At work, we are currently going through the Gospel of Luke with our Sunday services and journey group curriculum. The Adult Discipleship Team was asked to teach on a passage from Luke during our February staff meetings. Here is what I taught. It’s a recording off of my iPhone, so I apologize the quality isn’t the best at times. I had the staff read passages at times, and I asked the staff to answer questions which you may not hear.
I’ve done my best to transcribe my notes and posted those below. I changed a few things so it would hopefully read better in a blog post. Some parts of the talk I had the staff answer questions. I’ve done my best to incorporate the Q&A into the post.
When you think of the stereotypical Pharisee, what comes to mind? Legalistic? Ardent followers of the Law? Hypocritical? Teachers? Pharisees were committed to study, and well-versed in the Mosaic Law, but also missed some of the core themes God taught, through the prophets, in the Old Testament. Pharisees would put their own traditions ahead of God’s law, and thus put them ahead of people. Despite their zeal and depth of knowledge, they seemed to miss the point.
Jesus arriving on the scene begins to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees’ teaching, threaten their standing with the people, and show a better way for people to follow. This, in turn, creates conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. In the early chapters of Luke this pattern is on display.
In Luke 4:16-30, a crowd tries to throw Jesus off of a cliff. This happens because Jesus reads Isaiah 61 at the synagogue about the coming Messiah. Jesus tells them this prophecy is fulfilled in him. This leads to a back and forth with Jesus teaching on who he is, but the synagogue crowd not listening. In fact, it says the crowd is “filled with wrath” toward Jesus. They rise up, drive him out of town, and attempt to kill him.
In Luke 5:17-26, Jesus is teaching to a crowd when a paralyzed man is lowered to him. As Jesus sees him, he says the man’s sins are forgiven. This upsets the Pharisees and they whisper amongst themselves that Jesus is speaking blasphemies since they don’t consider him God. Jesus, knowing what they are whispering about, addresses their words and then heals the man physically as well. They call him a blasphemer.
In Luke 6:1-5, Jesus and his disciples are walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath. The disciples pick some grains, and proceed to rub them in their hands so they can snack on them. Pharisees questioned them as to why they were being unlawful for doing “work” on the Sabbath. (Rubbing grains in their hands so they could eat it.) Jesus answers them with a question of his own where he tells them the Son of Man is the lord of the Sabbath. They call him a Sabbath breaker.
In Luke 6:6-11, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. Jesus knows this, and heals the man. Of course, he asks the Pharisees if one should do good or do harm on the Sabbath. Jesus then heals the man by simply telling the man to “stretch out his hand”. (Not really working on the Sabbath!) The man’s hand is healed, but the Pharisees were “filled with fury” and were plotting with each other what they were going to do to Jesus.
The relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees is contentious. Obviously, Jesus loves them, but is on a mission to help people see the truth. He is here for a much bigger reason than the Pharisees’ shortsighted reasons. Jesus’ mission is always going to be at odds with the Pharisees’ mission. Jesus violates their traditions and exposes their hypocrisy. The Pharisees hate him in return, accuse of him of various sins, are envious since people are following him everywhere, and even resort to gossip, like calling Jesus “a bastard” (John 8:41), in an effort to undermine his ministry.
Despite the Pharisees’ efforts to thwart him, Jesus continues to have ministry success. In Luke 7:11-17, we have Jesus raising back to life the widow’s son. A report goes throughout whole country of what has occurred. Jesus’ ministry is known all around the region.
With this context of the Pharisees toward Jesus, let’s look at Jairus. We are introduced to him in Luke 8:41. We do not know Jairus’ personal opinion of Jesus before their encounter. However, I’m going to infer a few things about Jairus. Jairus is a Pharisee, a ruler of the synagogue. As we’ve established, we know the Pharisees opinion of Jesus by this point in time. We also know being associated with Jesus was similar to being “marked” as a contrarian with the Pharisees and could lead to trouble. This is one reason why, some scholars think, the Pharisee Nicodemus met with Jesus in secret (John 3:1-21), and when Nicodemus tries to defend Jesus later on, the Pharisees respond with anger. (John 7:47-52)
Let’s look at Luke 8:40-42, and our introduction to Jairus.
