Miracle in the Middle
Some have called this the “miracle interrupted.” We have what starts out and ends as the story of Jesus healing Jairus’ dying daughter, yet sandwiched in the middle is the healing of the woman with the relentless flow of blood. At first glance, that “middle miracle” seems random and accidental -- maybe even an annoying distraction from the urgency of Jairus’ need. But the Lord works deliberately, not randomly. And it was no accident that these two healings happened on this day, in this sequence, and are forever linked together. No other miracle story in the Bible is quite like this one. This is not a miracle interrupted, it is a double miracle -- and it has a double lesson for you and me.
If we take the time to give it a close read, as we must always do with Scripture, the power of this story begins to take shape. These two miracles parallel and contrast with each other so conspicuously, it seems to me that the Lord had Luke write them down this way because he wanted us to see the connection.
Let’s take a look at some of the intriguing parallels.
First, you have to be asleep to miss the number “twelve” in these stories. Twelve is perhaps the most symbolic number in the Bible. Israel had twelve tribes. Jesus had twelve apostles. It carries on today … Why does our calendar have twelve months, or our clock have twelve hours, or a jury have twelve members, or a whole box of Samoas® have only twelve cookies? Well, I’m not sure about that last one, but the others are because of the significance our ancestors placed on the number twelve, largely because of the Biblical use of the number. In today’s text we discover twelve years of blossoming joy contrasted with twelve years of barren sorrow; twelve years of overt promise displayed against twelve years of covert pain. The woman and the girl are linked together, and the number twelve is an important clue that there is a connection here.
Next, the people in need are both women. Let’s not forget that age twelve was old enough to be betrothed in this time of human history when it was necessary for our survival to begin reproducing as early as possible. We might cringe at that idea today, but any first-century family like Jairus’ would have celebrated their daughter’s coming of age -- around age twelve -- as a wonderful part of life and a blessing from God. Regardless, the value of a woman in the first century was very much wrapped up in her ability to bear children, and neither the girl nor the woman would have been able to do so without the miraculous touch of Jesus. Moreover, we need to remember that in this era in history, women were rarely mentioned or acknowledged as anything more than property -- much less the focus of a rabbi’s attention. Very few ancient writers take the care that Luke does to point out the fact that women matter to Jesus every bit as much as much as men. In contrast to the culture of His day, to Jesus, a woman was not property, but a person with full significance and wonderful worth. I fear that some of us haven’t followed Jesus on this point -- women are still often treated as property today. If you perhaps feel that a woman is not worth as much as a man to the Lord Jesus Christ, the New Testament Scriptures refute you soundly. Think again.
Also take note that both the girl and the woman are, according to proper Jewish law, “unclean”, and therefore “untouchables”. The woman was unclean because of her menstrual flow -- Jewish Levitical law dictated that anyone who even sat on a chair she used would also become unclean. She basically couldn’t share a house with anyone. You couldn’t hug her or hold her hand. In a similar way, the dead girl was unclean because she was a corpse -- and again, strict Jewish law said that anyone who touches a corpse would themselves become unclean. Do you notice that each of these two miracles involved a touch from Jesus? If you feel untouchable, you are not.
Finally, the use of the word “daughter” is incredible here. Of course, Jairus’ little girl is his daughter, but did you notice what Jesus calls this woman as he sends her off in wholeness and peace? “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well.” (v48) How many times do you think Jesus uses that word in the Gospels? Zero! Zip! Never! It is only on this occasion -- only on this day, with this woman. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this same story, and each gospel writer records the exact same thing -- Jesus calls the woman “daughter.” It was so unexpected and so out of place that each one made a special note of it. It would be just as stunning to them as it would be to you and me to call a stranger “daughter”. Now, we have to ask, why would the Master do that? Where was her real father to dispute Jesus claim? Ah … Now we see it. There is no father for this woman -- no one who will come and fall down pleading at Jesus feet for his baby girl, as Jairus did. There is no apparent man in her life -- no father, no husband who can go to Jesus and speak up for her. She is alone -- orphaned by her disease, solitary in her confinement. And now Jesus reconnects her to humanity and dignity with one simple word -- “daughter.” She is no longer alone, no longer without family, no longer disconnected and unloved. She is reconnected and reloved, her sorrow has come to an end because she is a child of God.
Are you alone? Are you orphaned and without a home? Maybe, like the girl in the Pearl Jam song, the blinds have gone down in your head and you are accustomed to the pain, and you now are in the tragic habit of resisting such love. Do you say, “Don’t call me daughter, not fit to”? Dear, beloved, blessed -- but blind -- child of the most Most High, look to this gospel story. “This picture, it will remind you” -- that Jesus not only calls you healed -- He calls you His own.
Now, those were some of the intriguing parallels in this double-miracle story. Let’s look at some very instructive differences.
