40 When Yeshua got back, the crowd welcomed him; for they were all expecting him. 41 Then there came a man named Ya’ir who was president of the synagogue. Falling at Yeshua’s feet, he pleaded with him to come to his house; 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old; and she was dying.
As he went, with the crowds on every side virtually choking him, 43 a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, 44 came up behind him and touched the tzitzit on his robe; instantly her hemorrhaging stopped. 45 Yeshua asked, “Who touched me?” When they all denied doing it, Kefa said, “Rabbi! The crowds are hemming you in and jostling you!” 46 But Yeshua said, “Someone did touch me, because I felt power go out of me.” 47 Seeing she could not escape notice, the woman, quaking with fear, threw herself down before him and confessed in front of everyone why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 He said to her, “My daughter, your trust has saved you; go in peace.”
49 While Yeshua was still speaking, a man came from the synagogue president’s house. “Your daughter has died,” he said. “Don’t bother the rabbi any more.” 50 But on hearing this, Yeshua answered him, “Don’t be afraid! Just go on trusting, and she will be made well.” 51 When he arrived at the house, he didn’t allow anyone to go in with him except Kefa, Yochanan, Ya‘akov and the child’s father and mother 52 All the people were wailing and mourning for her; but he said, “Don’t weep; she hasn’t died, she’s sleeping.” 53 They jeered at him, since they knew she had died. 54 But he took her by the hand, called out, “Little girl, get up!” 55 and her spirit returned. She stood up at once, and he directed that something be given her to eat. 56 Her parents were astounded, but he instructed them to tell no one what had happened.
Luke is again rewriting one of Mark’s masterpieces. (Mark 5: 22 onwards) We can assume that the dovetailing of two healing actions of Jesus, both involving women is Mark’s invention. He also provides the vivid details of the crowd, the trembling woman, the matching number 12 ( years of illness/ age), the wailing mourners who mock Jesus, and Jesus’ taking the girl by the hand. Luke more or less uses all of these but omits Mark’s quotation of the Aramaic word spoken by Jesus, “Talitha Koum,” which should probably be translated, “time to get up, little dove.” Luke isn’t interested in colloquial Aramaic or the tenderness it expresses but otherwise he follows Mark in nesting one story within the other.
This story shows an unclean woman scandalously reaching out to Jesus and finding acceptance and a cure; and Jesus reaching out to a young woman to restore her life. He himself links the two women by addressing the adult as daughter, that is he adopts the role of father and protector; he treats them as family. We are told a lot about the menstrual problem of the adult woman, so we may assume that the comatose state of the girl is also related to her sexuality, perhaps to puberty. Menstruation was viewed (see Leviticus 25) as making a woman unclean and a perpetually menstruating woman would have been considered as always unclean. Obviously men were forbidden to have any contact with women other than their wives and even with them sexual contact was forbidden during menstruation. It is quite possible that numbers of girls who experienced severe pubertal problems, including complete collapse, were considered as dead.
In both these stories Jesus is revealed as a life-giving presence for women, specifically as a fatherly presence to “daughters” who could trust his concern. Given that the gospels were written in patriarchal societies in which women were often considered the property of men, the inclusion of these stories is evidence that Jesus and his assemblies stood for the inclusion of women as equals in the family of God.
The robust kindliness of Jesus is emphasised by the way he insists on the adult woman identifying herself, in order that she can be commended and encouraged, as well as by his impatience with the mourners who had given up the girl as dead. Whatever actions of Jesus lie behind this story it is clear that they must have been forceful: he is depicted as cutting through both social conventions and religious law to enhance or save life.
I have just listened to a BBC Radio report on a notorious case of sexual abuse in Rotherham where a group of men systematically abused, raped and degraded vulnerable girls and young women over a period of years. British society is still prejudiced against women, with a vast number of media and fashion providers considering them as little more than sexual objects. If men who wanted popularity were made to dress in ways that exposed their secondary sexual chatacteristics to public gaze, they would rightly feel humiliated, but it is taken for granted, by women as well as men, that this is how younger women should display themselves.
As long as serious inequalities exist girls and women will be abused. Yes, I know that boys and men are also, but that is a different crime, with slightly different causes, although it too often happens when there is, as in the case of child abuse, a difference of power.I believe the churches can be places of genuine equality between the sexes, in which boys and girls, men and women, can live together with respect and pleasure,cherishing each others’ special dignity, and caring for each others’ needs. This is not easy because it cuts across social prejudices, but it honours the Jesus whom women trusted.
The story of Jairus daughter prefigured the death and resurrection of Jesus whereby he enters the place of death in order to issue to all humanity God’s wake up call. There is a good poem by the Spanish poet Machado:
I love Jesus who told us:
Heaven and earth will pass away.
When heaven and earth are past,
My word will stay.
What was your word, Jesus?
Love? Forgiveness ? Care?
All of your words were
only one: Wakeup.