This gospel passage interweaves two miracles of Jesus. On his way to heal Jairus’s daughter, Jesus healed a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and could not get any better even though she spent her most resources with the physicians. Because of her faith, Jesus healed her in private and asked her to acknowledge that in public so others could also glorify God. Even though Jairus’ daughter had died by the time Jesus reached his house, he restored her life. In contrast to the previous miracle, Jesus instructed the child’s parents not to publicize the miracle. Let us acknowledge what God has done for us.
(Luke 8:41) A man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came up, threw himself at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house (42) because his only daughter, about twelve years old, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowd pressed heavily on him from every side. (43) There was a woman who had suffered from a bleeding for twelve years. This woman had spent everything she had on physicians, but none of them had been able to cure her. (44) Now she came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his cloak, and her bleeding stopped at once. (45) Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” Everyone denied it and Peter said, “Master, the crowd is pushing all around you.” (46) But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I felt power go out from me.” (47) The woman knew she had been discovered. She came trembling and fell at his feet. Then she explained in front of everyone why she had touched him and how she had been instantly cured. (48) And Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (49) While Jesus was still speaking, someone arrived from the ruler’s home to tell him, “Your daughter has just died; why trouble the Master any further?” (50) But Jesus heard the news and said to the ruler, “Do not be afraid, just believe.” (51) When he entered the house, Jesus allowed no one to go with him except Peter, James, and John, as well as the father and mother of the child. (52) As all the people were weeping and wailing loudly, Jesus said to them, “Do not weep, she is not dead but asleep.” (53) And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. (54) As for Jesus, he took the child by the hand and said to her, “Child, wake up!” (55) And her spirit returned and she got up at once; then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. (56) The child’s parents were amazed, but Jesus ordered them not to let anyone know what had happened.
Raising the dead is an unusual miracle. The Bible gives instances of this. During the Old Testament times, prophets Elijah (1Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (Second Kings 4:32-37) performed such miracles. Another regaining of life happened when people buried a man in Elisha’s grave. When the body touched the prophet’s bones, the dead person came back to life (2Kings 13:20-21).
In the New Testament, Jesus, Peter (Acts 9:36-42), and Paul (Acts 20:9-12) raised people from the dead. Jesus raised a Nain widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:41-56), and Lazarus on the fourth day of his burial (John 11:1-14). At the death of Jesus, many rose from the dead. “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and several holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after the resurrection of Jesus they entered the Holy City and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:51-53). Jesus himself rose from the dead (Matthew 28:6, Acts 2:24) was the greatest of these miracles.
On Jesus’s way to heal Jairus’ daughter, Jesus healed a woman. St. Luke interweaved both miracles, presenting Jesus as the master of sickness and death. The faith of Jairus and the sick woman caused both miracles to happen.
(Luke 8:41) A man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came up, threw himself at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house.
Though the gospels do not give the names of many people, the evangelist provides the name of the synagogue official considering his popularity and prominence in the community. The early gospel readers also might know him. Mentioning his name would add to the credibility of the report. Jesus used to go to the synagogues on the Sabbath to pray and preach. So, he might know Jairus in person.
Though a prominent Jew and official of the synagogue, he “threw himself at Jesus’ feet and begged him” in public to express his humility and faith in Jesus. He knew that only Jesus could heal his child because he had seen Jesus healing many sick in the synagogue.
(42) Because his only daughter, about twelve years old, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowd pressed heavily on him from every side.
Though each child is precious to the parents, losing the only child will add to the grief of the parents. In Jairus’ case, the dying child was his only daughter. The son of the widow of Nain, whom Jesus raised during the funeral procession, was her only child (Luke 7:12). Lazarus, whom Jesus raised on the fourth day after his death, was the only brother of Martha and Mary (John 11:1-44). Luke, as a physician and precise writer, gives the age of Jairus’ daughter as twelve. He also gives the medical condition stating that the child was dying. So, the readers get a clear picture of how dear the child would be to her father and how dire was his need.
The crushing of the crowd around Jesus was because of the narrow road and many people who came to see and hear Jesus. They were all walking with him on his way to Jairus’ house. They also were curious to witness the dying child’s healing. This sets the background for what follows in the narration.
(43) There was a woman who had suffered from a bleeding for twelve years. This woman had spent everything she had on physicians, but none of them had been able to cure her.
Another miracle happened on the way to Jairus’ house. Number 12 has much significance in the Bible. Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old, and the woman had hemorrhages for 12 years. Besides her physical suffering, the Jews considered this woman unclean and outcast for such a long time. According to the law of Moses, “Any bed she lies on during the time this flow lasts will be unclean as during her monthly period. Any seat she sits on will be unclean as it would be during her monthly periods. Anyone who touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening.” (Lev. 15:26-27). So, she could not live with any people or could not have any social contact.
