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Nobodies of the Bible: Jairus, the Woman with the Hemorrhage, and Lessons in Faith
James assures us that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16). Jesus even said that our faith can move a mountain (Mark 11:23). There are four aspects of mountain-moving faith: believe, speak, act, and stand. Believe means more than just giving mental assent. There is a big difference between believing that God can do mighty acts and believing that God will help me in my need.
But perhaps the greatest hurdle is standing. The time between when we receive the answer to prayer by faith and see it manifest can be an excruciating wait, even if it isn't really very long. Consider Jairus (Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56).
The narrative of faith
He obviously believed not only that Jesus was capable of healing his daughter, but also that Jesus would do so if asked. So he acted on his belief. He left his house and went to find Jesus and fell at his feet. That took some courage and humility for a synagogue official. After all, Jesus was not widely admired or respected among synagogue leaders. As Jairusexpected, Jesus immediately agreed to go back to the house with him. Then came the interruption.
An unnamed woman picked that moment to exercise her faith. She had a long illness that made her ceremonially unclean and therefore a social outcast. She had spent all of her money on physicians, who did more harm than good. Then she heard about Jesus and believed that he could help. But as a social outcast, she did not have the nerve to ask Jesus for help.
She told herself that all she needed to do was touch his garment, and she would be well. Luke's account specifically says the hem of his garment. Think of what it means to touch the hem of his garment. Where would the hem be? Down near the ground. Both accounts say she came up behind him, but to touch the hem of his garment, she would have had to bow down.
Examination of the woman's faith
So we have both Jairus and this woman down on the ground at Jesus's feet (although I haven't ever seen an artist who paints them both). That is quite literally the picture of worship as the Bible usually uses the term. Every time the word "worship" appears in a narrative passage, in either Old Testament or New Testament, it describes people either on their knees or lying prostrate with their faces to the ground. In an attitude of worship, then, this woman made a demand on the power of God, and it flowed out of Jesus before he knew anything about it.
When Jesus felt the power go out, he wanted to know who touched him. It seemed like an unreasonable question, but surely he recognized who it was when he saw one and only one person besides Jairus down on the ground in an attitude of worship. The Bible says she told him everything. Here is someone who has been shunned for a long time, and someone actually wanted to talk to her.
Do you suppose for a moment that her comments were brief and to the point? She was surprised and perhaps embarrassed to be caught at something she intended to do in secret. Very likely, she was initially afraid that she had offended Jsus by causing power to go out of him without his permission. I suspect she hemmed and hawed for several minutes trying to get the story out. And Jesus patiently and lovingly stood and listened to every word.
Jairus also listened to every word. I imagine he listened with rising distress at what the delay meant for his daughter. Just after the woman finished her recital of twelve years of sickness and all the troubles with all the doctors, someone came and told Jairus that his daughter had died. There was no need to wait for Jesus. It was too late. Jesus could do nothing. Jesus was talking to the woman at the time, but he heard the message and told Jairus not to be swayed by it.
Examination of Jairus' faith
What were Jairus's options? When Jesus first turned to the woman, he could have spoken impatient words to Jesus to the effect that her problem could wait until his daughter was healed. But yielding to offense is a great way to block the answer to prayer. He obviously didn't do that. How many people have ever rebuked Jesus and gotten what they wanted from him?
He could have lost heart and gone back home at any time, but he didn't do that either. He had a choice when he heard that his daughter was dead. Either he could give in and "trouble the Teacher no more" or keep believing that even now, Jesus was both able and willing to help him.
I wrote earlier that the fourth and hardest part of mountain-moving faith is standing. I have no idea if Jairus literally got up off the ground, but in every sense that matters, he stood for several minutes waiting in faith for his miracle. Maintaining an attitude of faith for just those few minutes longer made all the difference in the world. Usually, of course, it takes much more than a few minutes between the time we believe God for something and the time we see it happen.
Standing in faith
What is the purpose of times of standing and waiting? It certainly presents us with the choice of believing in spite of opposition and delay or giving up and ceasing to believe at all. Surely we can all think of times when impatience caused us to make rash decisions and lose out on what we were waiting for. But perhaps the time of standing and waiting has even more profound meaning than simply patience and endurance.
Jesus followed his promise that faith can move mountains with a command to forgive (Mark 11:23-25). That certainly implies that belief and forgiveness must go hand in hand. Bearing grudges and holding on to offenses saps our ability to stand in faith. Just maybe, the time of standing is a time for self-examination and repentance. Am I offended by anyone? Is that offense causing the situation to become even worse? Is God convicting me of some other sin that I need to repent of?
Notice that in Mark 11:24 Jesus said that whatever we ask for in prayer would be granted. Now, surely that doesn't mean that anything we take into our minds and pray about will happen the way we want it to. It does mean that when we are in an attitude of prayer and a desire wells up in our hearts, God intends to give us what we ask. After all, it's something he put in our hearts. He doesn't necessarily mean to give it to us in the next few minutes. We must believe, speak (in prayer at least), act, and stand until we see the manifestation, just as Jairus stood in faith even after he had no earthly reason to do so.