Book 3, Chapter 26. The Healing of the Woman – Christ’s Personal Appearance – The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter

(Mat_9:18-26; Mar 5:21-43; Luk 8:40-56)

There seems remarkable correspondence between the two miracles which Jesus had wrought on leaving Capernaum and those which He did on His return. In one sense they are complementary to each other. The stilling of the storm and the healing of the demonised were manifestations of the absolute power inherent in Christ – the recovery of the woman and the raising of Jairus’ daughter, evidence of the absolute efficacy of faith. The unlikeliness of dominion over the storm, and of command over a legion of demons, answers to that of recovery obtained in such a manner, and of restoration when disease had passed into actual death. Even the circumstances seem to correspond, though at opposite poles; in the one case, the Word spoken to the unconscious element, in the other the touch of the unconscious Christ; in the one case the absolute command of Christ over a world of resisting demons, in the other absolute certainty of faith as against the hostile element, of actual fact. Thus the Divine character of the Saviour appears in the absoluteness of His Omnipotence, and the Divine character of His Mission in the all-powerfulness of faith which it called forth.

On the shore at Capernaum many were gathered on the morning after the storm. It may have been, that the boats which had accompanied His had returned to friendly shelter, ere the storm had risen to full fury, and had brought anxious tidings of the storm out on the Lake. There they were gathered now in the calm morning, friends eagerly looking out for the well-known boat that bore the Master and His disciples. And as it came in sight, making again for Capernaum, the multitude also would gather in waiting for the return of Him, Whose words and deeds were indeed mysteries, but mysteries of the Kingdom. And quickly, as He again stepped on the well-known shore, was He welcomed, surrounded, soon ‘thronged,’ inconveniently pressed upon, by the crowd, eager, curious, expectant. It seemed as if they had been all ‘waiting for Him,’ and He had been away all too long for their impatience. The tidings rapidly spread, and reached two homes where His help was needed – where, indeed, it alone could now be of possible avail. The two most nearly concerned must have gone to seek that help about the same time, and prompted by the same feelings of expectancy. Both Jairus, the Ruler of the Synagogue, and the woman suffering these many years from disease, had faith. But the weakness of the one arose from excess, and threatened to merge into superstition, while the weakness of the other was due to defect, and threatened to end in despair. In both cases faith had to be called out, tried, purified, and so perfected; in both the thing sought for was, humanely speaking, unattainable, and the means employed seemingly powerless; yet, in both, the outward and inward results required were obtained through the power of Christ, and by the peculiar discipline to which, in His all-wise arranging, faith was subjected.

It sounds almost like a confession of absolute defeat, when negative critics (such as Keim) have to ground their mythical explanation of this history on the supposed symbolical meaning of what they designate as the fictitious name of the Ruler of the Synagogue – Jair, ‘he will give light’ – and when they further appeal to the correspondence between the age of the maiden and the years (twelve) during which the woman had suffered from the bloody flux. This coincidence is, indeed, so trivial as not to deserve serious notice; since there can be no conceivable connection between the age of the child and the duration of the woman’s disease, nor, indeed, between the two cases, except in this, that both appealed to Jesus. As regards the name Jairus, the supposed symbolism is inapt; while internal reasons are opposed to the hypothesis of its fictitiousness. For, it seems most unlikely that Mark and Luke would have rendered the discovery of ‘a myth’ easy by needlessly breaking the silence of Matthew, and giving the name of so well-known a person as a Synagogue-ruler of Capernaum. And this the more readily, that the name, though occurring in the Old Testament, and in the ranks of the Nationalist party in the last Jewish War, was apparently not a common one. But these are comparatively small difficulties in the way of the mythical interpretation.

Jairus, one of the Synagogue-rulers of Capernaum, had an only daughter, who at the time of this narrative had just passed childhood, and reached the period when Jewish Law declared a woman of age. Although Matthew, contracting the whole narrative into briefest summary, speaks of her as dead at the time of Jairus’ application to Jesus, the other two Evangelists, giving fuller details, describe her as on the point of death, literally, ‘at the last breath’ (in extremis). Unless her disease had been both sudden an exceedingly rapid, which is barely possible, it is difficult to understand why her father had not on the previous day applied to Jesus, if his faith had been such as is generally supposed. But if, as the whole tenour of the history shows, his faith had been only general and scarcely formed, we can account the more easily for the delay. Only in the hour of supreme need, when his only child lay dying, did he resort to Jesus. There was need to perfect such faith, on the one side into perseverance of assurance, and on the other into energy of trustfulness. The one was accomplished through the delay caused by the application of the woman, the other by the supervention of death during this interval.