Luke the physician records that no doctor could cure her. She had spent all her livelihood for medical treatment, and all such efforts were in vain. Mark records that the medical treatment did not help but only made the sickness worse (Mark 5:26). All these add to the gravity of her suffering and the magnitude of her healing by Jesus.
(44) Now she came up behind Jesus and touched the tassel of his cloak, and her bleeding stopped at once.
When the crowd was crushing on Jesus, the sick woman could not reach him. If people had recognized her uncleanliness, they would not allow her to reach Jesus by passing amid them. She was also afraid to come in front of Jesus and present her case in public because of her detested sickness. So, she came in secret behind Jesus and did not verbally ask for healing.
Since she was away from the public for 12 years, no one recognized her uncleanliness. So, she could approach Jesus squeezing through the moving crowd. Her only hope was in Jesus, and that gave her the courage to approach Jesus in disguise. Her faith made her touch the tassel on the cloak of Jesus as a meaningful gesture of her faith in Jesus’ healing.
Touched the tassel of his cloak.
God had instructed Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel and tell them that they and their descendants are to put tassels on the hem of their garments and a purple cord on this tassel.” (Numbers 15:38). The purpose of the tassels was that “the sight of them will remind you of all the commands of the LORD.” (Numbers 15:39). Jesus also wore such an outer garment with four tassels prescribed by the law.
According to Malachi 3:20 (4:2), “for you who fear my name, the sun of justice will arise with healing in its wings.” When Jesus came as this sun of justice or Messiah, people touched his outer garment considering it as his wings for the prophesied healing. Since this woman believed Jesus as the Messiah, she touched his tassel with faith. According to Mark 5:28, “If I just touch his clothes, I shall be healed.”
There were other instances where the sick people touched the tassel of Jesus’ garment and got healed. Matthew records that when Jesus and his disciples reached Gennesaret, people brought the sick to him and “begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.” (Matthew 14:36). Mark also reports the same (Mark 6: 53-56).
There were similar instances of healing power flowing from the clothes or even the shadow of the apostles and other saints. St. Luke records in the Acts of the Apostles about St. Paul: “when face clothes or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” (Acts 19:12). Even greater and strange way of healing happened with St. Peter. “Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick, and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” (Acts 5:15-16). The faithful have used relics of saints as instruments of God’s miracles and healing.
The woman’s bleeding stopped because of the intentional healing that Jesus gave her, considering her good faith. She had expressed it by touching the tassel of Jesus’ garment.
(45) Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” Everyone denied it and Peter said, “Master, the crowd is pushing all around you.”
None other than Jesus and the lady knew the meaning of Jesus’ question, “Who touched me?” Others were touching and pressing on Jesus, to get his attention, to hear him speak, or the crowd was pushing on those standing close to Jesus so they could not avoid pressing on him. The implied meaning of the question was who touched Jesus with faith for healing. That was not clear for the disciples and the surrounding crowd. Those who pressed on Jesus did not and could not acknowledge that they touched him intentionally. As usual, Peter was bold and open minded in reminding Jesus that it is natural that the crowd would press on him in that situation.
(46) But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I felt power go out from me.”
Jesus specified that a person had touched him purposefully to receive power from him. He knew who touched him because he had healed her. Since she came from the back, he did not see her. Jesus might have noticed her moving away from him through the crowd after she got cured. He wanted the disciples and those around him to know that they should approach him with such deep faith to receive the power of healing and salvation. We must approach Jesus with the similar faith of this humble woman. Often, we go to church or approach Jesus like all the others who come near Jesus as observers.
(47) The woman knew she had been discovered. She came trembling and fell at his feet. Then she explained in front of everyone why she had touched him and how she had been instantly cured.
For the past 12 years, the woman was living in seclusion. She had heard Jesus was healing many, and he did not deny a favor to anyone who asked for it. But she did not expect such a questioning from Jesus. So she was afraid and trembled. Though she had moved away, she came forward again through the crowd to give testimony of what had happened. She did this, falling before him, to express her humility and gratitude. She acknowledged in public that she received an instant healing from Jesus.
(48) And Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Jesus had noticed the fear and trembling of the woman. He comforted her by calling her daughter. This is the only time when Jesus called a woman “daughter.” His fatherly affection soothed her, and his spiritual healing made her a disciple of Jesus. The apocryphal writing, the “Gospel of Nicodemus,” presents this woman as Veronica who wiped the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary. There also she received another miracle of mercy by the imprint of Jesus’ image on her handkerchief.
