A Tale of Two Daughters (Luke 8:40-56)
Luke refers to women more than any other gospel (7:36-8:3) > Parables regarding responding to God’s Word (8:4-18) > Responding to miracles (8:19-39). Notice the contrast between 8:39 and 8:56.
Read Luke 8:40-56.
Two Tales of Desperation (40-43)
Jairus would’ve arranged the service and chosen who participated in the Scripture readings and prayer. Seeing this man of high repute bowing before Jesus would have been significant. It’s even more remarkable if he was the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum, where Jesus’ previous visit was controversial. They were probably not on good terms. If speaks to the desperate situation he was in.
The woman had been afflicted with “a flow of blood” (hemorrhage) as long as Jairus’s daughter had been alive. Lev. 15:25 declares her unclean and unable to engage in most social and religious gatherings (Lev. 15:31).
The fact that Jesus tenderly calls her “daughter” (the only woman he ever calls that) may suggest that she was younger. It’s possible that she had been dealing with this since she was an early teen. When all of her friends were getting married, she was unclean and isolated.
The Talmud recommends some pretty ridiculous remedies for someone in her circumstances:
Take of the gum of Alexandria the weight of a small silver coin; of alum the same; of crocus the same. Let them be bruised together, and given in wine to the woman that has an issue of blood. If this does not benefit take of Persian onions three pints; boil them in wine, and give her to drink, and say ‘Arise from thy flux.’ If this does not cure her, set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her right hand, and let some one come behind and frighten her, and say, ‘Arise from thy flux.’
In addition to those remedies, she spent everything on physicians to no avail. This is telling coming from Dr. Luke (Col. 4:14).
Jesus Heals a Bleeding Daughter (44-48)
Desperate for relief, she abandons rabbinical law, and stealthily makes her way to the center of the crowd. Immediately upon touching the fringe of Jesus’s robe her bleeding stopped.
Jesus asked who touched him. Although Peter was confused by the question, the woman comes bowing down and trembling. She humbly confesses why she touched Jesus and testifies how she was immediately healed. Jesus commends her faith, and sends her off in peace.
By asking her to identify herself, Jesus is both gracious and shepherding. He gives her an opportunity to come out of the shadows and allows her to be recognized as publicly clean. Her faith was mixed with ignorance (keep it private) and selfish motives (risking contamination of others), but “Christ honored her fledgling faith” (Hughes). Isn’t that how we all begin? All of us need theological training, but God meets us where we are and moves us forward in degrees.
Jesus Heals a Dead Daughter (49-56)
In the midst of this conversation, Jairus is informed of his daughter’s death. Jesus assures him that his daughter will be healed if he believes. He entered the home with his closest disciples and the girl’s parents, telling the crowd of relatives, friends, neighbors, flute players (Matt. 9:23), and professional mourners that she is only sleeping, but they laughed. He took her hand saying, “Child, arise.” She immediately got up and Jesus told them to feed her. Her parents were stunned, but Jesus told them not to tell others.
Why would he tell the demoniac in the previous passage to tell everyone about all Jesus had done for him (39), but Jairus and his wife were to tell no one? Gentile regions were less likely to spoil his Messianic secret.
Once again we see Jesus’s power and compassion. On his way to heal a synagogue ruler’s daughter, he heals a woman who didn’t even feel worthy enough to ask. Jesus did not show favoritism. If anything, he gave those in positions of power less attention (although that likely had more to do with their lack of interest than his refusal to help).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke fix these two episodes together. Both women represent uncleanness. But Jesus ignores first century taboos, defying ceremonial laws that would’ve declared him unclean for being touched by the woman and taking hold of a corpse. He first comes to share in their pollution, and then proceeds to rescue them out of it.
Luke also emphasizes the faith of Jairus and the woman, both remain nameless (universalizing their situations). We are all born in circumstances like them. We are inflicted with sin and we have no way of escaping the fatal diagnosis sin brings. We could legitimately and justifiably die at any moment. You could get food poisoning tonight (maybe one of the salads missed the recall…).
I’m not suggesting everyone should avoid the salad tonight. In fact, the salad is not what will ultimately determine your fate. Your sin has already decided that for you. You were born spiritually dead. You were born in a spiritual state much like Jairus’s daughter. Like the bleeding woman, you could spend your life’s worth on every supposed remedy and never recover.
We all attempt various methods of healing. Maybe we try to liberate ourselves from the oppressive worldview of our parents. Maybe we think we can discover some new insight by reading and learning about everything we possibly can. We fear missing out so we cover our bases. Maybe we simply try really, really hard to be a better person. Alternatives to Christianity boil down to those three pursuits: self-liberation, self-knowledge, or self-effort. All of them are the opposite of the grace offered in the gospel.
Ultimately, like all of the woman’s physicians, our various approaches fail. In every case we’re actually worse off. We need Christ. Only Jesus can bring the healing you need. The touch of his robe is enough to heal us completely.
Do whatever it takes to get to Jesus. Make him your single priority. Knowing Jesus is your primary aim. Don’t waste another cent on false remedies. No one else lives up to their claim. Do whatever it takes to come to the feet of Jesus. Give everything to him.
“Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love, and power. He is able. He is able. He is willing doubt no more.”