There are not too many biblical stories that bring out the raw emotions of the people involved more than today’s first reading. David is the great king of Israel. However, like many of us, he made mistakes with his children. A number of mistakes with Absalom led to a life that spiraled out of control. Eventually, Absalom led a rebellion against his own father. What a difficult position for David to be in. He loved his son and wanted him to live so that there could be reconciliation between them but he was not prepared to give up the kingdom. So, he sent Joab, the commander of his armies, to battle against the rebels but gave him strict orders to spare Absalom’s life. Joab defeated the rebel armies but proved to be untrustworthy. He explicitly disobeyed the king’s order and personally killed a defenseless Absalom. What a beautiful but heart wrenching picture of a father weeping for his son. “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” That is truly “a man after God’s own heart.” If only I had died instead of you.
In the gospel reading a father has a sick daughter. The father is a synagogue official, a Jewish leader, and he sees in Jesus someone who can help. Like David entrusting Absalom to Joab, Jairus entrusts his daughter to Jesus. Jesus sets out for Jairus’ house. On the way, a woman who has been sick for twelve years, as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive, musters up the courage to go to Jesus to be healed. She thinks that touching his clothing will suffice. She touches it and is healed. Jesus knows what has happened and asks who touched his clothes. The disciples essentially respond with, “Are you nuts? Don’t you see this huge crowd that has been mauling you and you ask who touched your clothes?” The woman confesses to what she has done and Jesus assures her that her faith has saved her and cured her of an even more disastrous illness.
Jesus eventually gets to the house. Jairus’ daughter has died. The mourners are already weeping and wailing. The child is not dead, Jesus says, but only asleep. The mourners essentially respond with, “Are you nuts? Don’t you think we know when someone is dead?” If the story of David and Absalom is filled with raw emotion, the scene where Jesus enters the room of the dead child is one of the tenderest in scripture. He took the child by the hand, calls her “little girl,” and tells her to get up. When she does, he turns to her parents and tells them to get her something to eat.
David trusted Joab and he failed David in one of the most important episodes of his life. Jairus trusted Jesus and saw Death flee from the presence of He who is Life. The heading for Psalm 86 is “A prayer of David.” We do not know when in his life he prayed this prayer. We only know that, by now, he knows what Jairus knew. He knew that it makes a difference where you place your trust. He declares: You are my God. I trust in you.
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