The story of how Jesus brought Jairus’s dead twelve-year-old daughter back to life resonates with our souls (Matt 9:18-23). The deep sorrow of associated with burying a child has few equals. It is a special kind of anguish that brutalizes the heart. What parent would not run to Jesus as Jairus did, longing to hear his child laugh again?
The story also presents us with a problem of eternal proportions: Where is Jesus now? What about today’s children who are wasting away in hospitals? Why does Jesus not come to our homes?
Since no Christian can see into the secret mind of God, we should not speculate about the intent of God’s secret will. We do not know it. We do not know why some live to 80 and others die at 8 weeks.
Why Jesus Left
But we do know why Jesus left earth. He could have set up a permanent health clinic in Judea and healed the sick without end. People today could still be talking of that time when Jesus spoke over Fred and his cancer disappeared. But they don’t because Jesus understood that such healings were temporary. Everyone whom Jesus healed in the New Testament has long since died. Had Jesus hung up a shingle and gone into the professional healing business, his ministry would have never ended. Such a healing ministry would have addressed the symptoms of humanity’s problem (though not in a universal since as Jesus was bound by the limits of time and space) without addressing the root cause of our problems: the curse of sin and death. In other words, Jesus goes and dies on the cross so that humanity can spend eternity in a world with no sin, death, and misery. The empty tomb addressed the root cause of all our problems. In short what is even greater than an extended life on earth is an eternity in heaven.
In 1929, the famous preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones reflect upon a similar dilemma when he had exchanged the doctor’s stethoscope for the pastor’s pulpit in 1925. People would have easily understood and celebrated Lloyd-Jones had he given up being a bookie to preach. But giving up medicine…surely the healing of the sick was a noble profession. Lloyd-Jones responded:
I want to heal souls. If a man has a diseased body and his soul is all right, he is all right to then end; but a man with a healthy body and a diseased soul is all right for sixty years or so and then he has to face an eternity of hell…We have sometimes to give up those things which are good for that which is best of all – the joy of salvation.
Jesus no longer walks among us because he wanted to free us from the whole tragedy of death and dying once and for all. Because he died, we get to live forever without sickness. As Jesus tells us in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus left to conquer sin and death for us.
Does God Still Heal?
Though Jesus ascended into heaven, Christians should continue to take their health concerns to Jesus. When their children feel the weight of illness, mom and dad should ask Jesus to heal their precious child for he instructed his followers to ask him to “Give us this day our daily bread.” No one can doubt that health proves to be one of our must urgent daily needs. God still dispenses the gifts of healing sometimes supernaturally and sometimes through normal medical means. Jesus still heals.
What About My Loss?
But when he does not heal, we should not despair for as Jesus told Jairus and later those who mourned the death of Lazarus, death proves not to be the permanent end of human existence but rather to be a type of sleep, a transition to eternity (Matt 9: John 11. In other words, the goodness of God reigns even during and after death. The puritan, pastor John Flavel beautifully encapsulated Jesus’s sentiment when he wrote:
Look not upon the dead as a lost generation; think not that death has annihilated and utterly destroyed them. On no, they are not dead, but only asleep; and if asleep, they shall awake again. You do not…make outcries and lamentations for your children, and friends, when you find them asleep upon their beds. Why, death is but a longer sleep out of which they shall as surely awake as ever they did in the morning in this world.
The dead in Christ are not lost. The end goal of Jesus’s ministry was not an eternal life of misery here on earth but rather an eternal life of glory in the new heavens and the new earth. Those who trust in Jesus though they die reside with him forever.
As for those of us left behind, we too need not despair. The Jesus who responded kindly to the simple and slightly misinformed faith of a woman with the flow of blood who touched his clothes invites us to bring our problems to him. Even those who struggle with fear, anger, and fractured theology will find deliverance and life if they will but make Jesus the object of their faith. As the Puritan Richard Sibbs helpfully reminds us, “God can pick out sense out of the confused prayer (50).” No problem is too great for God and no amount of faith is too small. If we will but go to Jesus as Jairus did, he will come to our home and deliver us from our griefs and sorrows. Jesus reigns.
Do not begrudge, Jesus for going back to heaven and removing the miracle shingle. In doing so, he did something far greater than extending our loved one’s life for a few years. He made it so we could all spend eternity with him in a world forever free from sin and death. God is Good. May God help us all trust him more.