When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
People came from Jairus’ house and said: Why trouble the teacher any further?
Today’s reading opens with the painting of a familiar scene: a great crowd gathered round him. Jesus’ reputation preceded him. Wherever he went the crowds gathered to hear his teaching and preaching, and to receive his healing touch. The power of his words and his ability to restore health to the otherwise incurably sick acted as a magnet for all who were in need. Today, yet again, a great crowd gathered round him. But, today, we see two very different interactions with Jesus.
Firstly, we hear of Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue. Jairus’ daughter was seriously ill: at the point of death. In desperation, Jairus approached Jesus, the last hope, to beg that he might lay his hands on her, so that she may be made well. In despair, one who might otherwise be expected to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Jesus’ critics, recognised the truth about Jesus, and came to him in faith.
Secondly, there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. Such an illness would have set her aside from the society in which she lived. In her desperation she also came to Jesus for healing, but her situation was different. Whether it was because of the nature of her illness or not, she knew that healing would be bestowed upon her if she could but touch his clothes.
The delay that followed the healing of the woman suffering from haemorrhages must have seemed interminable to Jairus. Then, when that ‘incident’ was resolved and Jesus moved towards his house the terrible news came. Jairus’ daughter had died, there was no longer any need to trouble the teacher. Jesus’ subsequent raising of Jairus’ daughter proved otherwise!
There are many times in our lives when we feel the desperation of Jairus and the woman with uncontrollable haemorrhages. There are many times when we feel the impatience of the desperate parent. There are many times, in our despair, when we decide not to bother Jesus. But … that is not the message of today’s reading. Jesus is always there to offer consolation, healing and hope … even when we decide there are none of these things to be had.
Today we are being reminded to remain constant in our prayers. We are being urged to never presume that Jesus is ‘too busy’ or too ‘preoccupied’ with other matters. Today we are being called to lay everything before Jesus and to trust in him … no matter how hopeless we may feel, there is the unswerving promise of Jesus’ constant presence at all times. Let us pray for the faith to trust in that promise.