Matthew 9:18–26 (ESV): A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed
The last couple of passages have been concerned with a meal Jesus had with Matthew, and some other “tax collectors and sinners.” The Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples didn’t like this, and Jesus explained the situation to them.
In this passage, a “ruler” comes in (verse 18 (ESV)), while Jesus is still speaking to John’s disciples and the Pharisees, kneels before Jesus, and tells him that his daughter has just died, but asks Jesus to come and lay his hand on her, that she might live again. Jesus agrees to go with the man, so he and his disciples do so.
On the way there is a woman who has “suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years” (verse 20 (ESV)), and she figures that if she just touches Jesus’ garment, she’ll be healed from her affliction. She does so, and Jesus, realizing what has happened, turns to her and tells her that her faith has made her well. Instantly, she is healed.
Jesus continues on his way, makes it to the ruler’s house, and finds people mourning the girl’s death. He tells them to go away, since the girl is only sleeping and not dead, but they laugh at him. He gets them out of the house anyway, goes in to the girl, and takes her by the hand, whereupon she arises. Not surprisingly, “the report of this went through all that district” (verse 26 (ESV)).
There are parallel accounts of this story in Mark 5:22–43 (ESV) and Luke 8:41–56 (ESV), each of which has more detail than this account in Matthew. Including the fact that the father in this account is a man named Jairus, who is the ruler of the synagogue. However, he still kneels before Jesus, indicating his acknowledgement of Jesus’ superior authority.
Although the Jewish rulers are often portrayed in the New Testament as being too wrapped up in their rules and regulations to accept Jesus’ message, there are exceptions. Jairus is one of them. He may be the ruler of the synagogue, but he still has enough faith in Jesus to know that Jesus can raise his daughter from the dead.
Some might look at Jesus’ words to the mourners—“the girl is not dead but sleeping” (verse 24 (ESV))—and take this to mean that she wasn’t really dead, but maybe comatose or something like that. (Maybe accompanied by thoughts that people in Jesus’ day were so backwards that they didn’t know how to properly figure out if someone was dead.) But Jesus is not literally saying that she’s just asleep; he knows that she’s dead. However, since he knows what he’s about to do, it’s as if she’s not dead.
I don’t have much to say about the woman who is healed, except that she, like Jairus, shows tremendous faith in Jesus. She believes that just by touching his clothes, she can be healed of her affliction.
Those were all my thoughts, but the ESV Study Bible pointed out a few other things:
- Because of the nature of the woman’s condition, her “discharge of blood for twelve years” (verse 20 (ESV)), she would have been ceremonially unclean, and she would have been so for twelve years. By Jewish law, touching her should have made Jesus unclean, too, and, similarly, touching the dead girl would have as well. (Perhaps this is why the woman wanted to just touch Jesus’ clothes, and not touch Jesus himself? To try and avoid making him unclean?) However, Jesus has God’s holiness, and, despite what Jewish law teaches about cleanness and uncleanness, Jesus’ power is actually able to make the unclean clean.
- Regarding the flute players and the crowd:
Professional mourners were customarily hired to assist at funerals, usually including flutists and wailing women (making a commotion). Since bodies decomposed quickly in Palestine, mourners had to assemble fairly soon after a death.