Have you ever wondered what it might have been like to actually walk with Jesus? Like, really walk with Him? To have been one of those twelve, spending time with Him almost constantly. Or to have been even another follower who encountered Him at some point during those three years.
As a charismatic I am tempted of course in one sense to answer that, “we can walk with Jesus!” Which is true. In fact just this morning I found a lovely little verse in John which I’m sure I’ve never read before, which speaks to this effect: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26) This I believe can apply to us all.
But sometimes it is nonetheless tempting to put yourself in the shoes of those who encountered Jesus in those days, and I think sometimes it is very helpful to do so.
I did this once when reading Mark chapter 5, and the story of Jairus. Now until then I had always thought of the Gospels as singular snapshot stories, one after the other, without necessarily much relation other than that they were all events in the life of Jesus and the disciples. Perhaps this is a vestige of childhood readings of picture Bibles which tended to do that with the stories – it’s nothing wrong, but it doesn’t help you get the whole Biblical picture!
So this view of mine has been being broken down, and it was partly precipitated by the realisation that in Mark 5, you have one story spliced into the middle of another. The account of Jairus asking Jesus to heal his little girl frames the story of a woman who had a haemorrhage coming and touching Jesus’ cloak, to be made well.
The passage roughly reads like this:
Jairus, a synagogue ruler, came to Jesus and implored Him to come to his house and to lay hands on his daughter, who was very sick and close to the point of death. So Jesus proceeded to go with him. Enter the woman, who at this moment was just part of the large crowd that was pressing around Jesus. She had had bleeding in her body for twelve years, and all the money, time and effort that has gone into her being made well had been wasted – in fact, she had grown worse! She pushed her way through the people to Jesus. She had heard about Him and all the miracles that went on when He was around, and so by faith she said to herself that if she can just touch the hem of His garment, she should be made well. She managed to touch it and indeed, at that moment she felt the flow of blood in her dry up.
Being a timid woman she did not want to draw Jesus’ attention and began to withdraw in the crowd, perhaps already beginning to be overwhelmed with the emotion of the moment, that twelve years of suffering had come to an end. However, it tells us, Jesus felt power go out of Him at the moment she touched His garment, and so He turned around and said, “Who touched Me?” The disciples were a little perplexed at their strange Teacher, unhelpfully pointing out that there was a huge crowd pressing around Him. But Jesus obviously knew what He was talking about, and in pressing the question He drew the woman out of the crowd. She explained what had happened, and Jesus responded to her in a remarkable and unique way: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go and be healed of your affliction.”
At this point we are suddenly returned to Jairus. Some people came from his house and told him the grievous news: his daughter was dead. “Why trouble the Teacher any more?” they said. Now WHO does that sound like? That little pitchfork-carrying pointy-tailed father of lies trying to have his way again.
Jesus wasn’t going to let that happen so easily! And the good thing is, He had something to say to Jairus: “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Jesus was still good to go ahead. He was still on plan A.
They arrived at Jairus’s house, whereupon Jesus showed decidedly little compassion for the mourners who were creating quite a scene. He astounded them with the words, “She is not dead but sleeping.” When they mocked Him for this obvious delusion and inaccuracy, He put them out, clearing the atmosphere of their unbelieving words, He took Jairus’s daughter by the hand, and with a few words in a tongue, raised her up, and told them to give her something to eat. It then lastly tells us that she was twelve years old.
If we begin to see that these stories might be connected, one immediately interesting connection is that of ‘twelve years’. The woman had had a haemorrhage for twelve years; Jairus’s daughter was twelve years old. A clue, perhaps that there is something to link these two events, even I would suggest as far as the Holy Spirit was concerned on that particular day (not just in the writing of the account).
Back to being in people’s shoes. When I was reading this passage on this particular day when I realised that the two stories were interspersed, I put myself in Jairus’s place. I wondered to myself, where was he while the episode with the woman was taking place?
At the end of the day we can only speculate, but I would suggest that there are several good reasons to believe that he might have been right by Jesus’ side. For one, it seems logical – if it was crowded then for Jairus, who was the one in need, it would have been a priority not to lose Jesus! It might have taken him a while to find Him already, he wouldn’t have wanted to waste any more time. Secondly his need would have kept him close to the one who could save his daughter. Thirdly, it is manifestly evident that when the report came to Jairus, Jesus heard it, probably loud and clear, as He didn’t even seem to need it to be repeated for His hearing, in order to tell Jairus to not be afraid, but to believe. At that moment for certain, Jairus was right next to Jesus.
So it stands to reason that he would have witnessed the entire episode of the woman with the haemorrhage. He might have been anxious to get moving, but of course Jesus knew how to order His priorities aright, and if He was waiting to find out who touched Him, so be it.
The words were still ringing in Jairus’ ears, “…your faith has saved you…” when the bad report came: “Your daughter has died. Why trouble the Teacher any more?” Jesus’ words then, I believe, would have carried much substance: “Only believe.”
Imagine if none of the episode of the woman had taken place. The bad report comes, and Jesus says, “only believe.” How helpful would that be? Perhaps slightly. Vaguely. You would try to believe. But so often we can reach a point where we have a measure of faith but it just isn’t enough, a bit like that guy who said to Jesus, “Lord I believe, but help my unbelief!” So Jesus’ exhortation might sound like a vain attempt to keep going at something that has been lost.
But this was not the case. Jairus had something to found Jesus’ encouragement upon. Only believe…like this woman has just done. It was HER faith that made her well. Jairus was, in the nick of time, built up in his faith and made more sturdy by witnessing first-hand the demonstration of faith in another.
So when the bad report comes, Jesus and Jairus together have a weapon more powerful than the discouragement the enemy seeks to inject. A new measure of faith can come to bolster Jairus. He sees it in Jesus’ eyes – they’re still glinting, keen, and full of hope and encouragement. What God has just done for this woman – who has suffered for twelve years – He can do in like fashion for his twelve-year-old daughter.
I love this! I love this story! It tells me more about Jesus. It tells me about the way the Holy Spirit was able to work in several situations at once, for good. It tells me that God can do it again. It tells me that sometimes, maybe God has put a woman who has been healed of a haemorrhage – or whatever it might be – in my path, and I need to have eyes to see it, and to recognise what God is teaching me, and how I can lay hold of the revelation of the moment.
I believe He wants to provide for each of us in this way. We are all familiar with how discouragement can come from the enemy, to seek to deter us from the path we have set ourselves on with God. What we ought to expect, is that God has put within our armoury – whether a moment before as in this case, or not – the weapons we need to overcome that moment of discouragement. I know that at times in my life when I have encountered challenge, I have looked back over my journal, or have somehow recalled a word or experience from God, which was placed there to feed my faith in the moment of challenge, and to encourage me to rise up and carry on with plan A.
So look out for the things He is doing and saying. As well as keeping yourself fed generally on the good news of the kingdom, something you hear or see might just be that which you need in a coming moment of challenge, to help you overcome. Testimony very often works in this way. It is just worth noting that in particular moments of discouragement, which can be very upsetting and unsettling at times, God is right there with exactly what you need.