Reflection 6/28: The Death and Life of Jairus’s Daughter
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
Most of us think of death as something that happens in an instant. Yet, the body doesn’t function that way. As a hospice chaplain, I’ve been in the room when one nurse says that a patient has died, while a nurse with more acute hearing can discern an ever-so-faint heartbeat. The body is made a many organs, and they close down in short intervals, but not all at once. Moreover, as a pastoral caregiver I’ve told people that I don’t think a soul separates immediately from someone because that soul, which is life’s essence, has been with that person oftentimes over many decades. In a mystical way, a soul knows the way home, but lingers. This has always been one of the rationales for administering last rites after the heart is no longer beating.
In a more primitive culture—let’s say two thousand years ago in Palestine—in a story such as the death of Jairus’s daughter, we can consider the hinge of the story to be either equally that the parents of the young girl don’t know what Jesus knew, that the daughter hadn’t yet died; or that this is a true life resuscitation miracle brought about by the Son of God. I think absolutely, one can say in both instances, Jesus performed a miracle because by the end of the story, the daughter is fully alive and the parents’ grief has been turned to joy. Whichever way the story unfolded, Jesus was the cause of celebration, faith, and revelation of the strength of life.
Clearly from the gospels and from other contemporaneous accounts, Jesus was known as a miracle worker. Now, there were many itinerant healers wandering the roads of ancient Israel. They differed from Jesus in two profound ways: Jesus wasn’t deriving an income from his healings, and his miracles were truly miracles, regardless of the science involved. Most of us the faithful choose, rightly I think, to see Jesus’ miracles as the real thing. They generate wonder, awe, and love of God. They do that in the context of Jesus’ actual life.
I believe moreover that the age of miracles has never ended. As the gospel of John teaches, Jesus told his followers that we would be able to do all of the extraordinary works he did—and even greater things! Jesus’ legacy to us is that miracle working is eternal.