Do not be afraid, just believe :
Fear not, just believe: Jesus spoke these words in dramatic circumstances.
And, at the back of the stage, behind the scenes, in filigree, in parallel, there is another less visible drama, an inner struggle,… a secret difficult, impossible to reveal…
Luke, historian and theologian
Luke, the author of the 3rd Gospel, did not personally attend the events recounted in his gospel. But Luke the historian collected the accounts of the witnesses and Luke the theologian organized them. He brought these events to life, to show that Jesus was chosen by God to bring liberation to his people.
For his friend Theophilus, (his name means “who loves God”), the first recipient of his Gospel, Luke portrays the actors, the circumstances and the course of these tragedies. This incident is reported in chapter 8 verses 40 to 56. The same double story, with a few different details, can be found in Matthew 9 and Mark 5.
Luke 8. 40 to 56
40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.c Go in peace.”
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader.“Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James,and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourningfor her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!”55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
NIV The New International Version. (2011).
Do not be afraid: the audacity of the one who risks losing everything.
Jairus, the Pharisee, the synagogue leader
Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue of Capernaum, …a Pharisee…
A high social status, a reputation to preserve, a well-established theological orientation but also a corporatism to defend.
The Pharisees, guardians of the Law and the 613 Commandments.
The Pharisees established themselves as guardians of the Law in the least details of its wording, according to the narrow criteria of Talmudic interpretation. – the 613 commandments, a precise, detailed commentary of the ten commandments and the laws of Leviticus.
A pious Jew must apply them word for word, gesture for gesture to preserve his ritual purity. Above all, do not defile yourself by approaching impure or less pure people! The majority of these Pharisees are opposed to Jesus.
For Jesus, what counts is the profound intention of the Law, the purity of the heart, the real inner life of the person.
Jairus, a Pharisee with all the honours and benefits of his position.
What’s the point if he loses the essential?
But what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8.36 NIV
We can transpose: …if he risks losing the essential, what is most valuable to him.
What is the use of the best reputation, the greatest social benefits, when a soul, a life (the same Greek word) a life that is precious to us, is at stake.
The life of his only daughter
For Jairus, it is the life of his only 12-year-old daughter: she is dying. 12 years… the age when a girl can become a woman, when parents begin… to prepare her for her future marriage. But all seems lost… Unless…
Don’t be afraid… to blow down the barriers…
Jairus took the risk: losing his reputation with his colleagues in charge of the synagogue… with the other Pharisees.
Despite the mistrust against Jesus
The majority of them keep a very critical safety distance from Jesus. He mixes too much with the ignorant crowd, who do not know the Law (and therefore are called cursed Jn 7:49) and with the unaccustomed people:
…He frequents tax collectors like this Levi/Matthew (Mt 9:9)… these collaborators of the Roman occupier, …these sinners known in the city, who gathered with Jesus around the same table!… What an affront against ritual purity, what a contradiction with religious orthodoxy..:
NIV “Why does your master eat with publicans (another way of saying tax collector) and people of bad life?
– It is not those who are doing well who need a doctor, but the sick,” Jesus replied
It is the sick, not the healthy who need a doctor
Did Jairus hear these words reported in Matthew 9:11 and 12?
Yes, Jairus really needs one.
Anyway, he takes these words for himself too. He needs a doctor. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet. He begged him to come into his house. His only daughter, twelve years old, is dying. (v. 41 and 42)
In Capernaum, Jesus has just healed the servant of a Roman officer by a miracle from afar, by a simple word (Luke 7:1-9). It is this kind of doctor that Jairus needs right now.
The woman hiding behind a tree
Hidden behind a tree, a woman just saw Jairus throwing himself at Jesus’ feet. The crowd moved away to let the synagogue official pass, then closed again….
This woman, her neighbours know her… Some of those who follow the movement of the crowd know her too…
Her health is not good at all: day after day the haemorrhages exhaust her.
Attempts at healing: many, painful, costly, without results.
She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse Mark 5.26 NIV
Today, we would give a name to this female disease. Probably not a cancer, because who could resist it for twelve years?…Hormonal disorders, cyst, fibroma… Today we treat them, we heal them commonly. But at that time….
Morale at its lowest
Morale: it’s no better. Twelve years without improvement.
yet instead of getting better she grew worse (Mark 5:26)
No social or religious life
Social and religious life: almost non-existent. According to Leviticus 15 25-30, this woman is permanently impure. Her furniture and dishes too. It is impossible for her to sit with someone, to have a meal with her family, with friends.
We can assume she’s not married. Jesus tells her “my daughter” and not “woman” as he usually does.
She needs a doctor, someone to deliver her from her impurity. Like the pagan from the land of the Gerasenes, on the other side of the lake, this pagan possessed of a legion of demons that Jesus has just delivered (Lk 8:26)
Do not be afraid…… The audacity of the one who has nothing more to lose
How can she do this without causing a scandal?
This woman would also like to throw herself at Jesus’ feet. But how can she do that?
There is no question of causing a scandal by arriving in front of him, she, an impure woman. It is also impossible to cry out her illness through the crowd, so that Jesus could heal her from afar, with a word….
Don’t be afraid… the necessity makes her find a solution.
She slips through people, from behind, she makes her way as discreetly as possible…
She certainly does not want to be noticed until she has reached her goal!
The only audacity within her reach
Touching the fringes on the back of Jesus’ coat. Touching the fringes, this visible reminder of God’s commandments (Numbers 15:38-40)
Luke’s text is limited to noting, without comment.
How to evaluate her action?