There was nothing unnatural or un-Jewish in the application of this Ruler to Jesus. He must have known of the hearing of the son of the Court-official, and of the servant of the Centurion, there or in the immediate neighbourhood – as it was said, by the mere word of Christ. For there had been no imposition of silence in regard to them, even had such been possible. Yet in both cases the recovery might be ascribed by some to coincidence, by others to answer of prayer. And perhaps this may help us to understand one of the reasons for the prohibition of telling what had been done by Jesus, while in other instances silence was not enjoined. Of course, there were occasions – such as the raising of the young man at Nain and of Lazarus – when the miracle was done so publicly, that a command of this kind would have been impossible. But in other cases may this not be the line of demarcation, that silence was not enjoined when a result was achieved which, according to the notions of the time, might have been attributed to other than direct Divine Power, while in the latter cases publicity was (whenever possible) forbidden? And this for the twofold reason, that Christ’s Miracles were intended to aid, not to supersede, faith; to direct to the Person and Teaching of Christ, as that which proved the benefit to be real and Divine; not to excite the carnal Jewish expectancies of the people, but to lead in humble discipleship to the Feet of Jesus. In short, if only those were made known which would not necessarily imply Divine Power (according to Jewish notions), then would not only the distraction and tumult of popular excitement be avoided, but in each case faith in the Person of Christ be still required, ere the miracles were received as evidence of His Divine claims. And this need of faith was the main point.

That, in view of his child’s imminent death, and with the knowledge he had of the ‘mighty deeds’ commonly reported of Jesus, Jairus should have applied to Him, can the less surprise us, when we remember how often Jesus must, with consent and by invitation of this Ruler, have spoken in the Synagogue; and what irresistible impression His words had made. It is not necessary to suppose, that Jairus was among those elders of the Jews who interceded for the Centurion; the form of his present application seems rather opposed to it. But after all, there was nothing in what he said which a Jew in those days might not have spoken to a Rabbi, who was regarded as Jesus must have been by all in Capernaum who believed not the horrible charge, which the Judaean Pharisees had just raised. Though we cannot point to any instance where the laying on of a great Rabbi’s hands was sought for healing, such, combined with prayer, would certainly be in entire accordance with Jewish views at the time. The confidence in the result, expressed by the father in the accounts of Mark and Matthew, is not mentioned by Luke. And perhaps, as being the language of an Eastern, it should not be taken in its strict literality as indicating actual conviction on the part of Jairus, that, the laying on of Christ’s Hands would certainly restore the maiden.

Be this as it may, when Jesus followed the Ruler to his house, the multitude ‘thronging Him’ in eager curiosity, another approached Him from out that crowd, whose inner history was far different from that of Jairus. The disease from which this woman had suffered for twelve years would render her Levitically ‘unclean.’ It must have been not unfrequent in Palestine, and proved as intractable as modern science has found it, to judge by the number and variety of remedies prescribed, and by their character. On one leaf of the Talmud not less than eleven different remedies are proposed, of which at most only six can possibly be regarded as astringents or tonics, while the rest are merely the outcome of superstition, to which resort is had in the absence of knowledge. But what possesses real interest is, that, in all cases where astringents or tonics are prescribed, it is ordered, that, while the woman takes the remedy, she is to be addressed in the words: ‘Arise (qum) from thy flux.’ It is not only that psychical means are apparently to accompany the therapeutical in this disease, but the coincidence in the command, Arise (qum), with the words used by Christ in raising Jairus’ daughter is striking. But here also we mark only contrast to the magical cures of the Rabbis. For Jesus neither used remedies, nor spoke the word qum to her who had come ‘in the press behind’ to touch for her healing ‘the fringe of His outer garment.’