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. –Luke 8:40-42
What is remarkable about what Jairus does in this passage? He falls at the feet of Jesus. He does so in public. He asks Jesus for help. From Jairus, a Pharisee, we see acts of humility, a public profession, and acknowledging Jesus as being more than a man. Let’s not gloss over what Jairus is doing here. With the context we have of Pharisees, this is an incredible act from Jairus toward Jesus.
Jesus decides to go help Jairus’ daughter. As Jesus and Jairus set out for Jairus’ house, a crowd encompasses them and presses in on them. Pressing in, as we should know, means they could not move through this crowd easily. From earlier in Luke (Luke 4:29-30), we know Jesus can pass through a riotous crowd with ease. Therefore, we can surmise there is a purpose in Jesus wanting Jairus and him to get held up by the crowd.
Luke 8:43-48 introduces us to the woman that had been battling bleeding for over twelve years. With a crowd pressing in on Jesus and Jairus, no one would probably take notice of the ceremonially unclean woman who takes this opportunity to go in unnoticed and reach out in faith to touch Jesus.
And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” –Luke 8:45-48
We see the interaction of Jesus with this woman. Jesus knows full well what has already happened here. He stops amongst the crowd, he pauses from going to Jairus’ home, to further heal the woman, and to have a teaching moment for all. Including Jairus. While Jesus has already healed the woman physically, he pauses to have a public healing moment to also bring about mental, social, emotional, and spiritual healing for this woman. (We talked about this last time I taught. The BPSES healing: biological, psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual healing.) Through her public interaction with Jesus, she is no longer unclean in the eyes of a community who would now know her to be clean. She can rejoin society and its norms without having to shout “unclean” wherever she goes. We can only imagine the impact it has on her mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Jesus sees the big picture in not only healing her physically, but holistically. He is playing chess with us, while we are playing checkers when we come to him.
A cool moment. A miraculous healing, we see Jesus’ divinity, and it would inspire awe in those who saw it. Well, most of those who saw the moment. What do you think Jairus is thinking throughout this? Let’s not get ahead in the passage. Don’t read ahead. What do we think is going through Jairus’ mind while Jesus stops to interact with this woman and heal her? Take a few moments to think about what Jairus is thinking.
While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” –Luke 8:49
Now, what is going through Jairus’ mind? Again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves with the passage. How many of us have probably responded like we suggested Jairus has? How many of us have come to Jesus in a moment of desperation, believing Jesus hears our prayer, but then only to see Jesus go in a completely different direction than what we had hoped? Not only do we see Jesus go in a completely different direction, we see Jesus address and heal someone else’s desperate prayer while we only seem to be an observer.
Jairus probably doesn’t know the woman has been battling bleeding, and everything that came with it like being an outcast, for twelve years. Jairus only sees Jesus heal her, perhaps instead of his daughter. Any situations from your own life come to mind? You witness someone else experience Jesus’ healing touch and you can’t celebrate that because you think, understandably so, you are forgotten by Jesus.
But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” –Luke 8:50
The fear is real. Jesus knows what Jairus is wrestling with in his soul. Jairus’ daughter is dead. How often when a crisis hits do we look everywhere and nowhere as the crisis continues to envelope us. Jairus is probably entering into shock. Look at what Jesus tells Jairus. “Do not fear. Only believe. She will be well.” How do you think this played out. I can see Jairus getting ready to break down, but Jesus helping Jairus to recalibrate, to refocus on Him…Jesus.
I think of the scene from Good Will Hunting when Sean lovingly confronts Will and enters into his pain. He looks Will in the eye both tenderly and resolutely. Jesus encourages Jairus to believe. To do the one thing Pharisees, his community, are actively trying to prevent.
