It is true that he also sometimes spoke words of condemnation, but these were seldom spoken to the common man or woman. The great majority of his words of reprimand were spoken to those men who held themselves up as the leaders of their religion—those who had a self-righteous attitude and considered others as less “holy” than themselves.
To the person in the street however, Jesus expressed compassion. To him they were “like sheep without a shepherd.” People came to him to be healed of their infirmities and diseases, and to be fed in their hunger. They saw Jesus as someone who understood their needs and who was willing to help them. In addition to that, he was someone who could help them and did help them.
Up until his very last week on the earth, people most often saw Jesus as one who could save them from present distresses. They may not have understood all the implications of what Jesus was beginning to teach them, but they were happy to follow him.
Except for the opinion that the religious leaders had of Jesus, he was not really a controversial figure. People may have wondered about him and they may not have comprehended all that Jesus was saying, but they saw him as someone who would help them.
Even a few of the religious leaders of the day saw him in this way. There was Nicodemus, who was one of the premier teachers of the religious law of that day and who came to Jesus by night so that he could speak to Jesus undetected. There was also Joseph of Aramathia, who especially showed his devotion to Jesus in the days of his crucifixion.
And then there was Jairus. Jairus was a synagogue official. Although we do not know for certain all that his responsibilities entailed, the fact that he was associated with the synagogue demonstrated his connection with the religious leaders of the day.
But Jairus was in a bad situation. His little daughter was sick, in fact, she was extremely sick—even at the point of death. This is what Jairus told Jesus when he came to him. Jairus fell at the feet of Jesus. “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live,” he implored him.
Without discussion, Jesus started back with Jairus.
As I said, at this time in his ministry, Jesus had a very great following. As the two men started back to the house of Jairus, many people followed along, so many in fact that it became difficult to walk. What was more, it seemed that people were not content merely to follow, but they wanted to get as close to Jesus as they could. They were pressing in on him from all sides.
The Woman with the Hemorrhage
There was one particular woman in that crowd who was there with a special mission. She had suffered from a continual hemorrhage for an astounding twelve years. We do not know the nature of this hemorrhage, only that it was the result of a disease. Her condition had exacted a tremendous toll upon her, not only in her body, but also financially. She had spent all of her money on physicians, trying to find a cure. It had not helped. In fact, her condition not only had not improved, but it had gotten worse.
Then someone told her that Jesus was walking nearby and was on his way to the house of Jairus. She had heard about Jesus and thought to herself, “If I can manage to touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
I sometimes have wondered how this thought entered her mind. What would have caused her to believe that touching the garments of Jesus would cure her of her condition? It was true that Jesus had healed many by his touch, but these were to people who had come to ask him for healing or whom he had selected to heal. But this woman’s thought was different. She was going to seek healing by stealth, as it were. She was going to try to be healed and remain undetected.
But there was a difficulty in this. It was not a simple matter of coming up to Jesus from behind and touching him, for there was a throng of people around him as he walked along. To the woman in her weakened condition, these represented great obstacles to her purpose. The people in the crowd were pushing against one another as jostling for position. All wanted to be near to Jesus. All had their own purposes.
But none had a purpose greater than that of the woman. Despite her weakness, in her determination and desperation, she maneuvered and fought her way in the direction of Jesus. At last she was near. She could not get right next to him, but she slipped her arm in between two men and managed to just touch Jesus’ garment.
With that touch, astounding things happened. First of all, her hemorrhage, which must have been constant, immediately stopped. The woman experienced an instantaneous healing in her body.
Secondly, Jesus also immediately stopped. He had been walking along with Jairus and the thong of the multitude when he abruptly came to a halt.
“Who touched my garments?” he asked.
To the disciples, the question was almost ridiculous. “Master,” they responded, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and you say, ‘who touched me?’”
But they did not know the manner of touch that Jesus was talking about. He was not talking about an accidental touch, but a touch of faith. Jesus was talking about someone who reached out not to touch someone famous so that they could tell their friends that they touched Jesus, but someone who reached out in desperation, someone who knew Jesus was their last and only hope. He was talking about someone who reached out in search of the power of God. That was the power that Jesus felt go out from him.
When the woman realized that she had not remained undetected, she again approached Jesus and fell down before him. Trembling in fear, she told Jesus her entire story and how she was healed.
Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free of your affliction.”
Our Own Reach of Touch
I would like to just take a moment to talk about our own manner of reaching out to Jesus. What your motivation in reaching out to Jesus? I am sure that many who were in that crowd on that day were only there because it seemed like the popular thing to do at the moment. I am sure that there were also people in the crowd who were there simply because Jesus was a person of some distinction – and who does not want to be associated with someone like that?
I am certain that there were also people who were seeking answers—those men and women who were unconvinced that the teachings of the Pharisees were complete or were even misleading. There was something about the words Jesus that struck a chord of truth with these people, and they wanted to learn more.