As this is almost the only occasion on which we can obtain a glimpse of Christ’s outward appearance and garb, it may be well to form such accurate conception of it, as is afforded by a knowledge of the dress of the ancient Hebrews. The Rabbis laid it down as a rule, that the learned ought to be most careful in their dress. It was a disgrace if a scholar walked abroad with clouted shoes; to wear dirty clothes deserved death; for ‘the glory of God was man, and the glory of man was his dress.’ This held specially true of the Rabbi, whose appearance might otherwise reflect on the theological profession. It was the general rule to eat and drink below (or else according to) a man’s means, but to dress and lodge above them.  For, in these four things a man’s character might be learned: at his cups, in money matters, when he was angry, and by his ragged dress. Nay, ‘The clothing of the wife of a ḥaḇer (learned associate) is of greater importance than the life of the ignorant (rustic), for the sake of the dignity of the learned.’ Accordingly, the Rabbis were wont to wear such dress by which they might be distinguished. At a later period they seem at their ordination to have been occasionally arrayed in a mantle of gold-stuff. Perhaps a distinctive garment, most likely a head-gear, was worn, even by ‘rulers’ (‘the elder, זקן), at their ordination. The Palestinian nasi, or President of the Sanhedrin, also had a distinctive dress, and the head of the Jewish community in Babylon a distinctive girdle. 

In referring to the dress which may on a Sabbath be saved from a burning house – not, indeed, by carrying it, but by successively putting it on, no fewer than eighteen articles are mentioned. If the meaning of all the terms could be accurately ascertained, we should know precisely what the Jews in the second century, and presumably earlier, wore, from the shoes and stockings on their feet to the gloves on their hands. Unfortunately, many of these designations are in dispute. Nor must it be thought that, because there are eighteen names, the dress of an Israelite consisted of so many separate pieces. Several of them apply to different shapes or kinds of the same under or upper garments, while the list indicates their extreme number and variety rather than the ordinary dress worn. The latter consisted, to judge by the directions given for undressing and dressing in the bathroom, of six, or perhaps more generally, of five articles: the shoes, the head-covering, the or upper cloak, the girdle, the ḥaluq or under-dress, and the Ap̱qarsin or innermost covering. As regarded shoes, a man should sell his very roof-tree for them, although he might have to part with them for food, if he were in a weak condition through blood-letting. But it was not the practice to provide more than one pair of shoes, and to this may have referred the injunction of Christ to the Apostles not to provide shoes for their journey, or else to the well-known distinction between shoes (manalim) and sandals (sandalim). The former, which were sometimes made of very coarse material, covered the whole foot, and were specially intended for winter or rainy weather; while the sandals, which only protected the soles and sides of the feet, were specially for summer use.

In regard to the covering of the head, it was deemed a mark of disrespect to walk abroad, or to pass a person, with bared head. Slaves covered their heads in presence of their masters, and the Targum Onkelos indicates Israel’s freedom by paraphrasing the expression they ‘went out with a high hand’ by ‘with uncovered head.’ The ordinary covering of the head was the so-called sudar (or sudarium), a kerchief twisted into a turban, and which might also be worn round the neck. A kind of hat was also in use, either of light material or of felt (Ap̱ilyon shel rosh, or p̱ilyon). The sudar was twisted by Rabbis in a peculiar manner to distinguish them from others. We read besides of a sort of cap or hood attached to some kinds of outer or of inner garments.

Three, or else four articles commonly constituted the dress of the body. First came the under-garment, commonly the ḥaluq or the kituna (the Biblical keṯoneṯ), from which latter some have derived the word ‘cotton.’ The ḥaluq might be of linen or of wool. The sages wore it down to the feet. It was covered by the upper garment or taliṯ to within about a handbreadth. The ḥaluq lay close to the body, and had no other opening than that round the neck and for the arms. At the bottom it had a kind of hem. To possess only one such ‘coat’ or inner garment was a mark of poverty. Hence, when the Apostles were sent on their temporary mission, they were directed not to take ‘two coats.’ Closely similar to, if not identical with, the ḥaluq, was the ancient garment mentioned in the Old Testament as keṯoneṯ, to which the Greek ‘Chiton’ (χιτών) corresponds. As the garment which our Lord wore,  and those of which He spoke to His Apostles are designated by that name, we conclude that it represents the well-known keṯoneṯ or Rabbinic kituna. This might be of almost any material, even leather, though it was generally of wool or flax. It was sleeved, close-fitting, reached to the ankles, and was fastened round the loins, or just under the breast, by a girdle. One kind of the latter, the pundah or Ap̱undah, was provided with pockets or other receptacles, and hence might not be worn outside by those who went into the Temple, probably to indicate that he who went to worship should not be engaged in, nor bear mark of, any other occupation.

