Girl Restored to Life

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.

As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

49 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” 50 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” 51 When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What to do with this educator’s commentary

This commentary invites you as a teacher to engage with and interpret the passage. Allow the text to speak first. The commentary suggests that you ask yourself various questions that will aid your interpretation. They will help you answer for yourself the question in the last words of the text: ‘what does this mean?’

This educator’s commentary is not a ‘finished package’. It is for your engagement with the text. You then go on to plan how you enable your students to work with the text.

Both you and your students are the agents of interpretation. The ‘Worlds of the Text’ offer a structure, a conversation between the worlds of the author and the setting of the text; the world of the text; and the world of reader. In your personal reflection and in your teaching all three worlds should be integrated as they rely on each other.

In your teaching you are encouraged to ask your students to engage with the text in a dialogical way, to explore and interpret it, to share their own interpretation and to listen to that of others before they engage with the way the text might relate to a topic or unit of work being studied.

Structure of the commentary:

The world behind the text

The world of the author’s community

The world at the time of the text

Geography of the text

Questions for the teacher

The world of the text

Text & textual features

Characters & setting

Ideas / phrases / concepts

Questions for the teacher

The world in front of the text

Questions for the teacher

Meaning for today / challenges

Church interpretations & usage

The World Behind the Text

See general introduction to Luke.

The World of the Text

Text and Textual features

In each of the Gospels, you will find some passages deliberately interwoven together.  The practice of interrupting one passage with another is called intercalation. The technique serves to emphasise a point or message found in both passages: sometimes this is done through contrast in the two passages, other times through having the second passage extend or expand upon the message of the first. Examples of intercalation include the following: Mk 3:20-35, 4:1-20, 5:21-43 and 14:1-11. In this case, both texts incorporate parallel themes that mirror what comes before and after to make a strong overarching statement about healing and faith.

Luke 8: 40-56 reflects this way of writing in the ancient world. In terms of Luke’s overall gospel structure, this combined text falls at the close of Jesus’ ministry as it follows on from two other accounts of Jesus’ demonstration of power over nature and a demoniac. In this instance, Luke’s textual positioning is obvious as it is rich in symbolism and its message. Luke most likely borrowed from Mark’s version of this text (Mk 5: 21-43) A more abbreviated version can be found in Matthew’s gospel (Mt 9: 18-26).

Characters and Setting

Viewed as a single passage, this account explores experiences of privilege versus poverty. Ironically, it is not a tussle of opposing powers or competition but a shared foundation out of which the experience of salvation and faith arise. The Sacred goodness that emanates from God is equally present in both social settings in this story. God’s loving presence is on offer beyond any social, political or class boundaries created by human beings. The human construction of barriers cannot and does not contain God or God’s desire to fill all of creation with loving goodness. As Jesus traverses both social terrains he becomes a complete demonstration of the dignity of all. In both of the tales that combine to form this singular text, we find ourselves being drawn into this great story of God’s love for the entire universe.

In regard to the setting, the pressing crowds denote Jesus’ growing popularity and people’s interest in him. This crowd is welcoming but also very stifling.

Our opening story centers around a young girl who is dying. The inclusion of her age of twelve years is very significant as it recalls the twelve tribes of Israel. Number is very important in Gospel stories as are links to the Old Testament. This young girl remains unnamed throughout this text. She is clearly of privilege as her father carries the title of synagogue official. He is known as Jairus, no doubt a man of great repute in Jewish circles.  In this opening scene all seems lost and hope appears to have faded. Despite the father’s significant role in society and religion he appears to have nothing left. He finds himself begging Jesus as he falls at his feet. This is reminiscent of the demoniac’s posture before Jesus in a previous text. The father’s desperation provides a sense of high drama at the outset. Building on this initial expression of despair, Jairus calls Jesus inside his home. There is again, a sense of crossing boundaries for the sake of hospitality, welcome and life. In Jesus’ world, not everyone would be called into the home of a synagogue official.

