While Jesus was speaking, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.
Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.
When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.
A leader of the synagogue said: Come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.
The human condition means that we have a fragile existence which is going to be confronted with moments of challenge and tragedy. Human beings are not immortal. Our bodies break down, wear out and, ultimately, stop working. It has often been said that this is the one thing we all have in common. This issue so often causes us to be overwhelmed with feelings of anger and confusion. It is also that which causes us to separate ourselves from God in a spirit of accusation, bewilderment and rage. As the human capacity to comprehend medical and physical science has grown, there has been an exponential rise in our certainty that nothing damaging or tragic should ever befall us. Our limitless capacity for self-deception damages our faith, driving a wedge between us and God.
In today’s reading we meet someone whose life has been changed by great tragedy: the death of his daughter. As a leader of the synagogue he would probably not have been in sympathy with Jesus’ teaching, but he did know of his ability to heal and to restore. Rather than wallowing in anger and self-pity, the leader of the synagogue took a desperate chance. Instead of being loyal to the mistaken ‘certainties’ of his profession he stepped out in faith. The leader of the synagogue knelt before Jesus and demonstrated great faith in the one he would previously have described as a false Messiah and a blasphemer.
It is easy for our cynical minds to say that the leader of the synagogue was so desperate and grief-stricken that he would have grasped at any straw. But that is not what Jesus saw. Jesus saw faith, the faith of one who sought life for his daughter, and for himself.
As we read of the two miracles contained within our reading of the day, we need to observe, and to emulate, the faith of the leader of the synagogue and the unclean woman. Faced with great tragedy neither of them resorted to anger and blame, instead they turned to Jesus in faith and hope.
As we face the challenges of this mortal life, let us pray that our hope might lie in God alone. Let us pray for the strength and the courage to cast aside worldly ‘wisdom’, take all our woes and our joys to God, our creator and our healer.