 Of the two other garments mentioned as parts of a man’s toilette, the Ap̱qarsin or Ap̱ikarsus seems to have been an article of luxury rather than of necessity. Its precise purpose is difficult to determine. A comparison of the passages in which the term occurs conveys the impression, that it was a large kerchief used partly as a head-gear, and which hung down and was fastened under the right arm.  Probably it was also used for the upper part of the body. But the circumstance that, unlike the other articles of dress, it need not be rent in mourning, and that, when worn by females, it was regarded as a mark of wealth, shows that it was not a necessary article of dress, and hence that, in all likelihood, it was not worn by Christ. It was otherwise with the upper garment. Various shapes and kinds of such were in use, from the coarser boresin and bardesin – the modern Burnoose – upwards. The gelima was a cloak of which ‘the border,’ or ‘hem,’ is specially mentioned (שיּפּולי גלימא) The gunda was a peculiarly Pharisaic garb. But the upper garment which Jesus wore would be either the so-called golṯa, or, most likely, the taliṯ. Both the Goltha and the taliṯ  were provided, on the four borders, with the so-called ṣiṣiṯ, or ‘fringes.’ These were attached to the four corners of the outer dress, in supposed fulfilment of the command, Num_15:38-41; Deu_22:12. At first, this observance seems to have been comparatively simple. The question as to the number of filaments on these fringes’ was settled in accordance with the teaching of the School of Shammai. Four filaments (not three, as the Hillelites proposed), each of four finger-lengths (these, as later tradition put it, doubled), and attached to the four corners of what must be a strictly square garment – such were the earliest rules on the subject. The Mishnah leaves it still a comparatively open question, whether these filaments were to be blue or white. But the Targum makes a strong point of it as between Moses and Korah, that there was to be a filament of hyacinth colour among four of white. It seems even to imply the peculiar symbolical mode of knotting them at present in use. Further symbolic details were, of course, added in the course of time. As these fringes were attached to the corners of any square garment, the question, whether the upper garment which Jesus wore was the golṯa or the taliṯ, is of secondary importance. But as all that concerns His Sacred Person is of deepest interest, we may be allowed to state our belief in favour of the taliṯ. Both are mentioned as distinctive dresses of teachers, but the golṯa̱ (so far as it differed from the taliṯ) seems the more peculiarly Rabbinic.

We can now form an approximate idea of the outward appearance of Jesus on that spring-morning amidst the throng at Capernaum. He would, we may safely assume, go about in the ordinary, although not in the more ostentatious, dress, worn by the Jewish teachers of Galilee. His head-gear would probably be the sudar (Sudarium) wound into a kind of turban, or perhaps the maap̱oreṯ, which seems to have served as a covering for the head, and to have descended over the back of the neck and shoulders, somewhat like the Indian pugaree. His feet were probably shod with sandals. The ḥaluq, or more probably the kituna, which formed his inner garment, must have been close-fitting, and descended to His feet, since it was not only so worn by teachers, but was regarded as absolutely necessary for any one who would publicly read or ‘Targum’ the Scriptures, or exercise any function in the Synagogue. As we know, it ‘was without seam, woven from the top throughout;’ and this closely accords with the texture of these garments. Round the middle it would be fastened with a girdle. Over this inner, He would most probably wear the square outer garment, or taliṯ, with the customary fringes of four long white threads with one of hyacinth knotted together on each of the four corners. There is reason to believe, that three square garments were made with these ‘fringes,’ although, by way of ostentation, the Pharisees made them particularly wide so as to attract attention, just as they made their phylacteries broad. Although Christ only denounced the latter practice, not the phylacteries themselves, it is impossible to believe that Himself ever wore them, either on the forehead or the arm. There was certainly no warrant for them in Holy Scripture, and only Pharisee externalism could represent their use as fulfilling the import of Exo_13:9, Exo_13:16; Deu_6:8; Deu_11:18. The admission that neither the officiating priests, nor the representatives of the people, wore them in the Temple, seems to imply that this practice was not quite universal. For our part, we refuse to believe that Jesus, like the Pharisees, appeared wearing phylacteries every day and all day long, or at least a great part of the day. For such was the ancient custom, and not merely, as the modern practice, to wear them only at prayer.