It is at this point in the overall textual structure that our second story is inserted. We now move from privilege to a setting of dire poverty. A sense of desperation repeats itself as a woman who has bled for twelve years finds herself in Jesus’ presence. This bleeding would have been in reference to a gynecological issue outside of menstruation. Again, the number twelve is included as with our previous story. So often in Gospel stories, the poor reach out to Jesus. However, in this case the unnamed woman employs deep courage to go one step further as she touches the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. This would refer to the religious tassels that formed an important part of his Jewish outer garment. Such an illegal act would have led to a legal penalty for this woman.

Like with Jairus, she finds herself in a posture of desperation at Jesus’ feet seeking life. This action would have left Jesus unclean, according to Judaic Law (Lev 15: 19-25). Again, another boundary disintegrates for the sake of God’s loving embrace and mercy. Jesus does not abandon her as expected but remains in her presence. It is the Law that he puts aside because it is a hinderance to life. Jesus opens himself to her vulnerability and authentic humanity. This woman’s restored health results from the power that Jesus shares with her in the midst of one last grasp for life and renewal.

In a moment, this anonymous woman of immense poverty and powerlessness become central to Jesus’ world. She becomes a celebration of God’s presence in the world and God’s desire for life. In the ancient world, such restoration would have opened up many doors for such women. Her path towards inclusive participation in society would have been finally on offer.

At the close of this story Jesus refers to the woman as daughter. This seems to be a deliberate maneuver on the author’s part that draws the reader back into the first story about the young girl. They are on the same footing.  The situation appears to intensify with the dying girl now confirmed as dead. Like with the woman who bled, Jesus will become unclean if he dares touch her. In this moment of heightened drama Jesus ignores the request to give up as he enters the house and confirms the girl’s transformation from death to life. Somehow his reach for the girl’s hand is paramount in her coming to life. Like with the bleeding woman, faith and human touch are key to healing and coming to wholeness. Jesus’ offer of food for the girl healed makes a strong parallel to the role of culinary hospitality we find in Lk 24: 42-43. Human hospitality symbolizes the fullness of life promised by God. The mocking Jesus’ receives in both stories alludes to the cruel prelude he will experience in the lead up to his crucifixion. At this concluding stage of the overall story we can see so many parallels that join these two texts together forever. This creates a rhetorical strength for the Lukan author who is forming an overall sense of faith and self-belief as integral to one’s wholeness of being.

In conclusion, these two texts that combine to become one story are a celebration of women as disciples of faith and vessels of new life. In Luke’s Gospel women appear more than any other Gospel. From a theological perspective, the two females in this story become metaphors of the Kingdom of God, that is God’s loving embrace that is on offer to all. This builds on the foundational belief that all are worthy of human dignity in God’s eyes.

Questions for the teacher:

What am I wondering about the text?
What of this information is important to share with the students?
How can you enable your students to engage with the actual text?
What might they already know about (from their study of literacy)?
What might they wonder about?

World in Front of the Text

Questions for the teacher:

How does the information assist you in understanding the text?
What else do you need to know?
How might Matthew’s community have reacted to this text?
What else might the students need to know? What could be some questions the students might ask?

Meaning for today/challenges

Stories are very powerful vehicles of meaning making and interpretation. Our own personal story that connects with Gospel stories become a bridge for growth and renewal of our lives. Individuals will be drawn towards a different emphasis from this story depending on their life’s circumstance and experience. What stands out about this dual text is the encouragement to hang onto life no matter what, hang onto faith no matter how bad the situation becomes and hang onto each other in the face of despair, loss and social isolation.

This profound story that appears as a prelude to the resurrection is like a tonic that we can take to bolster our own self -belief, our commitment to community and our desire to turn situations around that can celebrate good over evil and life over death. In the midst of these core themes are conceptual threads of courage, human vulnerability and the call to reach out when one is in strife. What holds the warp and the weft of this story as one fabric is the underlying sense of God’s hospitality for all of creation. In this story, Jesus becomes the complete expression of this divine welcome that comes to life through the every day.