Luke 8:40-56 “They Laughed at Him”
Last week we left Jesus in Gerasa where he had just cast out a legion of demons from a man whom we recognize today as the first missionary sent by Jesus. I love to remember that man in this way of being a missionary. Jesus does not stay on that side of the Lake, that is the Sea of Galilee; he and his disciples get back in the boat and cross once more without incident. No great storm this time for Jesus to calm.
As they arrive on the Jewish side of the lake, remember that Gerasa was the Greek side of the lake, a man who is called “The Leader” of the synagogue runs up to Jesus with a plea. Obviously he knows Jesus by sight and by reputation already. His name is Jairus. Honestly, I am not 100% sure that is his real name, or if it is an epithet given to him. From the Hebrew, the name means “the one who is enlightened by God.” I think that some may have just come to call him by this name.
He is strangely NOT the rabbi of the synagogue. He is not a priest. He is not a Levite. He is not a scribe. He is not a Sadducee. The Bible does not even say that he was in with the Pharisees of his day. He seemed to be completely non-political and not connected into the religious hierarchy of Israel in that time. The bible says that he was an “αρχος” or simply a “ruler.” To be sure, the title of “ruler” in this case most likely refers to the idea that he was the main patron of the synagogue. He paid for the construction and maintenance of the gathering place. He probably paid the rabbi’s salary as well.
I bring this up because it raises the question of the back-story to Jairus’ daughter. She has been ill. Obviously the best physicians would have attended her. Obviously the rabbi of the local synagogue that Jairus has paid for must have been praying over the daughter all this time, too.
Yet, Jairus turns to Jesus for help. Yes, his name is befitting. He is the one who has been enlightened by God. He knows already that his daughter’s healing is in the hand of God Almighty. He knows that Jesus can heal her. He knows that all the money in the world is nothing compared to a whisper coming from Jesus that could heal his daughter. This is his faith that had been kept hidden as a secret as the leader of the synagogue.
Jesus tells Jairus that he will go with him to his house to attend to his daughter. It is interesting to note that the story of Jairus becomes a literary frame for another story. As Jesus is pushing through the crowd a woman who has had a hemorrhage for twelve years comes up behind Jesus and surreptitiously touches the hem of his cloak. In that moment, the healing power that Jesus possesses flows out of him and into her. She is instantly healed.
Honestly, let me share with you that I am fascinated by the mechanics of this healing. It raises a question of what it is exactly that flowed out from Jesus that this woman was able to just tap into. Our version of the Bible here in the church calls this stuff coming out of Jesus “power.” Older versions of the Bible will translate this word from the Greek as “virtue.” The actual Greek word, δυναμις, is open to interpretation. I would like to point out that we get the word “dynamic” from this Greek root. That which is “dynamic” to Jesus came out of him and into this woman.
How is it possible to just touch Jesus and have this dynamic power come into you? When we were missionaries, we moved into a house that was not grounded electrically. The country of Thailand runs on ungrounded 220 volts. From time to time a little bulb would burn out, so the usual tungsten filament that handled the current would snap, and the electricity would have to find another path. We would get shocked just turning on a light.
I kid you not, a missionary before us was killed by turning on a stand lamp in his living room. We were warned that besides all of the other things that could kill us, such as malaria, poisonous snakes, food poisoning, and the like, we had to be very careful handling any appliances or even turning on a light. In the end I rewired the entire house where we were living, putting in a ground, breaker box, and a micro-volt cut-off switch. We had a child, Carolyn, and we did not want to lose her for simply not having a ground wire.
I still remember arguing with the gentleman in the hardware store about the possibility of getting sheathed romex wires that had the third green wire for ground. “Only come with two wires; no three wires!” I made it work just the same. I just added my own third wire.
Okay, what this shows is that indeed we can reach out to Jesus and be healed. Up unto this point in the scriptures, we have only seen Jesus reaching out to others to heal them, but here we see the opposite also works; that is, we can reach out to Jesus and healed, too. The power in Jesus is so great, that even just getting close to him and reaching out in the simplest manner will give you the healing you need in your life.
I like to say that if you are a “well grounded Christian,” the power of Jesus will just flow down to you!
So, that story is still being framed by the story of Jairus’ daughter. That poor girl is waiting for Jesus to come to her as this woman saps all the power out of Jesus. Jesus felt the power leaving him, and he strangely confronts the crowd as to who it was that touched him. Poor Jairus must now be beside himself as he knows that his daughter is about to die while this whole episode with the woman takes place. Why does Jesus waste his time asking who touched him? Peter even questions Jesus as to why this would matter. I do not have an answer. If it matters to Jesus, then it matters to Jesus!
At that moment, a messenger comes from Jairus’ house to inform him and Jesus that the girl has since died. We are left wondering now if Jesus had not made such a deal about the woman with the flow of blood, then perhaps he would have reached the daughter in time to be healed.
Just the same, Jesus seems not too terribly concerned that the daughter has passed away. He continues with the family to the house to find the dead girl in her bed. He says: “Do not worry, she is not dead but is only sleeping.”
The Greek word here for “sleep” is rather unique. By the way, we all know the regular Greek word for “sleep”; it is “hypnosis.” The word that Jesus uses here is not that word at all. He uses a word that is perhaps better translated as “drowsy” or in a “dreamlike state of being.” This word is καθευδει. If you know Spanish, it matches the word “seuňo.” We do not have a similar word in English I am afraid. Jesus seems to be saying to the girl’s parents that “She is not dead; she is just living a dream right now.”
Here we have God himself telling us a clue to what the afterlife is going to be like. It is going to be like a dream. That is pretty cool! I loose almost all fear of death when Jesus says that it will be a dream! Thank you, Jesus, for that little peek into the hereafter!
When the mother and father hear Jesus say these words, their faith seems to waiver. The bible says that they “laughed” at Jesus. Some translations say that they “derided” him. When we see different versions of the Bible using different words with different meanings in the English, then we should know that there is a problem with the translation of a word from the original language.
Okay, once more to the Greek! I will tell you because I have lived in Greece, out on an island for one summer, that the Greek people of all the Europeans are by far the most smiley grinning group. Even if you look at ancient Greek sculptures, they are generally smiling. If you have studied art or archeology, you will remember there is even a term for it, the “archaic smile.”
The Greek word for this is γελαω. It is a grin, not really a laugh. Then in the bible we read that the mother and father καταγελαω towards Jesus, the “kata” just means that it is a downward grin. It is a frown. So, the Olaf translation of the Bible would read that they frowned at Jesus.
No worries! Jesus is going to turn that frown upside down. Jesus simple says to the girl “Talitha kum.” That is “Arise little girl.” She sits up in bed as if she had in fact just come out of a dream. “Give her some food,” Jesus commands. She is not just alive, you know like the walking dead, she is healthy and hungry and needs to eat something now.
You know, I have been laughed at, derided, frowned upon because of my faith in Jesus. I think we all have at one point or another. In our world today, we are not supposed to believe anything anymore. We are told not to trust what we see on television, on our Facebook feeds, or even what our politicians tells us. Today we are derided for having any kind of faith in anything at all.
Well, I am tired of frowning upon the world. Jesus turns that frown upside down. I choose to believe! I will never laugh at Jesus, but I will laugh with him in the end! Join me in faith that Jesus can heal this world. Join in belief that Jesus has that dynamic power to conquer even death.