One further remark may be allowed before dismissing this subject. Our inquiries enable us in this matter also to confirm the accuracy of the Fourth Gospel. We read that the quaternion of soldiers who crucified Christ made division of the riches of His poverty, taking each one part of His dress, while for the fifth, which, if divided, would have had to be rent in pieces, they cast lots. This incidental remark carries evidence of the Judaean authorship of the Gospel in the accurate knowledge which it displays. The four pieces of dress to be divided would be the head-gear, the more expensive sandals or shoes, the long girdle, and the coarse taliṯ – all about equal in value. And the fifth undivided and, comparatively, most expensive garment ‘without seam, woven from the top throughout,’ probably of wool, as befitted the season of the year, was the kituna, or inner garment. How strange, that, what would have been of such priceless value to Christendom, should have been divided as the poor booty of a rough, unappreciative soldiery! Yet how well for us, since not even the sternest warning could have kept within the bounds of mere reverence the veneration with which we should have viewed and handled that which He wore, Who died for us on the Cross.

Can we, then, wonder that this Jewish woman, ‘having heard the things concerning Jesus,’ with her imperfect knowledge, in the weakness of her strong faith, thought that, if she might but touch His garment, she would be made whole? It is but what we ourselves might think, if He were still walking on earth among men: it is but what, in some form or other, we still feel when in the weakness – the rebound or diastole – of our faith it seems to us, as if the want of this touch in not outwardly-perceived help or Presence left us miserable and sick, while even one real touch, if it were only of His garment, one real act of contact, however mediate, would bring us perfect healing. And in some sense it really is so. For, assuredly, the Lord cannot be touched by disease and misery, without healing coming from Him, for He is the God-Man. And He is also the loving, pitying Saviour. Who disdains not, nor turns from our weakness in the manifestation of our faith, even as He turned not from hers who touched His garment for her healing.

We can picture her to our minds as, mingling with those who thronged and pressed upon the Lord, she put forth her hand and ‘touched the border of His garment,’ most probably the long ṣiṣiṯ of one of the corners of the taliṯ. We can understand how, with a disease which not only rendered her Levitically defiling, but where womanly shamefacedness would make public speech so difficult, she, thinking of Him Whose Word, spoken at a distance, had brought healing, might thus seek to have her heart’s desire. What strong faith to expect help where all human help, so long and earnestly sought, had so signally failed! And what strong faith to expect, that even contact with Him, the bare touch of His garment, would carry such Divine Power as to make her ‘whole.’ Yet in this very strength lay also its weakness. She believed so much in Him, that she felt as if it needed not personal appeal to Him; she felt so deeply the hindrances to her making request of Himself, that, believing so strongly in Him, she deemed it sufficient to touch, not even Himself, but that which in itself had no power nor value, except as it was in contact with His Divine Person. But it is here that her faith was beset by two-fold danger. In its excess it might degenerate into superstition, as trees in their vigour put forth shoots, which, unless they be cut off, will prevent the fruit-bearing, and even exhaust the life of the tree. Not the garments in which He appeared among men, and which touched His Sacred Body, nor even that Body, but Himself brings healing. Again, there was the danger of losing sight of that which, as the moral element, is necessary in faith: personal application to, and personal contact with, Christ.

And so it is to us also. As we realise the Mystery of the Incarnation, His love towards, and His Presence with, His own, and the Divine Power of the Christ, we cannot think too highly of all that is, or brings, in contact with Him. The Church, the Sacraments, the Apostolic Ministry of His Institution-in a word, the grand historic Church, which is alike His Dwelling-place, His Witness, and His Representative on earth, ever since He instituted it, endowed it with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and hallowed it by the fulfilled promise of His Eternal Presence, is to us what the garment He wore was to her who touched Him. We shall think highly of all this in measure as we consciously think highly of Him. His Bride the Church; the Sacraments which are the fellowship of His Body and Blood, of His Crucifixion an Resurrection; the Ministry and Embassy of Him, committed to the Apostles, and ever since continued with such direction and promise, cannot be of secondary importance – must be very real and full of power, since they are so connected, and bring us into such connection with Him: the spirituo-physical points of contact between Him, Who is the God-man, and those who, being men, are also the children of God. Yet in this strength of our faith may also lie its danger if not its weakness. Through excess it may pass into superstition, which is the attachment of power to anything other than the Living God; or else, in the consciousness of our great disease, want of courage might deprive faith of its moral element in personal dealing and personal contact with Christ.

