Red Letter Year: 7/19

Luke 8:40-56

40 On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for him. 41 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. 42 His only daughter, who was about twelve years old, was dying.

As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds. 43 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. 44 Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” 47 When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. 48 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

49 While he was still speaking to her, a messenger arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. He told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

50 But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.”

51 When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, James, and the little girl’s father and mother. 52 The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

53 But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died. 54 Then Jesus took her by the hand and said in a loud voice, “My child, get up!” 55 And at that moment her life returned, and she immediately stood up! Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were overwhelmed, but Jesus insisted that they not tell anyone what had happened.


Here again Luke leaves Mark’s narrative mostly unchanged, in this case a story-within-a-story with strong parallels between the two intertwined vignettes. Consider the similarities:

  • Daughter. Both are referred to as “daughter”
  • 12 years. The girl’s age and the length of the woman’s suffering
  • Incurable conditions
  • Unclean
  • Restored to community

Those last two go together. The woman suffered from ongoing gynecological bleeding and was thus perpetually unclean. Excluded from all communal and religious events, celebrations. Excluded from community. Living completely isolated in a crowd. For twelve years. The girl was dead. Jesus returns the girl to her parents and removes the barrier between the woman and community. The power of Jesus always ends isolation. Always builds community.

Luke keeps verbatim what Mark records Jesus saying to the woman. This is also exactly what Luke reports Jesus saying to the woman who washed his feet with her tears in 7.50. Luke wanted us to connect these women mentally. They share an understanding of desperation. The woman of the city was overcome with gratitude for salvation she encountered before the scene. We are present for the salvation of this woman. She had spent all she had on cures that didn’t work. Failed attempts and snake oil salesmen had exploited her weaknesses and left her destitute. Unlike the woman of the city, this woman couldn’t even prostitute to earn a living. Her condition prevented even that. I am not sure how she survived such total isolation. The earlier woman’s tears of joy were undoubtedly shared by this woman. They probably both joined Jesus’ group of women followers. Supporting his ministry and sharing her marvelous story.

Just as Luke links these two women, he also links the demon possessed man from yesterday with Jairus. This connection seems less likely, but both run to Jesus and fall at his feet. Luke is not disparaging Jairus. The crowd welcomes Jesus because we are still in Galilee. As we have seen before, Jesus was popular there even among the synagogue elders. Jairus was either one of those advocating for the centurion or he at least sanctioned that solicitation, since he was the head elder. Both he and the Gerasene man fall at Jesus’ feet because they share the desperation of the women above. He didn’t know his daughter was dead, but he knew the situation was grave. No time for decorum. No time for saving face. The head of the synagogue dropped to the dusty ground at the feet of the only hope his daughter had.

The range of his emotions is hard to overstate. Jesus agrees and sets off with him, only to be stopped by an equally desperate woman. After a weird pause for questions, they resume only to be met with the most unkind messenger imaginable. Never mind, she’s dead. Thank you Mr. Blunt. Undeterred and unperturbed, Jesus pressed on, probably half-dragging, half-supporting the grief-stricken father along. Then his mourning turned to dancing. Instead of kissing a cold corpse goodbye, he held his only daughter (echoes of the only son from Nain and the only Son of the Father) in a warm embrace. Dave Matthews is right, “you should never have to watch your only children lowered in the ground, you should never have to bury your own babies.” (Gravedigger) Twice now Luke has shown us Jesus agreed.

And back to that interruption, which marks one change Luke made. Mark describes Jesus knowing what happened. Luke tells us Jesus felt power go out of him. That might sound weird to some, but my Vineyard and Pentecostal friends can relate to a degree. It is not uncommon to feel power go out of your hands as you pray for someone and they are healed (yes, this still happens, try it sometime). What is uncommon (to me at least) is for power to go out when I’m not praying, but just walking along (even in a tight crowd as was the case here). As Peter observed, a lot of people were touching Jesus. Hard to imagine that one woman was the only one who had a need. Why wasn’t power going out of Jesus to many? Why only her? She was the only one who touched him in faith. No other answer seems available to us. The rest were pressing along, experiencing Jesus to a point, but not all the way. Not in faith. Not in desperation. Not in trust. Only she did that.

So let’s recap the group of desperate people Luke has put together for us in chapters 7 and 8. A dead boy and his mother. A woman who could not stop crying and kissing Jesus’ feet. A group of wet, drowning men, including at least one self-described sinner and one tax collector. A naked man possessed by thousands of demons. A woman sick and completely rejected by all society. A dead girl and her bereft parents. That is a desperate crew. Jesus brought the power of the Spirit to bear on them all. These desperadoes, these alienated from the world, they become citizens of the kingdom. Jesus recruits and attracts desperate people. If we want to grow his kingdom (not our own fiefdoms), we should find the desperate people. They don’t belong to the world. The world is not worthy of them.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.