But besides Jairus himself, there was only one in that crowd who was truly desperate. There was only one who knew that Jesus was her only hope of ebbing the flow of life from her body. There was only one in the crowd who, with a hand of faith, reached out and touched Jesus.
So the question is, when you reach out to touch Jesus, what is the motivation of your touch? Many of the people in the crowd on that day perhaps were there because it seemed everyone was doing it—it was the popular thing to do. I frankly doubt that this might be the reason that people follow Jesus today.
No one today in the United States becomes a Christian because they think that it will make them more popular. It may have one time been true in our society, but it is no longer the case. It is increasingly unpopular in our society to be a Christian. Even by your act of coming to church this morning, you demonstrate that you do not care a great deal of what the larger society thinks of you.
If that is not the reason, what is it? Do you reach out to touch Jesus because you have some unsettling questions in your life that you think that only he can answer? If so, I think that this is a noble reason. Any who are spiritually honest with themselves, as well as intellectually honest, must do this. If we are seeking answers in our lives, our search cannot be complete without studying and internalizing the teachings of Jesus. It is not only an intellectual search; it is also spiritual. There are answers that only Jesus can provide.
But how many of us reach out in desperation to touch Jesus? How many of us have come to the point where we see that there is absolutely no life without Jesus?
Oh…it may be that we are able to struggle along in life for a while, but all the time the very essence of our life is flowing out of us and we have no way to stop it. We have tried many methods and may at times even seen this flow diminished somewhat. This gave us a little hope, but then one morning we woke up to see our life force again flowing from us.
How many of us have ever reached the point of desperation that the woman in the crowd had? There are many ways to touch Jesus, but when we are in a difficult situation and until we have the touch of desperation, our life will continue to diminish. Life will flow out of us.
We need the healing power of Jesus to come into us. This may mean healing of a physical nature, it may be in an emotional or spiritual nature, or it may be in a relationship, but without Jesus, we can only apply band-aids to our ailment. Even if we can hide the flow for a time, without a touch from Jesus, it will continue.
As it turned out at that time on the road with Jesus, for the daughter of Jairus, all life had left her. As Jesus spoke to the woman who had been healed of her hemorrhage, some people came from the house of Jairus to tell him what had happened. “Your daughter is dead,” they told him. “Why trouble the Teacher further?” they reasoned.
Jesus must not have been standing right with Jairus at this time, but he overheard the conversation. He simply said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”
At this point, Jesus did not allow the crowd to continue with them. Only Peter, James and John continued down the road with Jesus and Jairus as they went to where the little girl had died.
When they arrived at the house, they were met with a “great commotion,” as the text puts it. Family and friends were there, weeping and wailing loudly. The little girl had died, and only twelve years old!
When Jesus entered the house, he said to all of these people, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
It is interesting that Jesus used this term “sleeping.” Usually when this story is explained, it is said that Jesus raised this little girl from the dead—that she had indeed died. It is true that the word sleeping is very often used in Scripture as a euphemism for death. However, at this time, Jesus said that she was not dead, only sleeping.
I do not know what Jesus meant by that. Since he clearly said that she was not dead, it may be that the girl had fallen into some sort of coma. However, she must not have had a detectible pulse and was not breathing. To the people who were attending her, she was dead, and in fact, we do not know the actual situation. She also very well may have been indeed dead.
When the people around the little girl heard Jesus say that she was not dead but only sleeping, they just laughed. This was not a laughter of hilarity, but one of disbelief—even a laughter of fear. Remember that Jesus had told Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”
Jesus put these people out of the room. He went into the room where the child was lying, taking only her father and mother with him, besides the three disciples. When they were alone with the girl, he took her by the hand. He gave to her his touch.
He said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which is Aramaic. This is probably the language most commonly spoken by Jesus. It means, “Little girl, arise.”
At the very moment, that is what the little girl did. She rose to her feet and began to walk around. Whether she actually had been dead or just in some sort of coma, the people present were all amazed to see her now alive and walking.
Fear and Belief
Jairus had initially gone to get Jesus to come to his house so that his little girl would be saved. He believed in Jesus. He believed that Jesus could heal his daughter.
But then on the road as they were going to his house and when he received the report of his young daughter’s death, fear gripped him. The old fear returned to him.
“Do not fear,” Jesus told him. “Only believe.”
When the woman with the hemorrhage realized that her action in reaching out to touch the cloak of Jesus had been not gone undetected, she approached him “trembling in fear.”
Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.”
Both of these people were in a hopeless situation, and in their desperation they came to Jesus. In both instances, Jesus told them not to fear, but to have faith—to believe. From both examples we learn that it is our faith that will conquer the fear within.
What is Faith?