Very significantly to us who, in our foolish judging and merciless condemning of one another, ever reenacted the Parable of the Two Debtors, the Lord did not, as Pseudo-orthodoxy would prescribe it, disappoint her faith for the weakness of its manifestation. To have disappointed her faith, which was born of such high thoughts of Him, would have been to deny Himself – and he cannot deny Himself. But very significantly, also, while He disappointed not her faith, He corrected the error of its direction and manifestation. And to this His subsequent bearing toward her was directed. No sooner had she so touched the border of His garment than ‘she knew in the body that she was healed of the scourge.’ No sooner, also, had she so touched the border of His garment than He knew, ‘perceived in Himself,’ what had taken place: the forthgoing of the Power that is from out of Him.

Taking this narrative in its true literality, there is no reason to overweight and mar it by adding what is not conveyed in the text. There is nothing in the language of Mark (as correctly rendered), nor of Luke, to oblige us to conclude that this forthgoing of Power, which He perceived in Himself, had been through an act, of the full meaning of which Christ was unconscious – in other words, that He was ignorant of the person who, and the reason why, she Had touched Him. In short, ‘the forthgoing of the Power that is out of Him’ was neither unconscious nor unwilled on His part. It was caused by her faith, not by her touch. ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole.’ And the question of Jesus could not have been misleading, when ‘straightway’ He ‘turned Him about in the crowd and said, Who touched My garments?’ That He knew who had done it, and only wished, through self-confession, to bring her to clearness in the exercise of her faith, appears from what is immediately added: ‘And He looked round about,’ not to see who had done it, but ‘to see her that had done this thing.’ And as His look of unspoken appeal was at last fixed on her alone in all that crowd, which, as Peter rightly said, was thronging and pressing Him, ‘the woman saw that she was not hid,’ and came forward to make full confession. Thus, while in His mercy He had borne with her weakness, and in His faithfulness not disappointed her faith, its twofold error was also corrected. She learned that it was not from the garment, but from the Saviour, that the Power proceeded; she learned also, that it was not the touch of it, but the faith in Him, that made whole – and such faith must ever be of personal dealing with Him. And so He spoke to her the Word of twofold help and assurance: ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole – go forth into peace, and be healed of thy scourge.’

Brief as is the record of this occurrence, it must have caused considerable delay in the progress of our Lord to the house of Jairus. For in the interval the maiden, who had been at the last gasp when her father went to entreat the help of Jesus, had not only died, but the house of mourning was already filled with relatives, hired mourners, wailing women, and musicians, in preparation for the funeral. The intentional delay of Jesus when summoned to Lazarus leads us to ask, whether similar purpose may not have influenced His conduct in the present instance. But even were it otherwise, no outcome of God’s Providence is of chance, but each is designed. The circumstances, which in their concurrence make up an event, may all be of natural occurrence, but their conjunction is of Divine ordering and to a higher purpose, and this constitutes Divine Providence. It was in the interval of this delay that the messengers came, who informed Jairus of the actual death of his child. Jesus overheard it, as they whispered to the Ruler not to trouble the Rabbi any further, but He heeded it not, save so far as it affected the father. The emphatic admonition, not to fear, only to believe, gives us an insight into the threatening failure of the Ruler’s faith; perhaps, also, into the motive which prompted the delay of Christ. The utmost need, which would henceforth require the utmost faith on the part of Jairus had now come. But into that, which was to pass within the house, no stranger must intrude. Even of the Apostles only those, who now for the first time became, and henceforth continued, the innermost circle, might witness, without present danger to themselves or others, what was about to take place. How Jesus dismissed the multitude, or else kept them at bay, or where He parted from all his disciples except Peter, James, and John, does not clearly appear, and, indeed, is of no importance. He may have left the nine Apostles with the people, or outside the house, or parted from them in the courtyard of Jairus’ house before he entered the inner apartments.