Going back to our own situations, how often have we wrestled with God over a desperate circumstance where it seems he is not responding? In fact, it seems God is interacting and responding to others around you while you wait and witness. Time goes by. Nothing. Your crisis then intensifies, you pray even more fervently for God to intercede, and God’s response to us is not to fear, to trust in Him. The thing is, you already have trusted in Jesus to the best of your ability. Now how do you respond? Anger? Disillusionment? Cynicism? Gallows humor? As your crisis drags on, and people who know of the crisis, they are ready for the crisis to end. They are tired of walking with you, or don’t want to wrestle with the possibility that God isn’t going to answer prayers the way you all originally prayed. (pause) Perhaps, now you are told to come to terms with your reality. The situation hasn’t changed. You hear comments like, “Well, God would’ve answered by now.” People begin to treat you in a way that’s equal to “bless their heart”. Do you give up?
And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. –Luke 8:51-53
I’m guessing Jairus felt a bit foolish when people laughed at him after Jesus said the little girl is asleep. We probably know the feeling of being laughed at for faith in our darker moments. He, a Pharisee, is hoping against hope, while being mocked for his perhaps infant belief in Jesus, someone his community despises, that his daughter is not dead. And yet, Jairus keeps going with Jesus. What happens? We find out in verse 54 and 55. Jairus’ daughter is brought back from the dead by Jesus.
This passage from Luke, Luke 8:40-56, is often seen as Jesus healing the bleeding woman and the little girl, which is of course true, but I think there is something bigger happening with those miraculous healings. Jesus is saving Jairus. We cannot know for sure if Jairus makes a decision to follow Jesus, but I believe Jesus is using everything that takes place in this passage to help Jairus see who He, Jesus, truly is. Incidentally, Jairus name means “Jehovah enlightens”.
Jesus and Jairus set out for Jairus’ home. Of course, their intended paths to get there are radically different. Like many of us would in that circumstance, we think in a logical, straight line that gets us to our destination as quickly as possible and solves the problem instantly. Jesus’ path for us, and the timing of walking that path, stands in stark contrast with our expectations of the path and destination.
- Joseph spent over twenty years as a slave and prisoner before leading Egypt.
- Moses was in hiding for forty years before returning to Egypt.
- Israel was in the wilderness for forty years before entering in the Promise Land.
- David lived on the run from Saul after being anointed king of Israel.
In each of those situations, Jesus could have given them what they wanted in the initial moment they wanted it. However, it would have been to their detriment, and the detriment of those around them.
What I said earlier is true. Jesus is playing chess with us while we are playing checkers when we come to him. No offense to all you checkers aficionados, but to the average person the game of checkers is simplistic when compared to chess. Checkers is an “in the moment” game, with similar pieces and moves. It is considered a “solved” game. What I mean by “solved” is if you were to play the Chinook computer at the game of checkers, your best hope is a draw. One mistake, and you will likely lose to the computer. Chess, however, is a more complex game with different pieces, that have different moves, all simultaneously interacting with each other. There are nearly an infinite amount of possible chess games one can play. In fact, the number is 10^120. That is the number one, followed by 120 zeroes. By comparison, the number of stars in our observable universe is, on the high end estimates, 10^29, which is over 90 zeroes less. (I can’t find the source anymore for this high end estimate of 10^29, but a common estimate is 10^24.)
So, why all the talk about checkers and chess? Because of the varying complexities of each game, and comparatively the varying approaches to life and faith we have and Jesus has. As followers of Jesus, we are aware there is a sprawling battle going on behind the scenes. Think of the wager between Satan and God that opens the Book of Job. What subsequently happens to Job, and the stakes involved with Job’s response to calamity. To our knowledge, while Job is enduring and suffering God never makes him aware of the bet he has placed with Satan. As people who are far removed from a particular situation we can easily see the endgame God was playing. But did Job grasp of the eternal significance of his pain and suffering in the moment?
