My name is Jairus and now I know what it means to be utterly powerless and what it means to be touched by divine mercy. It was the day my household was in deep crisis because my daughter lay on her deathbed at the tender age of twelve. We needed a miracle and our prayers seemed to die with our hope. How could a man like me, an influential man in town, be reduced to such feeble despair? My desperation pushed me to seek out the miracle worker, Jesus of Nazareth. I had heard he was arriving by boat from the region of the Gerasenes. What possessed him to go to that out-of-the-way place I don’t know, but all I knew at the time was that I must go directly to him. He was my daughter’s only hope – my only hope! Surely he would pay attention to a man like me?
I picked my way through the large crowd to where the boats had landed. The crowd was full of all kinds of people. How can I describe what I saw? A hotbed of humanity closing around one man – the atmosphere was one of great need, anticipation and unashamed awe. As one of the synagogue officials, I was able to make my way to the centre of the crowd by pulling rank. When I came face to face with this man, Jesus, I was overcome with the urgency of my plight. I fell at his feet, at which time my carefully worded speech came out as common begging, “My little girl – my daughter is dying, even as we speak! Please come and heal her! Put your hands on her so that she may be saved!”yI cannot begin to tell you the relief I felt when he agreed to go with me.
Imagine then, my horror when Jesus stopped. He questioned those around him, “Who touched my clothes?”hHis disciples were incredulous, “Look at all these people pressing against you, yet you want to narrow it down to one?”oBut Jesus would not let it go, scanning the crowd to see if anyone would confess. I watched in silence as a woman came forward. I could hardly bear the interruption—thinking only of my daughter—but it was out of my hands. At once the woman fell on her knees before Jesus. Overcome with fear, she told her whole story. She had suffered twelve years, during which time she had constant bleeding. People would not sit where she had sat and she was too unclean even for the temple. Oh, there had been many doctors, but they had left her without cure and without comfort and without the healing she needed. Instead of getting better her condition had grown worse, leaving her destitute; she was shunned and alone in her own community. It struck me that hers was a life with no rest, no dignity and no control, even over her own body! And yet Jesus paid her attention! She explained that when she had heard about him, to her mind there was really only one course of action. She determined to get close enough to reach out and touch him without his knowledge. She figured that “Surely he wouldn’t pay attention to a woman like me?”aSo she came up behind him and touched his clothes thinking, “Even if I touch his cloak and no more, that will be enough to heal me.”vShe knew immediately that her bleeding had stopped and felt the tremendous burden of her suffering being lifted right off her. Jesus said to her, validating her story and completing her healing, “My daughter, I see your faith has healed you. Leave this suffering behind you –yyou are free to find your place in the world and your rest within it.”
While Jesus was still sending the woman on her way, some of my servants came from my house. They announced the words that I dreaded, “Your daughter is dead. Come away with us, the teacher isn’t needed any longer.” But Jesus would not let it go, instead he turned to me and said, “Fear need not rule over you; allow faith to count for something.”
Jesus made sure only a small group came with us –ehis disciples Peter, James and his brother John. When we approached my home we found the whole household in great distress. Even the servants were pouring out their hearts for the loss of my girl. It was a song of grief so mournful and shrill that it broke my heart. Jesus, however, went inside and said to everyone, “Why do you grieve like this? Death does not win here! The child will wake as if from a deep slumber.”aBut they laughed, taking him for a fool.
Jesus cleared the room except for my wife and I, and the three disciples who were with him. We went into the room where the child lay. We watched as he took her hand then said, “Talitha koum!” They were such simple everyday words, but would soon be repeated on animated lips throughout the entire region because of the extraordinary story that accompanied them. For immediately after Jesus spoke these words their meaning became reality: “Up you get my little one!”pSure enough my little girl rose from her bed and began to walk around. We were all completely dumbfounded and deeply moved. Through the warmth of tears I heard Jesus remind us to feed her. Also, I recall that he was very precise about wanting to keep the miracle quiet. I am often reminded of the merciful gift of God: my precious child is restored to me.