But how are we going to evaluate her gesture: seeking a cure by touching fringes, an object…. Superstition, fetishism? There are other examples of such objects in the Bible: Paul’s handkerchiefs and Peter’s shadow, which were healing (Acts 5:15, 19:12)… No blame on this subject.
A faith that takes risks
What really matters is the faith that she dares to manifest, at all costs, by taking risks.
Healed!.. she knows it, she feels it. Now how to leave discreetly…unnoticed…?
Belief: from empirical to enlightened faith
“Who touched me?”… “I know that a force has come out of me”… Now she is discovered!
Jesus did not directly tell her “Do not fear”. But something like this:
“Don’t be afraid to show yourself out in the open. Don’t be afraid to talk in front of everyone.
You started with the boldness of faith, continue: tell them, all of them, what I have done for you…”
Why this request from Jesus?
Jesus was aware of the woman’s touch. He accepted it. He recognized, through the gesture, the not very enlightened faith, a blind and simple faith. He doesn’t blame her for anything. He does not despise this somewhat “folk” faith. He starts from what she knows and takes her further.
And we, do we know how to adapt our proclamation of the Gospel to the level of people?
Should we not avoid answering sometimes too automatically questions that they don’t even ask themselves? Are we showing that we are really interested in them?….
Are we trying to learn to discern, behind habits, the barriers of social and religious defence, the deep needs, the real issues?
For women too, no second category faith
Jesus does not want this woman to have only a hastily stolen healing. He does not want a second-class faith, which remains secret and does not commit.
She has the same rights to the care of the Savior as Jairus, as the notables of the city.
Jesus grants her complete healing. That of the body, of course, but also and above all the salvation of her soul: “Your faith healed you, saved you”.
The right to receive the Gospel without hiding
In 1st century Jewish society, women and children are of little value. Jesus shows them his interest, his love. They have the right to his benefits, they have the right to listen and receive the Gospel in an open way and not by hiding. In the synagogue, women listened behind a curtain, the Talmud forbade to give them religious instruction.
A woman who has found her dignity
Then in front of everyone, the woman tells her illness, her impurity, her approach to Jesus, her instantaneous and complete healing… She testifies… She has found her dignity, her approval in the Lord.
And the shy ones…
And we, the timid, the reserved, the introverted… we who too often let others express in their prayer what we do not dare to say ourselves, do we sometimes overcome our fear to tell aloud what the Lord has done for us…?
To fear or to believe… to believe or to fear?
An unfortunate, unbalanced posture for Jairus.
Jesus is on his way to heal his daughter, but why this interruption? Above all, why does the Lord insist so much on knowing who touched him? “Everyone touches you”… The disciples and Peter saw it well. It’s useless except to waste time… precious time. The father’s anxiety increases: we will end up arriving too late.
Yes, it’s too late! The balance breaks down.
A servant edges his way through the crowd: “Your daughter has just died. Don’t bother the master anymore. ».
For this kind of person, the limit of Jesus’ power stops at the limit of life: “as long as there is life, there is hope”. After that, it’s no longer worth hoping. That’s all there is to it.
No, it’s still worth it! It is never too late for the Lord!
“Fear not, just believe, and she will be healed… saved”
Do not be afraid of delay: the Lord will allow an even greater miracle, not only a healing but a resurrection.
Don’t be afraid of bad news. Remember Abraham. He believed against all evidence that God could resurrect his son after the sacrifice. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Do not be afraid of the evidence of death
“The girl is not dead, she is asleep.” Jesus says so, even if he is mocked. Even if the weeping women are already there. It’s the custom: even the poorest families have at least one flute player and a weeping woman, a woman paid to cry.
She’s asleep, she’ll wake up. Jesus has the power of life.
He takes her by the hand: “Get up, Myriam… It’s time”.
… like her mother every morning.
Impossible as long as she’s dead…. But she’s not dead anymore,… just that!…
She gets up, she walks, she’s hungry. Still sleepy and a little pale, but with an appetite..!.
“Give her something to eat. “… The return to normal life.That’s Jesus’ work!.
Discretion, of course. She is cured, but none of the mockers will know exactly how it happened.
Many years later….
Theophile, this old friend of Luke’s remembers… He became a Christian… then head of a church in the Antioch region.
This story answered several important questions for him:
To whom does Jesus reserve his solicitude?
Is he interested only in the poor..in the marginalized in society…in those whose misery, distress is clearly visible?
No, Jairus, the senior executive of the synagogue, also received the full attention of the Lord!….
The Pharisees were very critical, very negative towards Jesus. Did he hold it against Jairus? No, on the contrary… And for Nicodemus too, this other Pharisee who came to meet him discreetly at night… he traced the way to salvation (John 3:16)
Jesus does not amalgamate, he is interested in everyone, individually.
Jesus let an impure woman approach him, he healed her.
He, Theophilus, a pagan, is also impure in the eyes of a Jewish Pharisee, who is proud of his purity, a Pharisee who would never enter his pagan house.
He offers to all the kingdom of God
But what Jesus did for this unclean woman, for the marginalized of his people, he also offers to strangers, to pagans… It is the offer of the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth…
His power and love are manifested in all countries, at all levels of society, for each individual person.
Then he, Theophilus, a well-regarded but pagan man, received his answers. He has turned to the Lord, now he serves Him faithfully.
This story, he will talk about it in his community: he will ask them to commit themselves even more… The year 70 has passed, with the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Church and the synagogue have separated… The Christian faith can no longer remain private, secret, in the shadow of the Jewish community…
Do not fear… mockery, contempt, opposition, persecution…death…
Just believe… and you will be saved… for all eternity…
What about today? Do our reasons to believe outweigh our reasons to fear…?