Today’s reading is Luke 8:40-56 (ESV):
40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
49 While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.”50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
At first glance, this passage seems to just be about Jesus performing more of the same miracles. Elizabeth Hubbard wrote on a similar set of events last week in Luke 7:1-17—there as here, Jesus heals a person, and then he raises someone from the dead. Reading through these passages again, however, two major new developments stand out: firstly, Jesus doesn’t seem to know who touched him in the crowd, and secondly, Jesus requests that Jairus and his wife not spread the good news regarding his daughter coming back to life. Why?
A disclaimer before I discuss the first oddity: It would require far more space than this blog post to argue one way or another regarding whether Jesus actually knew the identity of the woman (and was thus asking a question he already knew the answer to, emphasizing his divinity) or was truly unaware (emphasizing his humanity). I would argue that that’s not the point here, though. The point is that Jesus cares about actually meeting this woman. He could have just kept on going, knowing that he had healed someone. But that’s not what he does—he stops and waits for the woman to come forward. Having healed this woman through her faith, Jesus now wants to develop a personal relationship with her. Jesus cares about our physical ailments, yes, but even more so he wants us to get to know him.
What, then, about Jesus’s command to “tell no one what had happened” after bringing Jairus’s daughter back from the dead (Luke 8:56)? Why would he say this, when the last time he brought someone back to life he made no such restriction? Luke tells us that “this report about him spread through the whole Judea and all the surrounding country” regarding his earlier raising of the widow’s son (Luke 7:17). Doesn’t Jesus want everyone to know about him?
Another time that Jesus made this admonishment earlier in Luke was when he cleansed a leper (Luke 5:12-16). There as here, he directed the recipient of his healing to tell no one about the miracle. Why does he request secrecy in these two instances, but not in others? The key difference is how the recipients responded—or rather, didn’t respond. When Jesus heals the paralytic in Luke 5:17-26, Luke says that “amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe” (Luke 5:26). When he raises the widow’s son, Luke says that “they glorified God, saying ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’” (Luke 7:16). In neither of these places, whose miracles parallel heavily the miracles we see in the cleansing of the leper and the raising of Jairus’s daughter, does Jesus ask that they tell no one of the event that occurred. But in these places, the response of the miracle recipient and observers is to immediately glorify God. No mention of glorifying God is present in the two cases where Jesus requests silence—Jairus and his wife are only “amazed” (Luke 8:56), while no response is documented in the case of the leper.
The question thus becomes: why does Jesus only want those who respond to his miracles by glorifying God to share the good news about these miracles with others? The answer, of course, is simple: because those who responded rightly to Jesus’s miraculous intervention are thus spreading the good news of God’s love, whereas those who do not respond in this manner would merely be spreading the good news that some guy healed them. Jesus cares not just about healing us, but about how we respond to his healing. As in the case of the woman in the crowd we discussed earlier, he doesn’t just want to heal us of our physical ills—he wants us to get to know him.
Marcus Powers ’17 is a Computer Science concentrator in Winthrop House.