Lesson 24: Jarius Wife and Daughter, The Syro-Phoenician, Mary and Martha, The Widow and her mite
JAIRUS’S WIFE AND DAUGHTER
Scripture references: Matthew 9:18, 23–25; Mark 5:22-23, 35–42 Luke 8:41-42, 49–55 Bible Search Tool
We know little about Jairus’s wife and her daughter. We know that the two women, one an adult and one a child, were members of a privileged class. Jairus’s position as an important official in the synagogue indicates that the family possessed both wealth and a good reputation. Yet none of this protected them from tragedy. The daughter fell deathly ill and died. All the mother could do was to look on, helpless and heartbroken.
Then Jesus came, in response to Jairus’s desperate request. Jesus brought the twelve-year-old back to life. In so doing, Jesus healed the mother’s broken heart.
The story reminds us of our own vulnerability. Neither wealth nor privilege can protect us from the tragedies of life. How often we are forced to suffer in silence, unable to do anything for those we love. It must have been terrible for the girl’s mother as she waited at home, forced to rely on her husband to seek out Jesus, watching as each breath her daughter drew seemed more shallow—until the breathing stopped, and hope died.
Yet Jairus had prevailed on Jesus to come, and come He did. With Jesus’ presence, life flowed back into the little girl’s body.
There’s a lesson here to remember when we find ourselves in need as Jairus’ daughter or as helpless as Jairus’ wife. Let’s send those who care about us and who know Christ to importune Him and cry out for His aid. What we cannot do, Jesus can do. Jesus still responds to the cries of those who come to Him for aid.
THE SYRO-PHOENICIAN WOMAN
Scripture references: Matthew 15:21–28; Mark 7:24–30 Bible Search Tool
On first reading, the story is troubling. Here was a woman in need, and Jesus seemed unwilling to help. It’s true that she was a Canaanite, a pagan woman who had no personal relationship with God. Matthew 15:21–28 states:
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
We need to clarify several things before we can understand this event or draw applications from it. When the Canaanite woman first approached Jesus, she appealed to Him as “Lord, Son of David.” In so saying the woman was appealing to Christ as the Jewish Messiah, for Son of David is a messianic title. Jesus did not respond to this appeal, for as a Canaanite the woman had no rights under the Davidic Covenant. But the woman, who had been listening, sensed Jesus’ dilemma and shifted the basis of her appeal. She addressed Him simply as “Lord,” and begged, “help me.” Jesus responded with an analogy: food prepared for children isn’t fed to household pets. But the woman had an answer. Household pets do eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table. In healing her daughter Jesus would not be defrauding the children ofIsraelto whom He had come as their Messiah. Since Jesus was Lord, the very Son of God, there was plenty for all. Jesus’ reply caps the story: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”
MARY AND MARTHA OF BETHANY
Scripture references: Luke 10:38–42; John 11:1–45; 12:1–8 Bible Search Tool
Mary and Martha were unmarried sisters, living in the home their brother Lazarus had possibly inherited from their father. The two women were close but different. Martha took the duties assigned to her gender seriously. She took pride in caring for the home and preparing meals. Mary, far more of a free spirit, irritated Martha at times. We can assume that Martha was older for she took the lead in welcoming Jesus on one of the occasions on which He visited them. That day her irritation with Mary exploded into exasperation. As she worked in the kitchen to prepare a meal, Mary settled at Jesus’ feet to listen to His dialog with the disciples. It was hot in the kitchen, and Martha was harried as she struggled to do everything herself. Finally she burst into the room where Jesus was seated, and querulously demanded that He send Mary to the kitchen to help her.
Jesus refused, gently telling Martha that Mary “has chosen that good part” (Luke 10:42). Food for the body was important, but food for the soul was more important. Martha’s worry over preparing a special meal showed that her priorities were misplaced. It was not wrong to be committed to fulfilling the role society assigned to women, but it was wrong to place so much emphasis on fulfilling that role that Martha had no time for her own personal growth in faith.
Martha stands for all of the too-busy individuals of today who expend their energy doing things and have no time to deepen their relationship with God.
While Martha may have been too concerned with performing tasks, Martha did not lack faith. John notes that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister” (John 11:5)—not only naming Martha but identifying her first and by name as an object of His love.
When Lazarus died and Martha learned that Jesus was coming, she hurried to meet Him, while Mary stayed in the house. Martha expressed great faith in Christ, saying that “even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (11:22). While Martha did not think that Jesus was about to restore her brother’s life, she was certain that whatever He asked, God would surely do.
At the same time Martha was not fully aware of what she had affirmed. When Jesus called for the stone that blocked the entrance to Lazarus’s tomb to be taken away, Martha objected. She reminded Jesus that her brother’s body had started to decay.
How like Martha most of us are. We have faith in Jesus—even great faith. Yet when we are called on to exercise that faith in impossible situations, we focus on the obstacles rather than on God’s unlimited ability to act.
Martha and Mary had faith enough, and Jesus had power enough; Lazarus was restored. What makes all the difference is not the amount of faith we have in Jesus, but the fact that our faith is in Jesus.
There is room for different personality types in Christ’s kingdom. Indeed, God made us all different with our own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s be careful not to force other believers into our molds, assuming that our personality is “Christian” and theirs is not. Instead we need to learn from one another because Christ is speaking to us through all our brothers and sisters.
Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. She knew that she would not always have Him nearby, but while she did, she drank in everything He had to say. It’s so easy to become task oriented in our fast-paced lives. But when our frenzied pace denies us time to draw near to Jesus, the quality and meaning of our lives begins to drain away.
THE WIDOW WITH THE MITE
Scripture references: Mark 12:42-43; Luke 21:2-3 Bible Search Tool
This is another woman whose name we do not know. We know that she was a widow, and thus one of the poorest of the poor. We know that she loved God, for although she had almost nothing, she contributed everything she had to the temple treasury.
What is fascinating about her is that she alone attracted Jesus’ attention as He and His disciples sat by the treasury. A stream of people, many of whom were wealthy, made contributions. The rich put in large amounts—some no doubt doing so ostentatiously so their generosity could be applauded. Jesus put the scene in perspective when He praised the widow’s tiny gift as more significant than all the others “ ‘for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood’ ” (Mark 12:44).
This generous widow is an interesting contrast with the young man who asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit the kingdom (Mark 10:17–22). When the young man insisted that he had kept the commandments, Jesus told him to sell his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow Him. The young man walked away. For him, money had priority over following Jesus. What we do with our money reveals our priorities.
No one would have thought less of the widow if she had kept those copper coins—worth less than a single cent. But she wanted to give, and Jesus saw her gift as more significant than the wealth others contributed. Never think that the little we have, in time or money, won’t make a difference. God measures the significance of our giving by what we have, not by the size of the gift.
The Lord loves a cheerful giver. He has given us the money, the time, and the personal gifts that we possess. What could make us more cheerful than graciously returning a portion of what He has given us?