Jesus had been across the Sea of Galilee and healed a demon-possessed man. Now he has returned to Capernaum.
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Luke 8:40
Jairus, the synagogue ruler, also anticipated Jesus’ return. So what was a synagogue ruler? Better yet, exactly what was a synagogue? A church? A temple? There was only one Temple, the one in Jerusalem. That’s where all good Jewish men (and families) traveled for at least three of the important Jewish festivals each year. Only at the Temple did they bring their sacrifices to be offered up by the Temple priests. But back home, in towns and villages, the people met together for worship and teaching sessions in their synagogues, that is, if they had at least ten men in the town.
A synagogue ruler helped take care of the stone building, lined up various rabbis who lived there or came through town to speak or teach, and arranged for local people to assist in the readings and prayers for the times of worship. Most likely, it was a part-time job and seemed to hold an amount of prestige in the community.
My husband and I had the joy of seeing the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum when we visited Israel. In one corner, archeologists had dug down beneath the last synagogue to reveal the foundation of the previous synagogue from Jesus’ day. Always thrilling to see even a small section of anything original.
Jairus had the position of synagogue ruler in Capernaum. Prestigious as this may have been, Jairus had a problem, a big problem. No matter what opinion he had of Jesus and his popularity, Jairus was desperate, so desperate that he came kneeling before Jesus.
…Then one of the synagogue rulers named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Mark 5:22-23
No doubt Jairus had seen Jesus “put hands on and heal” other people. Now he has this need for his young daughter. Luke tells us that the daughter was twelve years old.
So Jesus went with him. Mark 5:24
No questions asked. This man came in humility before Jesus and Jesus responded immediately. However, as Jesus made his way through the press of the crowd, the woman with an issue of blood reached out to touch the hem of his garment. (See previous two blogs.) This delayed Jesus a bit as he took gentle care of this woman’s needs. We see it as an interruption, but Jesus never seemed to see things that way.
Just as Jesus finished his conversation with the woman, some of Jairus’ “friends” came to give a report. I find their brief comments to be callous and revealing.
While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Mark 5:35
There was no “we’re so sorry to bring you this news.” No offering a hand of support. No “let us help you back to your home.” Just “She’s dead,” period. Their greater concern seemed to be that Jairus get away from this man, Jesus. Of course they are more tactful, but do you hear their aloof attitude as they say there is “no need to bother the teacher anymore”?
Jesus turns directly to Jairus, speaking face to face.
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 5:36
We have so many distractions these days. So many doubts. So many fears and concerns. Is Jesus trying to draw our attention back to him. Is he saying to us, “Don’t be afraid; just believe”?
We will explore the rest of the story next week.
~ Joyce ~