Within, ‘the tumult’ and weeping, the wail of the mourners, real or hired, and the melancholy sound of the mourning flutes – sad preparation for, and pageantry of, an Eastern funeral – broke with dismal discord on the majestic calm of assured victory over death, with which Jesus had entered the house of mourning. But even so He would tell it them, as so often in like circumstances He tells it to us, that the damsel was not dead, but only sleeping. The Rabbis also frequently have the expression ‘to sleep’ (demakh דמך, or דמוך, when the sleep is overpowering and oppressive), instead of ‘to die.’ It may well have been that Jesus made use of this word of double meaning in some such manner as this:talyeṯa dimkhaṯ, ‘the maiden sleepeth.’ And they understood Him well in their own way, yet understood Him not at all.

As so many of those who now hear this word, they to whom it was then spoken, in their coarse realism, laughed Him to scorn. For did they not verily know that she had actually died, even before the messengers had been dispatched to prevent the needless trouble of His coming? Yet even this their scorn served a higher purpose. For it showed these two things: that to the certain belief of those in the house the maiden was really dead, and that the Gospel-writers regarded the raising of the dead as not only beyond the ordinary range of Messianic activity, but as something miraculous even among the miracles of Christ. And this also is evidential, at least so far as to prove that the writers recorded the event not lightly, but with full knowledge of the demand which it makes on our faith.

The first thing to be done by Christ was to ‘put out’ the mourners, whose proper place this house no longer was, and who by their conduct had proved themselves unfit to be witnesses of Christ’s great manifestation. The impression which the narrative leaves on the mind is, that all this while the father of the maiden was stupefied, passive, rather than active in the matter. The great fear, which had come upon him when the messengers apprised him of his only child’s death, seemed still to numb his faith. He followed Christ without taking any part in what happened; he witnessed the pageantry of the approaching obsequies in his house without interfering; he heard the scorn which Christ’s majestic declaration of the victory over death provoked, without checking it. The fire of his faith was that of ‘dimly burning flax.’ But ‘He will not quench’ it.

He now led the father and the mother into the chamber where the dead maiden lay, followed by the three Apostles, witnesses of His chiefest working and of His utmost earthly glory, but also of His inmost sufferings. Without doubt or hesitation He took her by the hand and spoke only these two words:talyeṯa qum [kum] (טַלְיְתָא קוּם), Maiden, arise! ‘And straightway the damsel arose.’ But the great astonishment which came upon them, as well as the ‘strait charge’ that no man should know it, are further evidence, if such were required, how little their faith had been prepared for that which in its weakness was granted to it. And thus Jesus, as He had formerly corrected in the woman that weakness of faith which came through very excess, so now in the Ruler of the Synagogue the weakness which was by failure. And so ‘He hath done all things well: He maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.’

How Jesus conveyed Himself away, whether through another entrance into the house, or by ‘the road of the roofs,’ we are not told. But assuredly, He must have avoided the multitude. Presently we find Him far from Capernaum. Probably He had left it immediately on quitting the house of Jairus. But what of that multitude? The tidings must have speedily reached them, that the daughter of the Synagogue-Ruler was not dead. Yet it had been straitly charged that none of them should be informed, how it had come to pass that she lived. They were then with this intended mystery before them. She was not dead: thus much was certain. The Christ had, ere leaving that chamber, given command that meat should be brought her; and, as that direction must have been carried out by one of the attendants, this would become immediately known to all that household. Had she then not really died, but only been sleeping? Did Christ’s words of double meaning refer to literal sleep? Here then was another Parable of twofold different bearing: to them that had hearts to understand, and to them who understood not. In any case, their former scorn had been misplaced; in any case, the Teacher of Nazareth was far other than all the Rabbis. In what Name, and by what Power, did He come and act? Who was He really? Had they but known of the ‘talyeṯa qum,’ and how these two words had burst open the two-leaved doors of death and Hades! Nay, but it would have only ended in utter excitement and complete misunderstanding, to the final impossibility of the carrying out of Christ’s Mission. For, the full as well as the true knowledge, that He was the Son of God, could only come after His contest and suffering. And our faith also in Him is first of the suffering Saviour, and then of the Son of God. Thus was it also from the first. It was through what He did for them that they learned Who He was. Had it been otherwise, the full blaze of the Sun’s glory would have so dazzled them, that they could not have seen the Cross.