The world we live in is a complex system. I think we can assume that none of us has solved the game of life. Life has depths and intricacies that are subatomic. We mentally know this, but still we live our lives, and practice our faith, like we are playing checkers. In the moment, with no real plan or consideration of something bigger going on. We know God is interested in our spiritual formation, and He will use people and circumstances that seem antithetical to who He is to bring this about in us. We see this in an extreme example with Joseph and being allowed to endure family dysfunction, betrayal, slavery, and false imprisonment to prepare him to lead. And Joseph sees the hand of God with him throughout this time. However, Joseph didn’t say to his brothers what you intended for evil God meant for good as he was sold into slavery. It was over two decades later, with the benefit of hindsight, experience, and of course communion with God.
We do not know Jairus’ life after his encounter with Jesus. In the moment, Jairus is grateful for Jesus bringing back his daughter from the dead. At some point, though, I’m guess Jairus considers the path Jesus led him on. With all the accusations being hurled at Jesus, by Jairus fellow Pharisees, Jairus would have a tangible, first hand testimony, of Jesus’ being the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. Remember the opening of Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus reads about himself that Pharisees and people tried to kill Jesus over.
We, as followers of Jesus, should know all about the complexity of life and faith, and yet when a crisis hits instead of being mindful of something bigger at stake we revert to responding like a checkers player. This isn’t always wrong, and to a degree it is understandable. A crisis hits, like with Jairus’ daughter, and we want healing. An opportunity arises for escape from unspeakable pain, like with the bleeding woman. We come to Jesus with simplistic moves that are reactionary. It’s not that we shouldn’t act when crisis hits, we absolutely should, but we have to remember something bigger is at play than our own immediate crisis. Especially when our crisis goes on, and on, and on. We need to lock eyes with Jesus. We need to focus in on Jesus. We need to believe in Jesus. We need to trust Jesus.
In what sounds like a Christian cliche that should be on a t-shirt, God is the ultimate chess grandmaster. There is a stereotype with chess grandmasters they can think up to fifteen moves in advance. The narrative is great, especially if you are a grandmaster, but the truth is even more sublime. What separates a grandmaster from a novice is considering the play from their opponent’s perspective. Once a game develops, the grandmaster can see the endgame develop faster than their opponent, and a grandmaster will steer the play until it results in checkmate. I mentioned earlier the nearly infinite amount of chess games possible. 10^120. It dwarfs the amount of observable stars in our universe. Now, consider all the possibilities in our lives, and the effects of those possibilities as they interact with the possibilities of everyone and everything in this world. God being who He is can not only see the endgame of everything where He is the victor. He sees the ideal endgame for everyone in this world, how best it can influence everyone else’s endgame for the better, and God steers everyone’s game of life to His and everyone else’s advantage. (Romans 8:28, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4)
So, can we trust Jesus? Throughout the Bible, we see God lead his people into and/or through difficult circumstances for their formation and the betterment of their community.
- The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. (Luke 4:1-13)
- David writes about God being with us in the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23)
- Jesus surrendering His will to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Mark 14:32-42)
God allows us to experience crisis for a variety of reasons.In Jairus’ darkest moment, Jesus asks him to believe. In your moment of desperation, are you willing to believe Jesus has not only your best interests, but the best interests of others, in mind? Can you wait twelve years, like the bleeding woman, for God to answer your prayers? Can you trust God while you wait for your prayer to be answered that something better is to come because of your waiting? With the bleeding woman, her twelve year wait for healing was witnessed by Jairus, and as we have done here we can only speculate the impact it had Jairus. What is the good that has come in your life through prayers that weren’t answered right away? Can you trust God even if you never enter into your own version of the “Promise Land” on this side of Heaven like Moses experienced? What does this mean for you as you minister to a Jairus in your own life? What is your crisis you need to trust God with today?
- Reflect on some of these questions. How do they apply to your life?
- Pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. Think about the crisis you have faced. Think about the longings you have prayed to God. Where are you with God? For some of you, if I may be bold, allow God into your pain.
- Pray with someone else. Whether it’s about healing, redemption, restoration, God using our past to encourage someone, for God’s glory, whatever it may be let’s pray for each other. If there is someone you feel more comfortable praying with that isn’t near you, that’s fine. Go get them, and pray.
- Trust Jesus. “Do not fear. Only believe. And all will be well.”