Characters in the Shadows: Jairus

You’ve probably heard the story, we all have. Listed among the hundreds of miracles Jesus performed on earth, Luke 8 tells us about Jairus.

The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly where he’s from, but it seems reasonable to deduce that he was a ruler of the Capernaum synagogue, because Capernaum seemed to serve as a headquarters of sorts for Jesus during the few years of his ministry on earth, and the gospels mention that Jesus was “returning” when this event happened.

Sidenote: Going To Church

Jesus attended the synagogue every week, as the synoptic gospels mention on many occasions. That, right there, is a sermon in itself, especially to those who say something like: “Oh, it won’t make much difference if I go to church or not.” People who say that typically argue that:

1. I don’t need church. Quite true, possibly, but… if there ever was anybody who didn’t need church, it had to be Jesus Christ. Yet He was there every Sabbath, like clockwork. “Need” is obviously not a reason He attended regularly.

2. They don’t like me. They didn’t like Jesus, either. In fact, they wanted to kill him. Odds are any church you go to won’t be that extreme, but Jesus attended faithfully —  despite the hostility.

3. They’re a bunch of hypocrites. Jesus would agree with you on that one, too. One of the main reasons they didn’t like Him was His criticism of their hypocrisy. (Funny how that is: clergy all through the centuries seem to not take too kindly to being called out.) Yet, He didn’t let their hypocrisy stop Him from going. 

4. They’re just out to get my money. Well, Jesus didn’t have any money for them to want to grab, but it seems they were after other people’s money. Jesus didn’t let that shallowness deter Him, either.

All of those arguments may be true and valid. They were for Jesus. But He went anyways. Like praying, attending the synagogue was not a question or a decision to be made. Like Nike, He just did it.

When I read that, I was convicted. Jesus never taught or preached that we have to go to church, but you know what they say: actions speak louder than words. If attending church regularly was such a no-brainer for Jesus, despite all those (valid) objections, my only decision is: do I follow His example or not?

Well, that’s not what I wanted to write about, but it just struck me as I was reading the passage. Back to Jairus.


The Bible says he was an overseer of the (presumably Capernaum) synagogue. Since Jesus attended there more than anywhere else, it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that Jairus knew Jesus, probably in the way the local pastor knows the guy in the congregation who’s always on him about some error he ostensibly made. In other words, it doesn’t seem likely they hung out together at Peter’s house, which seems to have become the “Jesus Hot Spot” when He was in town.

It’s interesting to observe how the apostles changed once the Holy Spirit fell on them at Pentecost: Peter went from an impulsive coward to a courageous preacher. John started out as a hothead who wanted to squash like a bug anybody who didn’t agree with him, earning him the nickname by Jesus of “son of thunder.” It was only after the Spirit was poured out on him that he became the apostle of love. Or maybe he just mellowed with age.

Because John (in 12:42) had a pretty “son of thunder” view of all religious rulers: “…many believed in Him, but… they didn’t confess him… for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”


Do you also wonder what John thought when he saw the important Jairus fall down before Jesus?

The Need

Jairus was suddenly confronted with a serious need, literally life and death. He might not have been a believer in Jesus as Messiah, but he wasn’t blind: even he could have seen the hundreds who got healed in and around his synagogue on a daily basis.

The problem he had was severe enough that he decided to set aside any differences he may have had with this Jesus character, and swallow his pride. It was a big swallow, as Luke tells us he physically fell down at Jesus’ feet, begging Him to heal his only daughter. For someone prominent to do something like that was as big a deal then as it would be today if, say, your mayor were to fall at your feet in front of a gasping crowd to ask for your help.

Jesus, as we have come to know Him, was merciful, and again let mercy triumph over judgment. He agreed to heal the daughter of Jairus, rather than make him grovel and ask for forgiveness for all those petty little bureaucratic obstacles leaders so often set before their opponents.

Jairus no doubt had been waiting at the shore for Jesus, maybe even pacing up and down as he gazed at the horizon. Imagine the relief, then, when the Master agreed to accompany him home to heal his daughter.

The Delay

And imagine his dismay when the crowd, those lowlifes who just make leaders’ lives miserable with their incessant demands, made Jesus stop and attend to their needs.

His daughter was dying.

He was forced to wait all day till Jesus finally returned in his boat.

And he was first.

They didn’t wait as long as he, they didn’t humble themselves like he did, and they weren’t about to die. Couldn’t they wait till after Jesus attended to his daughter?

But… Jesus, as we know, was touched by a woman who had suffered continuous bleeding for 12 years. (Coincidence that this bleeding happened as long as Jairus’s daughter was alive? We’ll never know, will we? )

And, during the delay, Jairus’s daughter died. We know the rest of the story: Jesus raised her from the dead.

How do you think Jairus felt during this whole episode?

1. Where is God? I’m praying and praying, but he’s out on a boat somewhere, doing other things. Will He ever attend to my need?

2. Desperation makes me forget my pride and prejudice, and gets me to simply cast myself before His feet, submitting to His will and mercy.

3. Joy when He turns my way to meet my need.

4. Angst when He takes His sweet time, and attends to other people first. What’s wrong with me?

5. Dismay when the very thing I feared happens. Now it’s too late. Why bother any more? Guess I’m not significant enough.

6. Unspeakable joy when the delay turns a “regular” intervention into a major miracle.

Sometimes God doesn’t act according to the scripts we lay out before Him. But His mercy and compassion run deeper (and longer) than we could ever suspect.

And it doesn’t matter if we had ignored Him, or even opposed Him, before. God is love and He enjoys showing mercy, not judgment or revenge.



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