It is never too late for Jesus to help those in need. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of Luke’s gospel, showing how Christ restored the hope of a man about to lose his daughter and of a woman who had lost everything she had.
We will continue our study of the gospel of Luke, and God willing, we will come to the end of the eighth chapter after spending many weeks, indeed months, in this chapter. God, in His providence, has brought us to the last section of it. So, I will read this morning from Luke 8:40–56. This is a lengthy text, but an important one, and I would ask the congregation to stand for the reading of the Word of God:
So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.
And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”
When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.
And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.”
But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.
But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.
We continue in Luke’s gospel to see a record of the blaze of miracles that followed Jesus wherever He went during His earthly ministry. I remind you that this is not cleverly designed myth or fable, but the sober Word of God, and I implore you to receive it as such. Please be seated. Let us pray.
Our Father, we come to You as vessels of weakness who need to be filled by the power and strength of Your Holy Spirit. We pray even now that we may be edified and encouraged by this record of the work of our dear and beloved Lord Jesus. Help us now to understand these things. For we ask it in His name. Amen.
Cast Out Then Welcomed
In recent weeks we saw first Jesus’ astonishing power over nature when He calmed the storm at sea, followed by the manifestation of His power over the satanic kingdom by freeing the man possessed by a legion of demons. Luke continues his narrative by showing us Jesus’ power over disease and death so that we find the comprehensive authority and power of our Lord over the world, the flesh, and the devil.
When last we looked at the text, after Jesus cast out Legion, we saw that the people came out to witness what had happened. When they realized what had taken place, they were filled with fear, even as the disciples had been filled with fear when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. They begged Jesus to leave.
So, in the previous narrative, we had people saying to Jesus, “Please go.” In the very next passage, we hear the ruler of the synagogue begging Jesus, “Please come,” but on the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
When the people begged Jesus to leave after casting out Legion, He departed from them and crossed again to the shore by Capernaum. On that side, we pick up the narrative in verse 40 that the multitude on that side of the lake welcomed Him. Note the irony; the multitude on the other side of the lake wanted Him gone. The people who were more familiar with Him near Capernaum were happy to see Him returning, for they were waiting for Him.
Jairus’ Desperate Need
“Behold, there came a man named Jairus.” Luke identifies Jairus as a ruler of the synagogue. The synagogue in those days was ruled by elders, and those who had that position were given great esteem and authority in the Jewish community. This was a man of notable status, and when he came to Jesus, he humbled himself completely and fell at the feet of Jesus. He was a desperate man, and Luke tells us the reason for his desperation.
Luke tells us that Jairus had an only daughter who was about twelve years of age, and she was dying. It is obvious that this ruler would have summoned the best physicians in and around Capernaum to treat his daughter, but whatever treatments she received were not successful. His only hope at that point was Jesus. Jesus was the only One who could fill the need that he had.
Let me pause at this point for a little scurry down a rabbit trail. I have had many people say to me that they did not need Jesus. That is a common sentiment of people outside the kingdom of God. Sure, there are times of crisis during their lives where they may suddenly turn to Jesus seeking help, but for the most part, fallen and lost mankind feels no need for Jesus. This is one of the most tragic misunderstandings of the human predicament to be found. There is nothing in this world that every person needs more desperately than they need Jesus.
Jairus at least understood his need, so he came humbly to Jesus and begged Him, saying, “Please come.” Jesus went, but as He went, the crowd that had welcomed Him on the shore of the sea got wind of what was going on. They witnessed the beseeching of Jairus. They heard his lament. They heard him beg Jesus to come and save his daughter. Whispering went among the crowd, and they all fell in step with Jesus. You could hear the crowd murmuring, saying, “This, I have to see.” They had already probably been eyewitnesses of other miracles that Jesus had performed, but this was something that they had never seen: somebody being healed at the point of death. The multitudes thronged Him.
The narrative of the raising of Jairus’ daughter is interrupted just as Jesus was interrupted on His way to Jairus’ house, and we read about another event taking place.
A Woman Who Lost Everything
A woman enters the scene who had a flow of blood for twelve years. She had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any of them. She is given no name; Luke only mentions her condition and situation.
