Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:18a “While he spake these things unto them, behold,. . .”
Teaching is an activity which calls for rules of decorum. Jesus was speaking, and people were quietly listening, when “behold,” propriety was interrupted by an emergency. In mid-sentence, Jesus was called from Matthew’s house of celebration to a chamber of affliction, from a banqueting table to a deathbed.
Gladness and sadness are never far apart in this world. A very thin wall separates them. One day all is bright; the next day shadows flicker. Yesterday we planned a wedding; today a funeral. Tomorrow we go to a health spa; next week to the hospital. Our human condition is ever in flux. We forget this to our peril.
Many live under the illusion if we try hard enough we can find in this life unending happiness. Many still try to fly with Dorothy and Toto to Oz somewhere over the rainbow. Ironically, pursuing this imaginary, nonexistent utopia of unbroken bliss actually results in making life a constant disappointment and failure.
Even our Master found both happiness and grief intertwined in the fiber of His life. We too should plan to see plenty of both. Be neither morbid nor pollyannaish. Embrace every moment of happiness, but live expecting to see troubles.
Matt. 9:18b “. . .there came a certain ruler, and worshiped him,. . .”
Mark (5:22) tells us this man was named Jairus and he served as chief elder, the synagogue’s highest ranking office. The chief elder presided over business meetings, and oversaw the details of worship, administration, and maintenance.
Chief elder was an elected position. Thus, Jairus was very popular in the community, plus extremely influential and highly respected among his peers.
A chief elder kneeling before Jesus would have created a stir. The religious leader’s expression of profound respect for Jesus was a sight Matthew never forgot. As he years later took pen in hand to write, the memory came rushing back.
By coming to Jesus for help, Jairus risked everything. Anyone elected can be unelected, and the tide of public opinion among the religious establishment was turning against Jesus. The lines were being clearly drawn. Jairus’ action would have infuriated his peers. What drove a chief elder to this level of desperation?
Matt. 9:18c “. . .saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy
hand upon her, and she shall live.”
Jairus was a chief elder and a father. Luke (8:42) says this was Jairus’ only daughter, and she was twelve years old. Not until a little later did official word come of the girl’s death. But as Jairus rushed from her room, death throes were so intense on her that he knew the inevitable outcome. As a chief elder, he had often sat by sickbeds and heard the death rattles. He knew in his heart what had happened back home while he was running to Jesus for help. His little girl, whose life was dearer to him than his own, had died. The sunshine of his life had been eclipsed by a shadow. Twelve years of playfulness had plunged into anguish.
Now, in our mind’s eye, let us view a chief elder lying on the ground before Jesus. By his kneeling and pleading, this chief elder teaches us several lessons.
First, help comes from Jesus only after He is honored. In Jairus, affliction threw pride down and lifted humility up. Spiritual success is always rooted in lowliness. Jesus helps only those who humbly yield their lives to Him in absolute allegiance. We do not bargain or haggle with Jesus, we surrender to Him totally.
Second, don’t waste your troubles. Jairus let his predicament send him to Jesus. When pain grows tortuous, our minds begin to think there must somewhere be a power strong enough to relieve our hurt. This mental reflex is a mechanism from God, and is given for the express purpose of making us look to Him for help.
Whatever the trauma, never despair. Every tragedy can bring us closer to Jesus, and anything that can lure us toward Christ must have good in it somewhere. Perceived need is essential to stimulating a hunger for God, and troubles can spawn this needed perception. We would all agree, it’s best to come to Jesus with pure motives. But impure, selfish ones are acceptable in an emergency.
Third, urgency aids our prayers. Jairus was heard because he was desperate. He did not wait for Jesus to finish His lesson, but instead interrupted the Master Teacher. Why should God be overly excited about prayers that bore us? Jesus won’t be stirred by prayers that don’t stir us. Sleepy prayers will not awaken God.
At the height of the depression, Grandpa Marshall, having about ten children at home, needed money to tide his family over till harvest. He asked the wealthiest man in the county for a loan. When the rich man laughed, Grandpa grabbed him, and threatened, “If any of my children starve, I will hunt you like a squirrel.” The man replied, “You mean that, don’t you, Edward?” Desperation got the loan. Let the agony of our heart spill heavenward. “Sorrow has its privileges” (Glover).
Fourth, pray for your children. A daughter made Jairus a prayer warrior. Children are among God’s most precious gifts. Their honoring of Mom and Dad brings dignity to parents, and a child’s gladness cheers parents. But we also have to acknowledge, the greater the happiness something brings, the greater possibility it carries for sorrow. As Barbara Johnson says, God put the human heart in a very safe place. It is protected by the breast bone and can be covered by folded arms. The decision to have children results in removing our heart from this protected place and letting it walk freely about, where it gets hurt easily and often. Let our children’s pains drive us to our knees. Don’t let their troubles be wasted. Pray. Satan wants to destroy our children. If he ever does get to our children, make sure he had to trample on our prayers and knock us over while we were on our knees.
Fifth, Jairus realized Jesus was more than a teacher. Christ is by far the greatest teacher ever, plus much much more. While walking among us, Jesus could rarely teach in long stretches at one time. Knowledge and information were not the only blessings He came to bring. He also brought other benefits people badgered Him for. Jesus is never a teacher only; He is also Healer, Helper, Savior, Friend. Christianity primarily is not philosophy, but a personal, intimate relationship with the loving, living God of the Universe, who wants to bless His people.
Sixth, Jairus believed Jesus could help. Do you? Jairus lived at Capernaum, the very place where Jesus healed every sick person in town one night (MT 8:16). Jairus knew all about Jesus’ miracles. The chief elder was convinced, let Jesus just touch my daughter, and whatever is wrong–even if it be death–will become right. Post mortem medicine is an absurdity for all other physicians, but Jesus never arrived too late, for He is the resurrection and the life. Life is something we seek to maintain and sustain. To Jesus, life is something He contains, controls, and conveys. “Lay thy hand upon her,” was the plea. It is still a worthy cry. Whoever He touches will be helped. Bring your need. Learn from a chief elder. Don’t waste his troubles. Glean something worthwhile from his distress.