Matthew 5:22-23, the raising of Jairus’ daughter

Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

//Jesus agrees. Word comes shortly that it’s too late–the girl has died–yet when Jesus arrives and examines the girl, he finds her still alive. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”

Luke concurs. Jairus tells Jesus his daughter is deathly sick, and then she appears to die before Jesus gets there, but Jesus asserts that she merely sleeps, and wakes her up.

Matthew’s version varies a little. Jairus comes to Jesus already claiming that his daughter has died; Jairus isn’t asking for a healing or resuscitation, but a resurrection. Matthew 9:18, While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”

Jesus does just that. But what’s the true story? Is she dead or just sleeping? Jesus is careful to allow no one in the room but his closest disciples as he revives the young girl, so who knows what magic he performed. But this we do know: the story of Jairus’ daughter carefully mimics an Old Testament passage.

It’s taken from II Kings 4:31-37, where a Shunnamite woman’s only son died. Jairus entreats Jesus in the same manner the woman entreats Elisha, falling at his feet and begging several times. Matthew changes the Jairus story slightly to align with the Old Testament source, by saying the daughter of Jairus is already dead.

A logical conclusion, then, is that Jesus did indeed perform a resuscitation of sorts, with his closest, most trustworthy disciples attending, and that these disciples allowed the story to grow legendary … while never stating that she actually died. In time the story took on the flavor of a common Old Testament resurrection.

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