Yet to all time has this question engaged the minds of men: Was the maiden really dead, or did she only sleep? With it this other and kindred one is connected: Was the healing of the woman miraculous, or only caused by the influence of mind over body, such as is not unfrequently witnessed, and such as explains modern so-called miraculous cures, where only superstition perceives supernatural agency? But these very words ‘Influence of mind over body,’ with which we are so familiar, are they not, so to speak, symbolic and typical? Do they not point to the possibility, and, beyond it, to the fact of such influence of the God-Man, of the command which he wielded over the body? May not command of soul over body be part of unfallen Man’s original inheritance; all most fully realised in the Perfect Man, the God-Man, to Whom has been given the absolute rule of all things, and Who has it in virtue of His Nature? These are only dim feelings after possible higher truths.

No one who carefully reads this history can doubt, that the Evangelists, at least, viewed this healing as a real miracle, and intended to tell it as such. Even the statement of Christ, that by the forthgoing of Power He knew the moment when the woman touched the hem of His garment, would render impossible the view of certain critics (Keim and others), that the cure was the effect of natural causes: expectation acting through the imagination on the nervous system, and so producing the physical results. But even so, and while these writers reiterate certain old cavils propounded by Strauss, and by him often derived from the ancient armoury of our own Deists (such as Woolston), they admit being so impressed with the ‘simple,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘life-like’ cast of the narrative, that they contend for its historic truth. But the great leader of negativism, Strauss, has shown that any natural explanation of the event is opposed to the whole tenour of the narrative, indeed of the Gospel-history; so that the alternative is its simple acceptance or its rejection. Strauss boldly decides for the latter, but in so doing is met by the obvious objection, that his denial does not rest on any historical foundation. We can understand, how a legend could gather around historical facts and embellish them, but not how a narrative so entirely without precedent in the Old Testament, and so opposed, not only to the common Messianic expectation, but to Jewish thought, could have been invented to glorify a Jewish Messiah.

As regards the restoration to life of Jairus’ daughter, there is a like difference in the negative school (between Keim and Strauss). One party insists that the maiden only seemed, but was not really dead, a view open also to this objection, that it is manifestly impossible by such devices to account for the raising of the young man at Nain, or that of Lazarus. On the other hand, Strauss treats the whole as a myth. It is well, that in this case, he should have condescended to argument in support of his view, appealing to the expectancy created by like miracles of Elijah and Elisha, and to the general belief at that time, that the Messiah would raise the dead. For, the admitted differences between the recorded circumstances of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha and those of Christ are so great, that another negative critic (Keim) finds proof of imitation in their contrasts! But the appeal to Jewish belief at that time tells, if possible, even more strongly against the hypothesis in question (of Keim and Strauss). It is, to say the least, doubtful whether Jewish theology generally ascribed to the Messiah the raising of the dead. There are isolated statements to that effect, but the majority of opinions is, that God would Himself raise the dead. But even those passages in which this is attributed to the Messiah tell against the assertions of Strauss. For, the resurrection to which they refer is that of all the dead (whether at the end of the present age, or of the world), and not of single individuals. To the latter there is not the faintest allusion in Jewish writings, and it may be safely asserted that such a dogma would have been foreign, even incongruous, to Jewish theology.

The unpleasant task of stating and refuting these objections seemed necessary, if only to show that, as of old so now, this history cannot be either explained or accounted for. It must be accepted or rejected, accordingly as we think of Christ. Admittedly, it formed part of the original tradition and belief of the Church. And it is recorded with such details of names, circumstances, time and place, as almost to court inquiry, and to render fraud well-nigh impossible. And it is so recorded by all the three Evangelists, with such variations, or rather, additions, of details as only to confirm the credibility of the narrators, by showing their independence of each other. Lastly, it fits into the whole history of the Christ, and into this special period of it; and it sets before us the Christ and His bearing in a manner, which we instinctively feel to be accordant with what we know and expect. Assuredly, it implies determined rejection of the claims of the Christ, and that on grounds, not of history, but of preconceived opinions hostile to the Gospel, not to see and adore in it the full manifestation of the Divine Saviour of the world, ‘Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.’ And with this belief our highest thoughts of the potential for humanity, and our dearest hopes for ourselves and those we love, are inseparably connected.