Here was a woman who, presumably the same year that Jairus’ daughter was born, came down with a chronic case of hemorrhaging, wherein she lost her health. Luke tells us that she spent every penny she had going to doctors trying to find a cure for this chronic hemorrhaging. We see a woman who lost her health and wealth, but not only that—this hemorrhaging would have made her ceremonially unclean, and she therefore would have lost her status and reputation in the Jewish community. Everything that was important to her—her health, her money, and her status in the community—was gone, not for a month or twelve months, but for twelve years. She was as desperate in her condition as Jairus was in his.
We see what the woman did with her need. As Jairus came and fell before Jesus, now this woman reasoned in her heart: “If I can just touch His garment—I don’t need to have Him give me an audience. I don’t need to have Him lay his hands on me. I don’t need to have Him say anything to me. He doesn’t need to touch me; besides, I’m unclean and it would be presumptuous of me to ask Him to touch me. But if I can just get close enough to touch one of the tassels on the edge of His garment, I’m sure that’s all it will take.”
Here was a woman who had no reason at all to trust any man she had ever met to heal her. She spent every penny that she had on professional healers who were stymied by her condition and unable to help her at all. Yet, when she saw Jesus, she said: “I don’t need to go to any more doctors. I just want to touch the hem of his garment, and I’ll be healed.”
So, the woman came from behind Jesus and touched the border of His garment. Instantly, the flow of blood stopped, and the hemorrhaging finished. Jesus stopped, looked around, and said, “Who touched Me?” The poor woman was now cowering in terror. The last thing she wanted to do was come forward and say, “I did it.”
Power Went Out from Him
In the meantime, Jesus wanted to know who touched Him, and everybody denied it. All the people crowding against Jesus said: “I didn’t do it. It wasn’t me.” Impetuous Peter, prone to correcting Jesus when Jesus apparently needed to be corrected, said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press against You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”
Do you hear the tone in Peter’s voice? “Are you out of your mind? How in the world are we going to know who touched You? All these people are bumping and pushing against you every second, and You’re asking us who touched You.” Jesus politely ignored the outburst from Peter and simply said: “Look, somebody touched me. I know it because I perceived power going out from Me.”
The statement Jesus made in this circumstance tells us something about Him. When Jesus used His power to redeem people from whatever condition they were in, it cost Him something. When He calmed the storm, it cost Him something. When He healed the man of a legion of demons, He was drained of the power that left Him.
As He was on His way to deal with the dying daughter of Jairus, He felt power go out from Him again. He understood that this exit of strength from His body did not occur haphazardly, but only when redeeming power was used in a saving way. He said: “Peter, somebody touched Me. I know that somebody touched Me, because I felt not the touch, but I felt the departure of My power.”
Adopted as a Daughter
When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling and fell before Him. This is the second person who had fallen before Jesus in this narrative, first Jairus and now the woman. She declared to Jesus in the presence of all the people that she touched Him and why she did: “Master, I’ve had this flow of blood unceasing for twelve years, and nobody could help me. I thought that if I could just touch the hem of Your garment, something would happen. I didn’t want to interrupt You; I didn’t want it to cost You anything; I didn’t want You to have power leave You; I just wanted to touch the hem of Your garment, that’s all. When I did it, I was healed immediately, instantly, totally, and completely.”
Jesus said to her, “Daughter.” I wonder how old she was. She had this condition for twelve years. She was not a child, obviously. She may have been just as old as Jesus, and yet Jesus called her daughter. Do not miss the significance of that. We are not by nature sons and daughters of God. God is not the Father of us all.
In biblical terms, God is only the Father of His only begotten Son. All the rest of His children, His sons and daughters, are adopted. There is no other way to get into the family of God except through adoption. The only way you can be adopted into the family of God is through God’s only Son.
So, this woman was trembling, telling her story, and wondering what Jesus was going to do, and the first thing He did was welcome her into God’s family by calling her “daughter.” He said: “Be of good cheer. Stop trembling. Stop being afraid. You are now my daughter.” He was on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, and instead He stopped to heal one who was now His own daughter.
“Your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” It was not the woman’s faith that had the power to heal her, as some mistakenly believe. Rather, because of her faith, that is, as a consequence of her trusting in Christ, she was healed. Jesus said, “Go in peace.” How many times did our Lord say this to people? Was this not His favorite litany for His people? Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you,” and, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest is not all He gives; He gives peace. He said to the woman: “Your body is fine, and your soul is even better. So, go now in peace.”
