Jairus (Part 1): Mark 5:21-24

Jairus. A familiar face in the crowd?

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

Mark 5:21-24

Shiptonthorpe, 30th June 2024

Jesus relationship with leaders of the Jewish community is always interesting. We rather assume that by default the leaders would have been antagonistic to Jesus. Clearly there were times when this was the case, and ultimately, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were responsible for the circumstances leading to his death. However, do you remember Jesus had something that feels rather like a clandestine meeting with Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin(i) in Jerusalem? You can read about it in John 3. The indications are that some leaders, some of the time, were interested in speaking to Jesus.  We saw in Mark 2 that some of the local Pharisees were close witnesses to Jesus teaching and healing activities. They were watching. They were sceptical. But they were not always openly hostile.

Jairus was leader of the synagogue in Capernaum, one of the most high profile leaders in the town which Jesus had, for the time being, made his home. In my mind I see the crowd parting as this senior member of the local community steps forwards to meet Jesus.

By our standards, Capernaum is a small town (about 1500 people). To me it is unthinkable that these two men had not met before. Jairus must have been very familiar with the healing and teaching ministry of this young rabbi, going on in his own town. We know that Jesus visited and was sometimes allowed to speak in synagogues. In public at least, it may be that Jairus would keep Jesus at a distance. It may be unlikely that he would publicly support Jesus’ ministry, but Jairus surely knew who Jesus was. This scene shows that he believes in the power of Jesus’ healing ministry. It is likely that when Jairus mentions his daughter, Jesus will know exactly who they are talking about. He will have have seen and perhaps even met the girl. Did these two men greet each other as strangers, or as friends?

Yesterday, in conversation, a friend of mine told me that he was agnostic. He is not sure whether or not he believes in God. However, he told me, if he was on a plane which was at risk of crashing, he would be the first to pray. He would try anything. Something similar is happening here. Jairus probably does not approve of Jesus, but in a desperate situation – his beloved daughter is dying.

Jairus’ daughter is sick. Very sick. Any animosity or differences which might have existed between the two were set aside. In a desperate and powerful gesture, Jairus, the synagogue leader, throws himself to the floor at Jesus’ feet. At this moment, Jairus would do anything, try anything. Anything at all. Even publicly throw himself at the feet of the celebrity preacher. Even publicly declare his confidence that Jesus, by laying his hands on his daughter, could rescue her from the jaws of death and restore her to health.

We will never know the truth of the relationship between Jesus and Jairus, but we do well to notice that confronted by desperation, Jesus does not turn anyone away. There seems to be no hesitation. Jesus goes with him. And where Jesus goes, the crowd follows.

You can read the second part of the story of Jairus’ daughter here.

(i) The Sanhedrin was the Council of Jewish Leaders in Jerusalem, responsible for interpreting and applying the Law

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

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