The Journey of Jairus – A Homily for the 13th Sunday of the Year

Today’s Gospel today focuses on a man named Jairus and a journey he makes from despair to deliverance, with the help of Jesus. Of course, Jairus is not merely a synagogue official who lived two thousand years ago; you are Jairus and his journey is your journey. We also meet a woman whom the Lord points out as an exemplar of faith. If you are ready to accept it, she can be you.

Let’s observe this gospel in six stages, as Jairus makes his journey.

I. TRIAL – The text says, When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”

Jairus is going through a crisis, a great trial. Most of us have had similar experiences. Perhaps it was the grave illness of a loved one. Perhaps it was the loss of our job. Perhaps it was the effects of a natural disaster. Perhaps it was simply the fear of some catastrophe.

In his crisis, Jairus seeks Christ. Falling to his knees, he pleads for help and healing for his beloved daughter.

Note that it is this very crisis that brings him to Jesus so prayerfully. While suffering remains a mystery, it sometimes takes suffering to bring us to Jesus. It should not be this way, but it often is. Even for regular church-goers, it sometimes takes a real crisis to make us finally cry out, “Lord, I really need you. I cannot survive without you!”

Thus Jairus, quite possibly a proud synagogue official, is now at Jesus’ feet pleading. What about us? Does it take this kind of calamity? Perhaps it does. For whatever purpose, God often allows suffering for a reason and for a season.

Jairus is now undergoing a trial, a test; but remember, there is a “test” in every testimony.

II. TARRYING – The text says, [Jesus] went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

Note that Jesus seems to tarry. He could have healed Jairus’ daughter instantly from right where He was (as He did with the centurion’s servant), but instead He says to Jairus, in effect, “Let’s journey together for a while.” The Lord delays the daughter’s healing and, as we shall see, this delay results in her death.

We, too, must often experience the Lord’s delay, for our crying out for healing and mercy does not often yield instant results. It is as if the Lord wants us to live with our questions and struggles for a while, as if He wants to walk with us on a journey of faith that requires waiting and watchful trust.

Such a delay is likely part of God’s plan to build our trust and faith, but whatever its cause, He often requires us to wait, to hold out. Gospel music is replete with such themes. One song says, “I promised the Lord that I would hold out. He said he’d meet me in Galilee.” Another says, “Hold on just a little while longer, everything’s gonna be all right.” Another says, “Keep your hand on the plow; hold on!” Yet another says, “Lord, help me to hold out until my change comes.”

The Lord walks with Jairus and with us, summoning us to a faith that holds out. Scripture says, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come with the morning light (Ps 30:3).

III. TESTIMONY – Along the way, the Lord arranges a lesson in trust for Jairus through the example of a woman of strong faith. The text says, There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Here is a woman of remarkable faith. She has come to a point in her life’s journey that she simply knows by faith that all she needs to do in order to be healed is to touch Jesus. Surely, she has come to this faith only through a long and painful journey, but she has come to this moment, and now she has the faith to be saved.

She touches Jesus.

Do not miss the significance of this touch; Jesus does not. Sensing the power of her faith, and that healing power has gone out from Him, He says, “Who touched me?” The disciples react with exasperation, in effect saying, “Lord, hundreds of people have been bumping up against you!” But Jesus did not ask who had brushed against Him; He asked, “Who touched me?” It is one thing to bump up against the Lord but quite another to touch Him in faith.

How many of us really touch God when we come to Mass? He speaks to us in the Liturgy of the Word, but do we really hear Him? He touches us in Holy Communion, but do we touch Him? Do we really expect healing when we go to Mass? Do we really expect a healing touch? Or are we only going to be a face in the crowd bumping up against Jesus accidentally?

Many people put more faith in Tylenol than they do in the Eucharist. When they take Tylenol, they expect something to happen. They expect their pain to go away; they expect to be healed. What do they expect when they receive Holy Communion? Often nothing.

What about you? Are you like the woman who touches Jesus expecting healing or like the crowd that just brushes past Him?

Jesus insists on stopping to meet this woman of faith. It may well be that He had Jairus in mind as He did so, as if to say, “Pay attention to this woman, Jairus. Do you see what her faith has gotten her? Do you believe, Jairus?” Into our own life, the Lord will often send those who can testify to us of faith and show us what faith can do.

Thus, on this journey, Jairus is given a witness to encourage his faith. Who are the witnesses in your life whom the Lord has sent?

IV. TEMPTATION – The text says, While [Jesus] was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”

During Jairus’ journey there is an encouraging testimony of what faith can do, but there are also temptations against faith and temptations to sink into despair and hopelessness.

What about us? We, too, must often confront a world that is largely negative.

Jairus is told by the negative ones that he should dismiss Jesus: “Why bother the teacher any more?” Yes, there are many in this world who not only have no hope themselves, but who also insist that we dismiss Jesus because they say He is irrelevant. Many secularists, themselves without hope, ridicule us who do and try to taunt us into dismissing the Lord from our journey.

This is a temptation that must be rejected.

V. TRUST – The text says, Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So, he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out.

To those who are negative and who ridicule, Jesus has this reaction: Then he put them all out.

Turning to Jairus, Jesus then says, Do not be afraid; just have faith. The command that we have faith is not merely an order; it is a dynamic principle. The same God who said, “Let there be light” —and there was light—now says, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Trust and saving faith are possible for Jairus and for us.

One of the principal tasks for Jesus and His Holy Spirit is to grow faith within each of us. As this faith grows in us our victories become more and more evident. Scripture says,

      • For thus says the Lord God, the holy One of Israel, “By waiting and calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies …” (Is 30:15)
      • Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Is 40:30-31).
      • So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved (Heb 10:35-39).

The Lord Jesus commands faith in order to bring us reward.

VI. TRIUMPH – The text says, He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Sure enough, Jairus’ journey with Jesus leads to victory—so will ours. It may not be the Lord’s will to raise every recently deceased relative, but He will surely give us the victory in every travail and difficulty. To those who die in Him, He will surely say, as He said to the little girl, “I say to you, arise!”

In every trial, if you are in the Lord and journeying with Him, I promise you complete victory in Jesus. In the face of every trial and distress, just say, “I’ll rise!”

In sufferings and sickness … “I’ll rise!”
In setbacks and sorrows … “I’ll rise!”
Tears in my eyes … “I’ll rise!”
Temptations against faith … “I’ll rise!”
No money in my pocket … “I’ll rise!”
Struggles with sin … “I’ll rise!”
On the rough side of the mountain … “I’ll rise!”
Though death is surely coming … “I’ll rise!”

Jairus has made a journey with Jesus, from trial to traveling with Him, through testimony and temptation to the empowering command to trust, and thereby unto triumph.

The journey of Jairus is our journey. His victory is ours if we journey with Jesus, as he did.


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