While addressing the woman stating that her faith had saved her, Jesus acknowledged her persistence of faith during her long-term physical, mental, and spiritual struggle. Her prolonged misery led her to a glorious reward from the Lord. Jesus also wished her peace in her life journey.
(49) While Jesus was still speaking, someone arrived from the ruler’s home to tell him, “Your daughter has just died; why trouble the Master any further?”
While the drama of the woman’s healing and questioning was going on, Jairus might have been getting nervous that Jesus was delaying his journey on his way to heal his dying daughter. He might have felt bad about the woman’s intervention at that critical moment. What Jairus feared had happened. He got news from his house that his daughter died. No one knew that Jesus would raise his daughter in case she would die. So, they tried not to bother Jesus, the busy teacher, to continue his journey to Jairus’ house. They were busy with her funeral arrangements.
(50) But Jesus heard the news and said to the ruler, “Do not be afraid, just believe.”
Jesus dealt with faith and fear in both the miracles. Both the woman and Jairus approached Jesus with faith. Both got afraid in the middle of their contact, and Jesus comforted both. Jesus appreciated the faith of the woman and of Jairus. Both got peace and remedy from Jesus. Jairus did not make any complaint to Jesus for the delay he made. Instead, he believed in Jesus’ words that he would heal his daughter.
Same kind of delay happened when Jesus came to know that Lazarus was sick. Jesus took four days to reach his house. The delay from Jesus’s part was for manifesting the greater glory of God. In both cases, Jesus comforted the family and did the great miracle of rising the dead back to life.
(51) When he entered the house, Jesus allowed no one to go with him except Peter, James, and John, as well as the father and mother of the child.
Though all the disciples and the crowd accompanied Jesus to Jairus’ house, he limited the number of people who would enter the house. However, he assured that there were enough people to witness the event. Those were his three favorite apostles and the parents of the deceased child. The other instances when Jesus allowed his inner circle of Peter, James, and John to accompany him were at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration on a mountain (Matthew 17:1-2), and when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer before his arrest (Matthew 26:37, Mark 14:33).
(52) As all the people were weeping and wailing loudly, Jesus said to them, “Do not weep, she is not dead but asleep.”
By the time Jesus arrived, many of the neighbors, friends, and relatives of Jairus might have reached there. They would express their grief at the death of the only daughter of their dear synagogue official. According to the Jewish custom, the family would arrange women mourners and flute players to perform public lamentations to create an atmosphere of grief. According to Mark, when Jesus and others reached the house, “Jesus saw a great commotion with people weeping and wailing loudly.” (Mark 5:38). Jesus asked them to discontinue their weeping because the author of life was there to restore life. He presented the death of the girl equivalent to a sleep from which he would wake her up.
(53) And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.
The people around the girl had pronounced her dead, and there was no hope of bringing her back to life. So, when Jesus said she was sleeping, the mourners who were professionals to confirm the death felt that he degraded them. So, they were bold to ridicule the prominent Lord Jesus in public. The evangelist presented this mean act of the mourners, who were sure of the death of the child, to confirm that the miracle was not a healing but life restoration of the dead child.
(54) As for Jesus, he took the child by the hand and said to her, “Child, wake up!”
God who created the universe and the humanity need only two words to give back her life. The Aramaic words, “Talitha, kumi!” meaning “Maid, arise!” were loving words of parents waking up their children from sleep.
(55) And her spirit returned and she got up at once; then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
When God created Adam, the LORD “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7). This child lost that breath of life before Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house. Jesus returned the breath to her with his tender touch, asking her to arise. This shows that the immortal soul that separates from the body does not die with the body. It can exist by itself and reunite with the body when God wants. Jesus taught us; we all will rise from the dead at his second coming when our departed souls will reunite with our resurrected body.
When the girl rose, Jesus might have noticed her physical weakness because of the lack of enough nutrition. She was not eating for days because of her severe sickness. With a paternal love, Jesus instructed her parents to give her food. This shows how Jesus wants us to meet the physical needs of others who need our care. It was also a proof that she rose from the dead in good health and that she could eat after her malnourishment for some days.
(56) The child’s parents were amazed, but Jesus ordered them not to let anyone know what had happened.
The parents got amazed because Jairus was asking for healing of the daughter before her death. However, Jesus did a greater miracle for him. All people who confirmed her death and had been lamenting were excited to notice the great miracle. It was natural that the news could spread like a wildfire. Jesus did not want the parents to publicize what happened to the public. Facilitating the popularity of Jesus would speed up Jesus’s passion from his envious enemies. He had more work to complete before the end of his earthly life.