Jairus was an important man, a man others looked up to, a man of some considerable means though not flamboyant. Overall, he was known as a faithful man. He was the type of guy you would seek out for wisdom in dealing with both business and family life. He was an asset to the community, a leader in the Synagogue. He has stood there, at a distance, as the crowd continued to grow on the shoreline. He could just make out this Jesus of Nazareth sitting in the boat teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven. He did not know what to think about all of it. He had heard about Jesus, of course, but he was not sure if this powerful teacher was to be considered a friend or a foe. Was He good for the children of God? Was He faithful and true, or was He going to mislead them? He had heard about the miracles but being such an important man, he had to be careful where he established fellowship.
There was another reason he did not rush down to the front of the crowd to listen to His words. It was not just social pressure he was concerned about, no, he simply did not have time to get caught up in all of it for his little girl was sick at home. The doctors were there now, and besides, it was getting late. He had better hurry home to see if there was any improvement. Things seemed to unravel pretty fast from that moment though. When he got home not only was she not better, she was considerably worse. It slowly began to sink in as his wife looked up at him with tears in her eyes. His daughter was dying. He did not care anymore what others thought. If there was any hope that this Jesus might be able to heal her, he needed to try to get Him to come. He rushed back down to the shore, but the crowd was dispersing. He was too late. Jesus had set sail across the sea.
There was a rumor He would come back, but how long would it be? How long did his daughter have? How long? You can imagine Jairus pacing along the shore, silently uttering his prayers to the Almighty and scanning the horizon for any sign of those boats. Finally, he sees them, and word must have gotten around how this vessel was carrying Jesus of Nazareth for a crowd was already starting to form. Other’s where there gathering also, others who sought His teaching and His healing. This time he was not going to waste any time. This time, as soon as Jesus disembarked, he pressed through the crowd and fell at our Lord’s feet. Here, at last, was hope. Here, at last, was the possibility of healing for his daughter. In earnest he says, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And Jesus goes. He goes and Jairus begins to have hope again. But Jesus is interrupted in His going. He is delayed by some woman who pushed through the crowds. Great, another delay. How long would this take? How long did his daughter have? As Jesus is talking with this woman, Jairus looks towards his home and sees his friend running out to meet him. He can tell by the look on his face. It had taken too long. She was dead.
Who was this woman? Why did she have to interrupt? Could she not have waited just a little longer? Now, we do not actually know her name, but we know why she could not wait. She was plagued with a particularly horrific condition. For 12 years she suffered from a constant flow of blood. No matter what she had tried to solve the problem nothing made it any better. In fact, the years of physicians visits and homeopathic remedies by the so-called experts only left her in a worse condition. She had spent all her money, all she had on any and every possible solution, but nothing worked. We can only imagine the physical distress she lived in every day, but this particular ailment affected her far more than her health.
According to the decrees of Levitical Law a woman who was menstruating was considered ritually unclean. Those who came in contact with her, those who touched her would also become unclean. In such a state she was cut off from her own people, separated even from being able to worship in the House of the Lord. For 12 years she was alone. For 12 years she was unclean and nothing she tried fixed it. “How long?” She must have cried, “How long must I endure this separation, separation from love, from compassion from Divine pardon and peace. How long?” But she had heard about Jesus. She had heard about the things He could do. She came with the others to see Him. She could not take it any longer. She pushed through the crowd knowing full well such an act spread her contamination. Yet, she had one thought in her mind, “If I touch even His garment, I will be made well.” And she did, she did the unthinkable. She touched Him. This was her final hope, her final attempt at restoration.
How long? This is a common cry from the people of God, a cry from people of faith who feel they cannot hold on much longer. It is the cry of those who are teetering on the edge, they believe but doubts now cloud their minds. It is a cry of longing for healing, longing for restoration, longing for an end to the war and fear and confusion. How often have you uttered these words? When will you speak them again? They are the strain placed on us as we live in the promises of Christ, promises we long to see fulfilled. In the book of Revelation there is a scene of the Throne Room of God, where even there the saints who have been slain cry out from under the altar, “How long?” When will the end come? When will we be vindicated in our faith? When will we see with our eyes what we now believe with our hearts? How long?
The promise remains. The promise stands firm. “Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).
As she grasped the garment of our Lord she knew. She knew in that moment, she was healed. Her exclusion, her 12-year exile, her uncleanliness comes to an end in Christ. He says, “Daughter your faith has made you well.” In Jesus there is welcome, there is healing, there is hope. He turns then to Jairus, who is devasted by the news of his daughter’s death, and Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.” He goes to his home. He goes and endures the ridicule of the household as He tells them she is only asleep. He goes into a place of death and despair and brings hope and life. He takes her by the hand as she lays in her death bed and says, “Little girl, arise.” And she gets up. At His Word, she is healed. She is restored. She lives.
I do not think it is a small thing to note how she was 12 years old. 12 like the 12 years the woman suffered in exclusion and terror. 12 like the 12 tribes of Israel or the 12 apostles. 12 is the number of the Church, the number of the people of God. The image of the New Jerusalem which answers the cry from the Saints under the Altar has 12 foundations and 12 gates, each one being a giant pearl. The 12 are not forgotten. You are not forgotten. Your uncleanliness will not separate you from the love of Christ. Your sins will not keep His compassion at bay. Even the grave itself will not stop His promises to you.
In faith we cry out, “How long?” because He has promised something beyond this life. And we know that no matter where we are when He comes again, He will take us by the hand and say, “Arise!”