she (a barren woman) will conceive a child in her old age she laughs (Gen. 18:12). And when she gave birth she named her son Isaac (which means ‘he laughs’), and she said: “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me” (Gen. 21:1-6). The point is that Israel is unclean and barren and will surely die, unless she is healed and raised by Jesus. But these stories also illustrate something of what it will take to be saved by Jesus. It will take faith in Jesus.
Your Faith Has Saved You
There are several striking elements of these stories that illustrate what faith in Jesus looks like. We already noted the desperation of Jairus falling publicly at the feet of Jesus (Lk. 8:41). But don’t miss the fact that it is while they are going to the Jairus’s house that the woman interrupts Jesus (Lk. 8:42). Not only is it a bit ludicrous for Jesus to ask who touched Him in the midst of a large crowd pressing around Him (Lk. 8:45), but it could have seemed inconceivably rude to Jairus who is there with him, desperately hoping that his daughter may be saved from death. And in fact it is while this scene unfolds that Jairus’s daughter does in fact die and moments later word reaches them that it is no use bothering Jesus anymore, “your daughter is dead” (Lk. 8:49). For Jairus this is the storm taking his ship down, but Jesus says, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well” (Lk. 8:50). Bfore following them to the house, don’t miss the fact that Jesus stopping to ask who touched Him was not only potentially a great disappointment to Jairus, but it was most certainly also an agonizing embarrassment to the woman. She is already cursed with a serious health problem which may have left her feeling weak, but constant bleeding would also create the massive inconvenience and shame of ceremonial uncleanness and social isolation. While some forms of uncleanness were relatively minor and temporary, this woman was in a constant state of uncleanness. And now, in her desperation, enters a crowd, hoping that she may just touch the One who has made others clean, and then just as she touches the tassels of His garment and begins to slip away, He stops the crowd and begins asking who has touched Him (Lk. 8:45-46).
While it was certainly faith that drove her to reach out and touch Jesus, it also took faith to come trembling and fall before Jesus and announce “in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him and how she had been immediately healed” (Lk. 8:47). But it is that very exposure to Jesus that is her full salvation. Jesus doesn’t merely want the blood to stop, He wants to know her and He wants all the people to know her. He isn’t merely interested in healing, He’s also interested in restoring. In a similar way, in this instance, Jesus might have said the word and healed Jairus’s daughter at the moment of the request (cf. Lk. 7:7-10), but Jesus is not merely interested in healing Jairus’s daughter, He’s interested in Jairus and his wife and giving them something more. And that something more is summed up in their exchange in the house: “she is not dead but sleeping,” Jesus says, and when they laugh, “knowing that she was dead,” He took her by the hand and called her, saying “Child, arise,” and her spirit returned and she got up (Lk. 8:52-55). And if we’re reading Luke’s gospel carefully, it seems He would have us look into the face of this Man with this little girl’s parents, wondering in amazement: “Who is this, who even commands the dead, and they obey Him?”
It’s worth noting that the woman had been bleeding for as long as the girl had been alive. And then almost at the same moment, the death inside the woman and the death that has seized the little girl is stopped, broken, and reversed. This is what Easter means. And this is what faith in Jesus means. It means that Jesus saves.