The life of the Lord Jesus Christ is filled with encounters. Aside from great multitudes, which feature regularly, the gospels record encounters with about 60 individual people, many of whom are named. John tells us that there were many other things Jesus did that are not recorded in the gospels which, if they were written down, the world itself could not contain all the books (John 21:25). This tells us that the characters we do know something about in the gospels are very significant. In the main, they are ordinary people with whom the Lord has only one recorded encounter, but whose lives are dramatically changed as a result. One such example is contained in the fifth chapter of Mark where Jesus meets Jairus, a ruler of the Capernaum synagogue (Mark 5:21–43).

Having departed from the Decapolis on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, the Lord and his disciples landed their craft at Capernaum (Matt 9:1), the small fishing village on the north-western shore. Almost immediately (Mark 5:22), we are told that Jairus approached the Lord. Jairus is the Greek form of Jair (Judges 10:3) and means “enlightened” or “illuminated”. However, this Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, a profession that represented all the darkness and ignorance of Judaism. A synagogue ruler was the custodian of the synagogue. He was responsible for everything from the selection of officers (readers, speakers) to the repair of the synagogue building. His professional status is emphasised by the fact that he is only named once in the record, yet four times he is referred to as the ruler of the synagogue (v22,35,36,38).

Jairus was an important man. His job bestowed upon him a certain reputation in society. He would have been a man of some dignity, respected in the community, carrying himself well, speaking well. In his position he would be expected to maintain a certain aloofness toward the common people. His was a position of formality. He stood for the law! Yet his approach to the Lord was the approach of a desperate man. In spite of his prejudices he sought out the Lord, went to him, fell prostrate before him and then besought him greatly to come to his house and to heal his sick daughter. Only in the heat of a personal tragedy was the coldness and formalism of his character abandoned.

His daughter was desperately ill, lying at the point of death (v23), “at her last” (roth). Luke 8:42 tells us she was his only daughter, from which we might infer that Jairus had a number of other sons. But the Greek is monogenes, the same word used to describe the Lord himself. She was his only begotten daughter, his only child, his pride and joy, and the synagogue system could do nothing to save her.

There is an interesting context to this story contained in the earlier chapters of Mark. In Mark 1:21–28 we have the first record of the Lord entering the Capernaum synagogue. On that occasion he healed a man with an unclean spirit on the Sabbath day. The miracle, combined with the authority of the Lord’s preaching, took the synagogue elders by surprise so that, even though the miracle was performed on the Sabbath day, nothing more was said. But when the Lord came to the synagogue the next time (Mark 3:1) all eyes were upon him because there was a man there with a withered hand. The elders watched him to see whether he would heal again on the Sabbath day, that they might accuse him. Undoubtedly, as a synagogue ruler, Jairus would have been one of those who “watched”. Jesus, knowing their hearts spoke boldly to them: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?” But they held their peace. Even though they could do nothing, they did not care. At all costs, the decorum of the synagogue had to be maintained (v2–5).

But not any more! When Jairus comes to Jesus, all that is gone. He begs the Lord to “heal” his daughter (Mark 5:23). The word “heal” means “save” and is the same word used by the Lord of the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:4. Jesus immediately recognised the change of heart and began to accompany Jairus to his house. But walking was difficult. Many people had gathered to meet the Lord as he stepped off the boat and the crowd now pressed in on them. In his anxiety Jairus inched forward as quickly as he could, but it was impossible to move at any speed. And then something happened to stop them moving at all. A certain woman, “when she heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment” (v27).

A Defiled Woman Seeks Jesus

If Jairus had enjoyed a certain standing in society because of his religious position, then the case we meet now is the exact antithesis. There was a certain woman which had an issue of blood twelve years. As far as religious positions were concerned her case was clear: “If a woman have an issue of blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean” (Lev 15:25). For twelve years of his daughter’s life Jairus had enjoyed prominence and popularity at the centre of Jewish religious life, whereas for the same twelve years this woman had been a social and religious outcast. From the day his daughter was born Jairus would have refused this woman entry into his synagogue.

And just as the record describes the desperate plight of Jairus’ little girl, the plight of this woman is given: she “had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse” (v26). This was a very humiliating condition. Time and time she had tried to remedy it, but to no avail. Luke describes the extremity of her plight: “She had spent all her living” (Luke 8:43). Here were two women, linked by the same twelve years, who had both spent “all their living”. One had no more money, the other had no more breath.

The woman reasoned within herself: “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague” (v28–29). Jesus responded immediately. He too had felt a physical change. Virtue (Gk dunamis, power) had gone out of him. Under the Law of Moses, the woman would have defiled the Lord by her uncleanness (Lev 15:26–27). Instead, the opposite occurred. He transmitted to her his ‘cleanness’. The Lord, realising what had happened, turned around and said, “Who touched my clothes?” (v30). The disciples were amazed. The crowd thronged them (v24) and pressed upon them (v27). Any number of people might have touched the Lord. But Jesus knew who he was looking for: “He looked round about to see her that had done this thing” (v32).

The woman did not know what to do, for she had been unclean and should not have even been in the crowd. Her condition was so deeply embarrassing that she had thought to touch the Lord without discussing it. But the Lord was intent on publicising the matter. In her alarm she fell back into the crowd “fearing and trembling” (v33). But her hesitation could only amplify the eventual confrontation. What’s more, if she remained silent, the cure might be reversed. So, like Jairus, she came to the Lord and fell at his feet and confessed everything before him, telling him “all the truth”. And herein is the lesson for us. We are also unclean by nature. There is no law we can keep, there is no synagogue we can attend to cleanse ourselves. All we can do is approach the Lord of life and beg forgiveness. But when we do, the Lord will require something of us—total honesty. It is hopeless to try and remain part of the crowd. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov 28:13).

