Background Text: Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Devotional Text: Luke 7:11-17
Lately, we’ve been looking at the ways God has the power and authority to change the laws of nature — from the prophets in 1 and 2 Kings found in the Old Testament, to Jesus in the New Testament Gospels turning water into wine and commanding a stormy sea to be still.
Today, I am continuing with the Gospels by talking about two instances in the New Testament where Jesus brought someone back to life. This was not resurrection — as in a transformed body with new eternal life — but a reviving, bringing back to life someone who had died.
We start with the son of a widow in the town of Nain. In Luke 7:11-17, we find Jesus and his disciples coming to the town with many people who were following Jesus to see and hear him speak. He had been getting quite a reputation for healing people and for speaking to the crowds about the kingdom of God.
As they walked, a person who had died was being carried out through the town gate. Verse 12 tells us the person who had died was “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” Jesus tells the mother not to cry, and he touches the coffin, saying the words, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” At Jesus’ words, the young man sat up and began to talk.
Jesus did this act of bringing back the son before a large crowd of people who were amazed. Calling him a prophet, the people proclaimed that God had sent Jesus to help them.
They did not yet see him as the Messiah. They had in the Old Testament (the Torah) the stories of the prophets who raised people from the dead. With these remembrances in their holy literature, they began to believe Jesus to be a great prophet like Elijah.
Going on to Mark 5:21-24, 35-43 (also found in Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:49-56), we read the Scripture telling us about the 12-year-old daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus in Capernaum. In this Scripture we find the synagogue leader falling down before Jesus, begging him to heal his dying daughter.
Verse 23 has these words from Jairus to Jesus: “My little daughter is dying. Come and put your hands on her so she will be healed and live.” The next verse tells us Jesus went with him, but as they go, Jairus received word his daughter had died.
In verse 36, Jesus tells Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”
Jesus, along with three of his disciples, go to the house of Jairus where they find many people crying and mourning for the dead girl. Jesus has everyone removed from the house except the child’s mother and father and the three disciples (Peter, James and John).
Taking the child’s hand (verse 41), Jesus said, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Immediately the little girl stood and walked around, alive once more.
After telling her parents to get the child something to eat, he left them with this last request, not to tell anyone what took place.
It’s easy to understand why Jesus would remove the crowd of mourners from the house while he brought the child back to life; there were just too many people crowding into the home. However, when we find Jesus telling the parents not to talk about the miracle of conquering death, we wonder why.
First, we have to remember Jairus was a leader in the local synagogue. He was among the religious group who persecuted Jesus, who looked for a way to end his life. We don’t know if Jairus himself was one of those who were against Jesus. We do know that he knew of the miracles, and in his deep time of need, he sought out Jesus.
We find two important things to think about here. First, Jesus did not want Jairus to speak of the raising of his daughter before his colleagues. Jesus’ ministry was not at the point in which he would face the religious leaders who wished to get rid of him. Therefore, it was not a time in which a religious leader himself should openly declare the work of the Christ.
On that day, because of his belief in the power of Jesus, Jairus’ daughter came back to life. For Jairus and his family, a new life had come into their own lives as they believed and trusted in Jesus. We don’t know any more of this story, but its powerful ending leads us to believe that their lives had been changed forever by the one who saves.
Secondly, the people could see for themselves Jesus’ power over death, as the little girl once again lived. All those mourners, who certainly spread the word about Jesus, led to the increase of those who would follow Jesus. They came to see for themselves or to seek healing from this great man of God who had come into their midst.
In these Scriptures of Jesus raising the dead, we find his great power and authority as our divine God. But not only that. We also see his great compassion for the people. That compassion is the same way Jesus looks at us today.
Just as Jesus saw the widow of Nain left without her sole support, her only son, Jesus looks at our circumstances in life. Jesus continues to care about us and help us.
In the instance of Jairus, a man who worked within the synagogue and was a religious leader himself, in his own time of need we find him turning to the person he believed could help him. As he came to Jesus, his daughter was dying. He believed Jesus could heal her, but did he believe Jesus could raise her from death?
When word came that she had already died, Jesus told Jairus not to be afraid, but to believe. We have seen how that story ended.
Let’s ask ourselves, when circumstances come into our own lives that just seem too much to bear, do we turn from Jesus, believing it is just too much? Do we give up? Does our fear make us lose faith in the one who offers us life?
Jesus came to save us from our sins. He also came to show us God’s love and compassion; God, who is ever-present. Let’s remember that he wants what is best for us, always. Don’t let circumstances allow you to lose your trust in God.
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.