It wasn’t until some time later I heard first-hand the story of what had happened across the lake. A man travelling the Ten Cities visited our synagogue with an account of Jesus, his own healing and the mercy of God. He explained that he was from the region of the Gerasenes and upon further questioning we found that Jesus had come to us on that same day. We listened to his incredible story:
“I was an outcast among the tombs and caves of the dead. I was possessed and enslaved by many spirits and demonic powers. They gave me great physical strength so that no chain could hold me down and no one could tie me up. I had often been shackled hand and foot, but I broke every chain. Night and day I made my dwelling in the burial grounds and was also driven into the mountains. Racked with self-destructive pain I continually bellowed like a beast and cut myself with sharp stones. I was uncontrollable and I could not be contained, yet I was powerless and imprisoned.
Then I saw him. One day, from my hidden lookout, I studied a small party arriving in their boats. I could tell at once who their leader was. Suddenly I was propelled to this man and I ran helter-skelter towards him and dropped to my knees right in his path. Immediately he said to the spirits in me, “Get out of this man you evil spirit!”eA voice came out of me shrieking. “What business do you have here Jesus?”hthe spirits demanded. ‘Will the Son of His Majesty, Prince of Peace, bend his will so that we are not tortured like this?!’ they mocked.
Then Jesus, as if to end the duel, simply asked, ‘What is your name?’
‘My name is Legion,’ they conceded, ‘for we are the ruling majority in this one.’
I pleaded with Jesus not to send them away. Over and over I begged. Then, sensing defeat, the evil spirits in me begged Jesus too, ‘Command us to go into those pigs on that hillside –iallow us to rule over them.’ At Jesus’Atword the demons left me. They went into the large herd of pigs nearby. Once the evil spirits seized them, the entire herd, about two thousand in all, stampeded over the edge of a steep bank and splashed into the lake where they were drowned.
When I came to my senses I was given clothes to wear. Jesus and his followers sat with me. Then a crowd of people arrived. It turns out those in charge of the herd of pigs had gone back to the nearby town and reported what they had seen. The villagers had come out to see for themselves. When they approached Jesus and recognised me as “the man from the dead”hthey could not hide their fear. Then several eyewitnesses took turns telling the story of what had happened to me, finishing with the loss of the pigs. At this point, the people began to voice their fears, pleading for as much distance as possible between them and this man Jesus. Respecting their wishes, Jesus set about organising his followers for departure. But how could I let him go after all he had done for me? When he was climbing aboard I asked insistently to go with him. He did not permit me but said, ‘Go, be reunited with your family and tell them the extent of what the Lord has done for you. Spare no detail, for you are living proof of the holy kindness shown here today.’
The man concluded his story saying, “So now I want to tell all Israel how much Jesus did for me –oI was ‘from the dead’ but now I’m very much alive and fully restored. I was exiled but now I have been returned to my own people. Everywhere I go people are amazed – not at me, but at Jesus and the true power of his word!”
I, Jairus, also, marvelled at his story and I had special reason to be in awe of the absolute authority of Jesus’e word. Another story reached our ears, however, that some opposed Jesus and his deeds. A man had been in Jesus’e hometown of Nazareth. Later I discovered that this was just a few days after Jesus had raised my daughter from the dead. He told us what had happened there:
“Jesus, and those who were with him had been in Nazareth several days. When the Day of Sabbath Rest came he taught in the synagogue and I went along to listen. At first many of us gathered there were impressed with what we heard. However, it was not long before there were murmurs among the crowd. I caught some of these remarks. People were asking, “How can this man speak such words –owho has trained him?”hand “By what trickery has he learnt to perform any miracle? Who is he to have such a gift? He’s should stick to his carpentry.” Emboldened by their own words, some even began to stir up the crowd. They insulted him and openly cast doubt upon his lineage by saying, “Isn’t this Mary’s boy? – I mean we’re not even sure who the father is! He is no more than the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon and his sisters here with us.”e
I expected his extended family, of all people, would have received him like a champion, but instead they let their resentments build into defiant opposition. Well, needless to say, there are not many miracles to report. I saw a few sick people healed when he touched them, but that was about all. It seemed to me, Jesus had been certain that faith would show itself there in some way. The result of his misplaced confidence in these people showed all over his face.
I tell you this story so you will know what Jesus said to them and consider its meaning along with me.
He told them this parable:
‘A house is with its peopleIts people make a villageAnd the village is woven together –
But how can its prophet rebuild the whole place
When God’s word is not recognised as his own?’”