The Lord responded to the woman in a unique way (v34). He calls her “daughter”. This is the only time in the gospel records he calls anyone his daughter. She has become his only begotten daughter. And as if to emphasise the point, at that very moment messengers came from Jairus’ house to inform him that his only begotten daughter had died (v35). After twelve years, the only begotten daughter of the synagogue was dead and the only begotten daughter of the Lord was restored to life.

Tragedy Turned to Joy

Though the record is silent, the emotions within Jairus are predictable. Overcome with grief, he could not have helped wondering if his daughter might have still been alive if the Lord had not been delayed by this woman. At least in some way, he must have regarded his daughter as having given her life to this woman. But before any emotions can develop, the Lord quietens Jairus: “Be not afraid, only believe.” The lesson was not over. Jairus was instructed to learn a lesson from the conduct of the woman he had just observed. And with only his closest disciples (v37), the Lord resumed his journey to Jairus’ house.

But Jairus now finds himself in a position he has never contemplated—his house was the house of death. If he entered his own house he would be unclean for a week and unable to attend the synagogue (Num 19:14). Now he was the social outcast, whereas the woman was clean. When she was unclean he could do nothing for her, but in her cleansing she taught him the greatest lesson of his life.

On arriving at the house, the Lord found professional mourners, lamenting the girl’s death. Yet how soon their tears turned to laughter at the Lord’s suggestion that she only slept, thus displaying in itself that their grief was not genuine. Jesus expels them, and with them all the insincerity of Jewish tradition, and finally the last vestige of the synagogue is gone, leaving only his closest disciples and the girl’s parents in the room. No longer is Jairus called the “ruler of the synagogue”, but instead the “father of the damsel”, because he has now become a different man. Taking the girl’s hand, the Lord symbolically raises her to newness of life and commands that she be given food—the great proof of resurrection.

Think of the sequel that would have occurred on the next Sabbath day. There would have been one new face in that synagogue as the healed woman, after twelve years of isolation, would have turned up to worship her God. Jairus would greet her, knowing that if it was not for her faith he would not be there himself. And they would acknowledge that both of them had witnessed the virtue (power) of the Lord of life.

The Parabolic Lesson

But the story does not end there. This is not just the story of Jairus, his daughter and an unnamed woman. There is a sequel here which is perhaps the greatest of all sequels. This is the story of the Truth. You see, Jairus’ daughter stands for the nation of Israel, Jairus represents the law as the backbone of the Jewish nation, and the unnamed woman is a type of the Gentiles. She was unclean, and there was nothing she could do to become clean. She had tried every doctor she could find, just as the Gentiles have tried one man-made religion after another, but it was hopeless. She was an outcast and a stranger from the commonwealth of Israel.

She did the only thing she could. She came behind Jesus and touched the hem of his garment, just as the Gentiles will do again in the future (Zech 8:23) when those “out of all languages of the nations” shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew saying, “We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” And the Lord turns to her and calls her “daughter”, because she is now a true child of Abraham. The surrounding crowd from whence she came represents the ignorant nations of the world. They were unaware that anything had even happened—completely oblivious to the present blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ and remaining in superstition and unbelief.

But the day is fast approaching when the moment of confession is going to come—when the Lord of all the earth announces His kingdom and an ignorant world will realise that, in fact, He has had sons and daughters everywhere in this dispensation.

And in stark contrast that little girl is a type of the nation of Israel in the last days. At just twelve years old she represents the daughter of Zion. Her sickness symbolises the spiritual condition of the nation right now, at the point of death and unable to be saved by anything but the return of Christ. The synagogue is as powerless as it ever was. But although the Lord is coming back for his people, his coming is delayed. Why? So that the fullness of the Gentiles might be come in. So that an unclean woman might be saved.

But what that means is that by the time the Lord does come to save his people, disaster has already overtaken the nation. They will have reached their final end and any hope of life will be gone. However in that darkest hour, in that moment of greatest extremity, there will be a conversion. The nation, who has spent thousands of years justifying itself by Law, will be broken. And they will call upon their God, “My little girl is going to die, please come quickly” and the hope of Israel will be ignited. The nation will resurrect, as Ezekiel 37 tells us, alive from the dead, and then the Lord will take them aside, in the emotion of that day, and give them something to eat—not food and drink, but will put His law in their inward parts and write it upon their hearts, and so all Israel shall be saved.

As the apostle says: “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:32–33).

So we stand on the very eve of Christ’s return, with Israel beginning her last hours. And in the midst of this disbelieving world, the Lord has stopped to heal us, the Gentiles. What does he want in return? All the truth—full, honest and unrestrained confession so that when he does arrive personally he might cleanse us once and for all.

The Parable of Jairus: The Salvation of Jew and Gentile

The Unnamed Woman (The Gentiles)

Unclean, outcast, without God Eph 2:12

Tried many religions, all failed Rom 1:23

Touched Jesus’ garment Zech 8:23

Daughter”, a true child of Abraham Gal 3:29

Jairus’ Daughter (Natural Israel)

In the last days, Israel is at the point of death Zech 13:8

The Lord delays his return to Israel Rom 11:25

The delay is to humble Israel Rom 11:11

Israel’s situation is hopeless Ezek 37:11

The law (Jairus) cannot help them Rom 9:31

Israel’s life is restored Ezek 37:10

The nation is “fed” Jer 31:33

Jew and Gentile are saved together Rom 11:32