A homily for the passage in which the daughter of Jairus is raised and the woman with the issue of blood is healed (Luke 8:41-56).
This morning we read about Jairus, a man who comes to our Lord and pleads for the healing of his morbidly sick daughter. I want to take some time to walk through this fascinating narrative and look at the spiritual symbolism and how we can apply this story to our own lives.
First, let’s look at the name Jairus, which means “he enlightens” or “he shines.” The name is symbolic of our spiritual state before the fall into sin. Adam and Eve were not naked but clothed with the shining glory of God. This is the natural state of what it means to be human – it is where God is calling us to be. You and I are meant to shine with the grace and glory of God.
Next, it says that he is the ruler of the synagogue. What is a synagogue? A place where worship (doxology) is offered up to God throughout the day. It’s also a place where the Scriptures are read and contemplated. Here we see a symbol for our mind: it should be a place where the Scriptures are heard, they are contemplated, and prayers and continuous doxology rise as incense before God.
What does a ruler do? He keeps order. He drives out the spiritual merchants that want to set up shop in our Father’s house. He pushes out the noise and distractions of the world to keep the interior space holy.
But now we see a tragedy: the daughter of Jairus is deathly sick. The synagogue of his heart has lost its doxology and is filled with grief as he works his way through the noise of the crowd and begs at the feet of Jesus.
What does this sickly daughter represent? She is our soul, our spirit, our free will, our attention. She is, in the terminology of the Church Fathers, the nous – the spiritual eye of the soul – and that which makes us according to the image of God.
She is sick to the point of death – and so are we. Our sinful habits kill the spirit inside us. They sicken it first, and if there is no repentance, spiritual death follows. Spiritual death is, of course, separation from communion with God.
But there is a Savior, a Healer, and like Jairus, we must seek out our Savior, fall at His feet, and beg for Him to have mercy on us and heal us.
Then begins a journey of faith. Jairus must walk the road with Christ through the crowd. We too must walk in the way of Christ, fulfilling His commandments even if we have not yet received healing – even if things seem to be getting worse.
Fortunately, along this journey of faith, we begin to see others who are healed. Perhaps they are people that we know, or perhaps we come to know them and their story by reading the Lives of the Saints (which every Orthodox Christian should be doing).
The woman with the issue of blood is healed while Jairus and Jesus are walking on the path. This woman suffered from bleeding for twelve years. In back to back verses, the Apostle Luke makes a point to also mention that the daughter of Jairus is twelve years old. This recalls the teaching of ancestral sin – that is our will is inclined toward sin even from our youth. We are born into this world spiritually damaged and in need of healing – our souls continuously bleed with the sinful passions. Even from our childhood, we need the Savior.
Now when this older woman with the issue of blood is healed, we hear from our Lord, “thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”
Let’s look at wholeness and peace and see how they are really one. We are all fragmented inwardly. We were designed by God to be whole, focused on God and in communion with Him. Sin shatters our inward unity, scatters our attention, and leaves us inwardly bleeding and half-dead.
Healing is wholeness. It is reorienting ourselves to God, focusing on the one thing needful, and finding inner cohesion. When we have wholeness, we have peace. The inverse is also true. Antonyms for peace include discord and disharmony as well as war. These are things that lack unity, lack wholeness.
When we receive spiritual healing from Christ, we can have peace and wholeness. Then and only then. All other peace if a false peace. Just look at the world around us and see how it tries to force peace through compulsion, domination, and manipulation. “Peace through strength” has been the motto of world leaders from Roman Emperors to US Presidents. That means peace by the sword. But a sword is something that cuts and divides, it tears apart unity and wholeness. Such a mode of being can only bring temporary peace.
The healing of this woman by our Lord occurs for several reasons, and one is to encourage Jairus – to strengthen his resolve. In a similar way, we have past and present miracles to help strengthen our faith. Jairus is about to receive bad news – “your daughter is dead, don’t trouble the Master.”
The enemy whispers to us, “Don’t bother with Christianity; it is powerless to help you.” Or he says,” You’ve been following Christ on this road all this time and where has it gotten you? Sure, others have been healed but you haven’t been. Give it up, you’re a hopeless case.”
But then our Lord’s words pierce our inner darkness and sorrow: “Fear not; only believe and she will be made whole.”
Don’t be afraid of the sin, darkness, devil, hell, temptations, etc. Instead, believe – believe that we serve a good God who loves us so much! A good God who journeys along side us on this road of sorrow, a road packed with a crowd that pushes and shoves – just like our thoughts are constantly pushing and shoving our attention and our free will away from God. But in the midst of this chaotic darkness, put your faith in God that He will heal you.
Next in this story, we find Jesus at the house. Everyone is weeping the death of the daughter. It seems to be a hopeless case. Our Lord says, “Weep not!” That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t weep for our sins and brokenness, but that we shouldn’t weep “as those who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13) – as if our Lord can’t resurrect the dead spirit in us.
Our Lord says she is sleeping, and the crowd mocks and laughs at Him. At the surface level, what our Lord said was not factual – she was dead. If there were fact checkers back then, they would have gone crazy. While our Lord’s words may not have seemed factual, they were true. He is the Author of life, and for Him, resurrecting the dead is like waking a sleeping person.
As He enters the home and the room of the sickly girl, He permits no one to follow Him except three Apostles and the girl’s parents. We too, when we enter the inner room of the heart, must push out the crowd that has gathered there. Through prayer and attention – which we discussed in last week’s homily – we clear the heart of noise and distractions.
We must be careful about who we let in, who we expose this sickly, dying daughter to. Our Lord Jesus is in the room, which is obvious in its meaning. The Apostles are also there. They represent the Church’s clergy – especially those who hear our confession – thereby aiding us in the struggle against inner death. The girl’s father and mother are there as well. They represent loved ones who pray for us and help us in our struggle toward resurrection.
Our Lord then raises the girl, granting life to what was once dead. He desires to raise each one of us as well, to give us a new and fresh start. It doesn’t matter if your soul has been dead for a day, twelves years, forty years, or eighty years. It doesn’t matter. God both can and wants to heal you, no matter how dead or dark you feel inside.
The biblical passage then states, “Her parents were astonished,” just as those around us will be when God resurrects the dead little soul that is inside us. We can then be like Jairus, “he who shines,” and send up unceasing doxology and thanksgiving from the synagogue of our heart.
One last note: Our Lord commands food to be given to her. After we have gone to confession and sought God through prayer, we too should partake of the spiritual banquet, the Eucharist, which is “for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting. Amen”