7th Sunday of Luke
With the raising of Jairos’ daughter in today’s Gospel, Christ shows himself to be “the one who has authority over the living and the dead as immortal King”. In the Incarnation, God takes on a complete human nature, and with it also takes on a voluntary death. However, since he is also divine, death could not hold him in Hades, and so he rises from the dead, and raises with himself the whole of mankind. In this way, death ceases to be the end of human life and becomes a temporary state just like sleep. This is why, when the people came to the ruler of the synagogue and said to him, “Thy daughter hath died”, the Lord is in a position to answer them, “she did not die, but sleepeth”. Those who have died in the body are not dead, but have fallen asleep. The death of the body is only temporary; true death is unrepentant sin, which means permanent separation from God, who is the life of the world.
However, this truth is revealed gradually. Before the raising of the young girl, we encounter another miracle: the healing of the woman with an issue of blood. We can see here how God gradually builds up the faith of the people. With the miracle of healing, he prepares for the raising of the young girl, and with the raising of the young girl, he prepares for the greatest of all miracles: his own resurrection from the dead on the third day.
And this idea of gradual revelation relates to one of the many allegorical (symbolic) interpretations of this passage, as taught by the Church Fathers.
The young girl and the older woman symbolise the two Churches: the Church of the Old Testament and the Church of the New Testament.
The twelve year old girl is the Church of the Old Testament, of the Jewish nation, which consisted of the twelve tribes of Israel. Her father, Jairos, who is the ruler of the synagogue, symbolises the Law of Moses. Although this Law was from God, the Law of Moses could only reveal the problem of sin and death; it wasn’t able to heal sin or conquer death. This is why the father of the young girl could not save her himself, but had to turn to the Lord to ask for help. Here we can also see how the purpose of the Law was to guide people to the Lord, because “man is not being justified by the works of the law, except through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16).
The other woman symbolises the Church of the Gentiles. For twelve years, this woman suffered from her flow of blood — in other words, for the entire Old Testament period, when the truth had still only been revealed to the children of Abraham, the other nations found themselves in the darkness of unbelief and sin. The woman “had expended her whole living on physicians and could not be cured by anyone” — in other words, the Gentiles had placed their hope in the worship of idols, superstitions, and worldly pleasures, but they could find no help or salvation in idolatry or materialism. After twelve years, however, when the young girl had died — in other words, when the period of the Old Testament had ended — then Christ comes into the world. The woman “came behind him” — in other words, the Gentiles began to follow him — “and touched the fringe of his garment”. With this contact, the Gentiles were freed from the sickness and delusion of idolatry, and they came to full spiritual health as members of the Body of Christ, as the Church of the New Testament.
Of course, the nation of Israel was not lost forever. St Paul the Apostle writes very clearly that, this “happened to Israel until the fullness of the nations should enter in, and so all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:25–26). Thus, the raising of the young girl symbolises this restoration of Israel and the common entry of all nations into the life of the New Testament. However, you’ll notice that, when Jesus goes in to raise the girl from the dead, he only takes with him three of his disciples: Peter, John, and James.
Today’s reading is taken from the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to St Luke, and in the ninth chapter we see the story of the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, where the divinity of Christ is clearly revealed through the vision of the uncreated Light. Also at the Transfiguration, the Lord only brought with him these three disciples: Peter, John, and James.
Why didn’t he bring all twelve disciples with him? Why only three? One explanation is that the three apostles symbolise the three sons of Noah, from which all of humanity are descended, thus attesting to the universality of the promise of salvation. St John Chrysostom gives us another interpretation: the Lord takes Peter with him because Peter loved the Lord, he takes John with him because John was loved by the Lord, and he takes James because James had great zeal for the Lord, but it was a zeal guided by wisdom, not the zeal “not according to true knowledge” (Rom. 10:2).
The presence of these three disciples, then, shows us how these three things are necessary prerequisites for our own participation in those things revealed to us by today’s reading: the healing of sin, the restoration of the lost, and the eternal victory of life over death. Amen.
Fr Kristian Akselberg