I would submit that almost all of us—if not all of us—hear this story of Jairus’s daughter being healed from the brink of death and have a mixed reaction. On the one hand, what a joy for all of them there, to celebrate her miraculous healing, which seems to have been a regular event when Jesus was around—it almost seems like a routine activity of his. We can imagine what relief they must have felt, and what astonished gratitude, in the midst of celebrating. What bigger euphoria could there possibly be for those who loved her! We can let ourselves feel this, if only for a little while.
Because the other feeling we feel—almost all of us, if not all of us—is resentment. If we’re fully honest, we’ve got to admit our resentment. Why did this happen to her? Why did Jesus heal her—why did Jesus raise her to life from the brink of death? Why does she get that, and the people we love and care about who have been in these same circumstances AREN’T healed, and they suffer, and they die? This is all well and good for her, and for them—but what about us? Why doesn’t it happen for those in our lives?
We’ve all known and loved people who suffered horribly—and we have asked of Jesus the exact same thing Jairus asked of him, in the same posture—“fell at his feet” (Mark 5:22), in our posture of kneeling before God to pray. And we have asked with the same intensity—"begged him repeatedly” (Mark 5:23). And we didn’t get what Jairus’s daughter got. The person(s) we prayed for, we begged Jesus to heal, didn’t get healed, and instead got sicker. We begged that they would live, and they died. Why her? Why not the one(s) we love?
And it doesn’t really help that much when we are reminded that Jesus did not, in fact, heal everybody. And it doesn’t help that much when we are reminded that Paul (who I often say is number two or three on the alltime list of followers of Jesus) didn’t get healed of the malady, the “thorn in the flesh”, that bothered him his whole life. When it’s the person(s) we love who DO NOT get healed, it seems pretty arbitrary.
“Schaudenfreude” is the word for pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune. I’m not certain what the word is for feelings of misfortune because of someone else’s pleasure—although “envy” comes to mind.
We believe that Jesus is with us no matter what happens, although it is a challenge when good stuff happens to others and not to us. But even Jesus doesn’t make everything work out all the time, even for himself—in a couple of weeks we’ll look at his cousin and precursor in ministry John the Baptist, killed by being beheaded at the whim of King Herod’s wife and daughter. Jesus didn’t raise him from the dead. And then there was Jesus’ own death.
He gets what it’s like when it doesn’t work out. Even though sometimes it does.
GOSPEL Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, ‘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.’ 24 So he went with him.
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.