First, look at the differences in the approach of Jairus versus the approach of the woman. He marches in from the front, she slips in from behind. He blitzes the Lord with his bold request, and she prefers to stay in stealth mode. Jairus puts on a show, while the woman hides. Jairus has a story to tell everyone, and the woman is desperate to keep her secret to herself. In short, Jairus’ approaches in public, while the woman approaches in private. There are two kinds of people in the world: extroverts who relish the public life, and introverts who are always eager for a little more privacy. Which one is the right kind of person? Which one does God love more? Let’s take it back to this scripture: Public Jairus or private Jane Doe: which one do you suppose Jesus honors more? Nether. It doesn’t matter to Jesus -- each one matters immeasurably to Jesus. As an introvert, I find myself reading this story and looking down on Jairus for being so extroverted. If I was an extrovert, I might have read this story and found myself frustrated with the woman for being so dodgy. Just for grins, did you notice that we know his name, but not hers? Maybe Jairus couldn’t keep the secret after all, and the woman regressed into stealth mode in the end. You can just see Luke going around taking notes as he interviewed them for his forthcoming Gospel, and the woman saying, “I’d like my name to be of the record” -- while Jairus says, “You spell it ‘J-A-I-R-U-S.’ Not Ja-RI-us, JAI-rus.”
But it doesn’t matter whether you are an “innie” or an “outie” -- Jesus loves you just the same. One significant point to ponder: notice how Jesus gently but firmly pushes the introverted woman to make her healing public; and that Jesus commands the extroverted Jairus to keep his miracle private. He orders the introvert to speak up so the crowd can hear her -- her worst nightmare, but something that will challenge her to grow. And the Master tells the extrovert to put a sock in it -- his worst nightmare, but again, what he needed to grow. Perhaps there is always room to grow beyond the limitations of our personalities!
Next, take a look at the difference in the status of Jairus versus the status of the woman. Jairus was a big shot; a leader in the community. People wanted to rub shoulders with Jairus. He was honored and respected. Jairus was at the pinnacle of the pyramid. The woman was the polar opposite. As far as society was concerned, she was nobody -- less than nobody; a speck on the landscape. Nobody wanted to rub shoulders with her -- if she disappeared, nobody would notice. She was at the bottom of the pyramid. Jairus was the top of the top 1% and the woman was the bottom of the bottom 1%. People looked up to him, but they looked down on her.
So how did Jesus treat each of them? With love and healing, of course. But do you notice how he lets the woman jump the line and put Jairus on hold? Audacious! Here is Mr. Big with his big life and his “big-time” problem, and then Ms. Small slips in with her “small” life and her “small-time” problem -- and Jesus puts Mr. Big on the back burner to focus all his attention on Ms. Small. Now, Jesus cares about the plight of Jairus, don’t miss that important point. He loves everybody. But Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor,” and he meant it. He said “the last shall be first,” and He stood behind that policy.
Do you think it would have mattered to the woman if Jesus had said, “Hey, I get it lady -- you want a healing. Right, right. Can you hang on just another 30 minutes while I take care of this other guy who got here first? He’s pretty important. Just take a number and wait your turn, ok? I mean, it’s been twelve years, what’s another half hour, right?” No! He didn’t do that. The woman might well have preferred He do it that way, but that is not how the Lord loves you and me. She was last in line, but Jesus put her first. Pause and mute the urgent and deserving Jairus show for a while. Let’s take our time with this one. Everybody is always in such a hurry, but not Jesus. Do you think Jesus has more important things to do than you? He doesn’t. Go on. Interrupt him. Don’t be shy. Ask! He’s cool with it. He will always create time for you.
He is Willing and He Can
Finally, to wrap things up this morning: I’ve been sharing how in Luke 8 Jesus pits faith against fear. Faith overcomes fear on the stormy sea and again among legion demonic forces. But how does faith overcome fear today? Who’s afraid in this double miracle story -- and what are they afraid of?
The woman was afraid Jesus would not heal because of her social stigma. Jairus was afraid that Jesus could not heal because it was too late. They were both wrong. There is no problem so big, God cannot solve it. There is no mountain so tall, God cannot move it. Ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep Him from getting to you, babe!
Don’t be afraid, Ms. Small -- have faith! Even if it is trembling, sneak-up behind, stealth mode, mustard seed faith. He wants to touch your life and remove every curse that has made you a stigma and a social outsider.
Don’t be afraid, Mr. Big -- have faith! Even if everyone laughs at you and tells you all hope is lost -- it is never too late. He is much bigger than you think! He can take that sunken ship and make it sail the high seas again.
Don’t be afraid, Mr and Ms. Everyone In-Between -- have faith! Do not think He will not. Do not think He can not. He is willing and He can. Would you like God to work a miracle in the middle of your life? Have faith! Come to Him. Be ye bashful or bold, shy or showy, it doesn’t matter. He who made time for the woman will always hear your cry. He who raised a child from the dead can always make a way. Cry out to him today. Touch the hem of your Father’s robe; fall down at the Master’s feet. Let him touch your wounded heart; let Him take your cold hand in His and bring you back to life. Can you? Will you?