In the last essay we studied Luke 8:16-39, which included several units of material. Now we are ready to take up Luke 8:40-56, which contains the combined stories of the raising of Jairus’ daughter from death and the healing of a hemorrhaging woman. Verses 40-42 set up the situation. After Jesus returned to the Jewish side of the lake, the people warmly greeted him, and a man named Jairus, a leader of a synagogue, approached Jesus. Jairus was a significant person in his community. But Jairus knelt at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to help Jairus’ dying only daughter, a twelve-year-old. And Jesus went with him.
In verses 43-48, we get the intertwining of a second story. As Jesus went on his way to Jairus’ house, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years came up behind him and touched “the fringe of his clothes.” Now this condition meant that the woman had been unable to worship in synagogue all that time, because the hemorrhage would have made her ceremonially unclean. So her condition had serious social consequences.
The word translated “fringe” here has been translated as “hem,” “edge” (NIV) “border,” or “tassel.” The translation as “tassel” refers to the four tassels at the corners of the Jewish outer robe that they wore in obedience to Num. 15:38-40. The tassels were intended to remind the Jews and others that they were part of the chosen people of God and that they were to obey God’s law. The Jews wore this garment much like a woman might wear a shawl, with two of the tassels hanging close together down the back. As we have seen, the woman came up behind Jesus to touch him. So she easily could have touched a tassel.
The woman had spent all of her money on doctors who had not cured her. Indeed Mark, in his parallel, says that she had endured much under the care of the doctors, which suggests that some of their treatments had not been pleasant. Mark also tells us that the woman not only had not been cured under their care, but she had gotten worse (Mk. 5:26). Yet, when she touched the fringe of Jesus’ clothing, she was immediately cured (v. 44).
Jesus felt the healing power leave him, and he immediately asked who had touched him. Peter seemed a bit put out by Jesus’ question. People were pressing in on Jesus from all sides, and many could have touched him. But Peter didn’t understand why Jesus had asked the question. The touching he was referring to was not a casual touching. It was a touch of strong faith that drew healing power from Jesus. And he knew it (vv. 45-46).
The woman soon realized that Jesus knew it was her. Perhaps he looked at her in a way that indicated he knew. At any rate, she came forward trembling, and told her story (v. 47). Mark tells us she came “in fear and trembling.” She may have been fearful, because she had acted without permission. But Jesus responded kindly to her by telling her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; Go in peace.”
Some are bothered by the fact that healing power went forth from Jesus without his consciously controlling it? Some have said that the incident smacks of magic. No, it was not magic. And God was in control of the situation. It was a Holy Spirit response to her faith.
At this point Luke returns to the original story about Jairus’ daughter. The transition is immediate. In 8:49-50 we see that just as Jesus was speaking his words of encouragement to the healed woman, a messenger arrived from Jairus’ house. And the news was not good. The message was, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the teacher any longer.” But Jesus did not accept that report. He said to Jairus, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” The word translated “saved” could have been translated “healed,” as in the NIV. The word for salvation means healing when it is used in a medical context.
In verses 51-56 it isn’t absolutely clear whether the mourners who were doing all of the weeping and wailing were outside or inside the house. But Mark’s parallel makes it clear that they were inside the house. Thus it appears that it was the room in which the girl was located to which Jesus refused access, except for her parents and the three disciples. Before going into the room, Jesus told the weeping mourners to stop weeping, because the girl was not dead, but sleeping. They laughed at him, because they knew she was dead. The interesting thing here is that for Jesus, the Son of God, to awaken someone from death was as easy as awakening them from normal sleep.
You may recall that Jesus had used this same language in respect to Lazarus in John, chapter 11. In Jn. 11:11 Jesus told the disciples that Lazarus had “fallen asleep” and that he was going to Lazarus to “wake him up.” They misunderstood Jesus to mean normal sleep, and suggested that it meant he would recover (vv. 12-13). But Jesus corrected them, by saying that Lazarus was dead (v. 14).
In this instance of the dead daughter, Jesus took the girl by the hand and said, “Child, get up.” And her spirit returned and she got up. In his inimical practical way, Jesus told the parents to get her something to eat. Two things clearly indicate that she was genuinely brought back to physical life. One was the command to get her something to eat that we see here in Luke, and the other we see in Mark who tells us that she began to walk around after getting up.
The account closes with a command from Jesus to the parents not to tell anyone what had happened. This was fairly common in Jesus’ ministry, because he didn’t want extra attention coming his way because of his miracles. But there was little point in saying that here, because the miracle happened in a rather public way with the family and mourners present at the house; and there would be no silencing them.
Turning to application, the first thing we want to notice is that Jesus ministered to all kinds of people, and these two cases illustrate that. The man was a prominent person in his community, a leader in the synagogue. He had been blessed by twelve years of joy with his daughter. The woman was an anonymous person who had unsuccessfully spent all she had on doctors. And she had experienced twelve-years of misery because of her affliction. But Jesus met the need of both.
The most significant thing we learn here is that Jesus has power over both sickness and death. In the case of the hemorrhaging woman, she tapped into Jesus’ power to heal by means of her faith. We can do the same. It is true that we don’t often get the kind of immediate results that the woman got, but we know the healing power of God is available to us.
And in the case of the girl, the raising of her from physical death encourages our faith in respect to our promised resurrection in the end time. Just as Jesus called back the girl’s spirit and brought her back to physical life, he will call back our spirits and reconstitute our bodies for life in the eternal kingdom of the end time.