The word for faith in the New Testament is the Greek word pistis. When we use the word faith today, we sometimes us it as if we could have faith in something, like having a car that will faithfully start even on the coldest day. But the way that the word is used in the New Testament, faith has a relational aspect to it. That is, faith is always directed to a person, not an object.
Actually, the word has in its origins the idea of a guarantee, as when someone gives you a guarantee that the item he has sold you will live up to his description. He gives you his word, and his word is his guarantee. In this manner, our faith is not in the item itself, but in the person.
If the item does not perform as well as the person said, we do not go to the item itself to voice our complaint, but to the one who gave us the guarantee. If the person was trustworthy, we know that he or she will make it right. That is what it means to have faith in someone.
Jesus told the woman that her faith healed her. She had reached out to touch the cloak of Jesus, but her faith had not been in the cloak. Her faith was in the person of Jesus. The faith that she had expunged any fear in her.
Likewise, Jesus told Jairus to “believe.” This word belief is actually a word that is derived from the word faith. If he would believe, he would not fear, because fear cannot exist in the presence of faith.
Increase Our Faith
It follows then that to live without fear, one must have a strong faith—something about which the disciples once asked Jesus.
“Increase our faith!” they once requested of him.
Hearing such a request, one might expect Jesus to give a step by step set of instructions on how to increase one’s faith, just as they asked. However, what he instead gave the disciples was a set of instructions on how to be a servant. Jesus replied to them in the following way:
Which of you whose servant comes in from plowing or shepherding in the field will say to him, “Come at once and sit down to eat”? Instead, won’t he tell him, “Prepare my meal and dress yourself to serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink”?
Does he thank the servant because he did what he was told?
So you also, when you have done everything commanded of you, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:7-10 BSB)
How does knowing how to be a servant increase our faith? A certain Roman centurion of Jesus’ day could explain it to us. Just as Jairus came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter, the centurion came to Jesus and pleaded with him on behalf of his servant.
“Lord,” the centurion said to him, “my servant lies at home, paralyzed and in terrible agony.”
As Jesus offered this centurion the same as he did to Jairus. “I will go and heal him.”
It was the answer that the centurion gave to the words of Jesus that astounded Jesus and caused him to say, “I tell you truthfully, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith!”
What did the centurion say that caused Jesus to marvel at the Roman soldier’s words and to speak of his great faith? Listen carefully:
Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell one to go, and he goes; and another to come, and he comes. I tell my servant to do something, and he does it.
Do you see it? The Roman centurion understood the meaning of authority. He himself was under the authority of those over him, and if he was given an order by his officer, he had no choice but to carry it out. Likewise, he had soldiers under his own authority—one hundred of them. If he gave one of these men an order, they likewise had no choice but to do it. It was the same for his servant.
The Roman recognized that Jesus possessed all authority. It only took a word of Jesus, and those under him were obligated to respond.
Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! As you have believed, so will it be done for you.” (Matthew 8:5-13).
How to Increase Your Faith
Perhaps you have heard sermons or have read books on how to increase your faith. Probably you have heard someone say that “You gotta have faith!” as if faith was something that we learn to produce within ourselves.
I will not say that there are not some additional lessons that we can learn about increasing our faith, but in reality, faith is not something that comes from us at all. The Apostle Paul tells us this. Faith is a gift that is given to us by God:
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
If we would understand the concept of authority and learn as Jesus tried to teach the disciples how to be a servant of the Most High, we would have great faith like that of the Roman centurion.
The Desperation of Faith
To make us come to that point of understanding, it sometimes requires us to come to a point of desperation. It did for the woman with the hemorrhage and it did for Jairus. The woman had tried doctor after doctor before she came in desperation to Jesus. We do not know what other methods that Jairus had tried to help his daughter, but most certainly he had reached the point of desperation.
These two people had to experience fear before they understood faith. They had to come to realize that there was no earthly power that could relieve them of their present situation. They had to come to recognize, as did the Roman centurion, that all authority rested only with Jesus.
I think that there have been relatively few people in our own experience who have actually ever been desperate. There is always something more on earth to try—some government program to help us in our need, some other doctor, some soup kitchen. It is only when all other sources of help have been depleted that we come to learn faith, a faith that comes not from our own efforts, but which comes from God. It is a gift of God to those who recognize His authority and who have learned that they are but servants, doing only that which servants should do.
The Desperation of Covid-19
Among all the negative things that people are saying about our present-day coronavirus pandemic, perhaps one of the most negative things can also be one of the most positive—it is bringing some to the point of desperation. I do not mean to consider lightly the difficulties that it is bringing to many, but I only mean to say that all the powers of earth have so far been able to do very little to bring health to our world.
It is a desperate situation. In our desperation and in the midst of the crowd, we must reach out and touch Jesus. In our desperation, we will find faith.