Never Too Late for Jesus
While Jesus was still speaking, He was again interrupted, for someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house with bad news for Jairus: “Jairus, I’m sorry. Your daughter is dead, don’t bother the master anymore. It’s too late.”
In John’s gospel when Jesus got to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, four days after Lazarus died, and the women wrung their hands and said: “If only You would’ve been here Lord, he wouldn’t have died. You’ve come four days later. It’s too late.”
Do you know how many millions of people have assumed that it was too late for them to meet Jesus or have Jesus do anything for them? They think, “I have been a pagan all these years, and it’s too late for me.” Are you still alive? Then it is not too late.
When Jesus heard the news from Jairus’ house, He said, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” They may have thought: “You didn’t hear us Jesus. It’s too late. You may be able to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and fix people with legs that won’t work, but now it’s too late. She’s dead.” Jesus said, “Everything is going to be made well.”
Not Mostly Dead
When Jesus came into Jairus’ house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, John, and the girl’s mother and father. All wept and mourned for her, but Jesus said: “Do not weep. Stop crying. She’s not dead, but sleeping.” What do we make of this? Did Jesus just cure a young girl that had become comatose? Did He simply wake her up?
Was Jesus teaching us about the heretical doctrine of psychopannychia, which says that when we die, we do not really die, but instead fall into soul sleep and remain in a condition of suspended animation until the final judgment, at which point we are awakened and it seems as though no time has passed? No, this was a common way speaking euphemistically as a Jew. Jesus was saying that she was not dead once and for all, in the sense of being gone forever, but that He just needed to wake her up.
Notice that when Jesus said she was just sleeping, they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. What is the antecedent of “they”? Who was it that ridiculed Jesus when He said this? Peter, James, and John? The mother and the father? No, the ones who ridiculed Him made up the crowd pressing around outside wailing and playing music. Who were they? They were the professional mourners that gathered like buzzards as soon as the death occurred. Professional mourners were paid to play the flute and wail at funerals.
So, the professional mourners were gathered at the house, and Jesus said: “Be quiet. Stop the screaming and silence the flutes. She’s sleeping.” The mourners ridiculed Him. They were not mourning now; they were mocking. They were mocking Jesus because they knew the girl was dead.
If you have seen the movie Princess Bride, Billy Crystal is the miracle worker, and Dread Pirate Roberts was sick unto death. He was ninety-nine percent dead. Nobody could fix him, so his friends took him to see the miracle worker, Billy Crystal, whom they said could do anything. Billy Crystal looked at Dread Pirate Roberts and said: “He’s not dead; he’s mostly dead. Dead I can’t fix. Mostly dead I can fix,” and he fixed Dread Pirate Roberts. The mourners in the text said that the little girl was not mostly dead, but she was all the way dead. This was not a resuscitation; this was a resurrection.
God’s Effectual Call
The text continues, “He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called”—there again is the divine effectual call. The means by which the universe came into being was by divine imperative, divine fiat. God called the universe into being, saying, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Lazarus came out of the tomb because Jesus called him out of the tomb.
If you are in Christ this morning, if you are a Christian, it is because God the Holy Spirit called you out of darkness into light. He did not just invite you. Your call was not simply the outer call of preaching. It was the inner call of God the Holy Ghost, the omnipotent God who brought you alive from spiritual death, what we call in theology, “the effectual call of God.” How did Jesus calm the sea? He called the waves and the wind to stop, and they stopped.
Jesus called Jairus’ inert, twelve-year-old daughter, saying, “Little girl, arise.” This was a foretaste of the last judgment, when all who are in Christ will hear the same effectual call, and the dead in Christ will rise at the sound of His voice when He says, “My little ones—little boy, little girl—get up.” We will rise on that day.
The text says, “Then her spirit returned.” Luke understood that she was not comatose, because when you are comatose your soul does not leave the body. If you are in soul sleep, your soul does not leave the body. This little girl was dead because her soul had gone. Jesus called it back and reunited her soul with her body, and she arose immediately.
Jesus commanded that she should be given something to eat. She had been so sick and she had to be hungry, so Jesus made sure someone brought her something to eat. She was fine, and her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened, not yet. That moment will come, when He will charge them and all who receive the grace of Christ to tell everybody. What an incredible day in the life of Jesus.
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.