The Life of Christ

Mgr. Le Camus




"As He was speaking,"1 says St. Matthew, a man made his entrance into the banquet hall. He was a ruler of the synagogue and his name was Jairus.2 His drawn features, his tears, his eagerness plainly bespoke his deepfelt grief. Father of a child twelve years of age, he was about to receive a cruel blow in his most cherished affections. His only daughter was expiring. Beneath the blow of this trial, the griefstricken man had forgotten both his personal dignity and the profaneness of the place where he came to find Jesus, and, too, the looks of the Pharisees who might behold him. His grief bade him seek the Savior wherever He was. Having found Him, he unhesitatingly threw himself at His feet and, paying Him homage, cried out in despair: "Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live." It was certainly a robust faith that this man had, to demand clearly the resurrection of one who was dead. It proclaimed well the lofty idea which the very chiefs of the religious party had conceived of Jesus' power and goodness. At once the Master, rising from the table, decided to prove to all that He went to a family mourning as readily as to a feast among friends, if at the one, as well as at the other, there were souls to save. The disciples followed Him.

As soon as He gained the street an immense multitude quickly gathered about Him out of curiosity, enthusiasm, and interest. Some desired to see what would occur; others hastened to glorify the great Prophet; and, again, many sought a cure. Among the latter was a woman who, for twelve years, had been suffering from a loss of blood. The greater part of her possessions had been given over to physicians who had tortured her in every way,3 with no satisfactory result. On the contrary, her illness had steadily become worse. If she were a Jewess, with her physical sufferings she must have endured also moral sufferings not less intense. For in the law of Moses4 her trouble constituted a legal impurity. Having, perhaps, condemned her to a painful divorce, her condition obliged her to take each day endless precautions in her relations with society. What she heard said of Jesus might well have given her the belief that He would be a physician for her more powerful than any other; but how should she explain to Him her pitiful condition? To speak with Him in private seemed very difficult, and to confess in public an infirmity so loathsome was as fraught with danger as it was with humiliation. A favorable opportunity must be sought to second her desires. And now, as the multitude crowded about Him so as almost to crush Him, she thought so speedily does woman's foresight perceive all the details of an enterprise that, with courage and patience, she herself would be borne by this moving wave of people even to the Savior's side. She said to herself with heroic confidence: "If I shall touch only His garment, I shall be healed."

In fact, following out her intentions, she came close to Jesus, but behind, timidly and with perfect discretion. Under the impulse of an ardent faith she furtively touched the zizith or small red woolen tassel that hung from Jesus' cloak.5 All at once a deepfelt commotion through her whole being told her that she was cured. For at the touch of this believing hand the Savior had let pass from Him the supernatural influence that the poor woman was begging of Him, or, rather, was seeking to take from Him unnoticed. "Who is it that touched me?" He said, as He turned around; for He wished that the miracle might serve to strengthen the faith of all. Such was the authority of His words that in an instant the crowd respectfully drew back. Yet no one responded. There was a moment of solemn silence. Jesus waited that the pious culprit might gain courage to make herself known. Peter, with his usual briskness, exclaimed: "Master, the multitudes throng and press thee, and dost Thou say, `Who touched me?'"6 Then, as the other disciples agreed with this, Jesus said: "Some one hath touched Me; for I know that virtue is gone out from Me." At the same time He looked scrutinisingly about Him. There could be no more hesitation. The poor woman, not knowing what was about to happen, filled with fear for her boldness, and full of confidence because of her faith, came forth from the crowd where she had withdrawn, fell at the Savior's feet, and in a loud voice told of her malady, of her act of trust, and of her cure. Jesus desired no more. It was sufficient for Him to have it understood that nothing could go out from Him without a positive act of His will. If this woman with the flow of blood had been cured, it was because she had touched, not His garment, but His heart. Then graciously looking upon her, He said to her: "Daughter," and by this tender word He dispelled all her anxiety, "thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be thou healed of thy disease."

So great a mercy, no doubt, bound this woman's heart to Jesus, and the curing of her body made way for the sanctifying of her soul. Tradition tells us that this woman of faith caused to be erected in Paneas, her native city, and in front of her own house, a bronze monument representing herself in the attitude of prayer, while the Savior, with cloak thrown back over His shoulder, extended His hand to cure her. Eusebius, in his day, still saw these two statues,7 which Julian the Apostate had had removed in order to substitute his own. At an early date Christian legendary lore assigned to this woman a considerable place among its stories.8 She figures in them under the name of Berenice or Veronica, at one time before Pilate to give the most remarkable testimony of the holiness and goodness of Jesus, and again upon the way to Calvary, wiping the bloody face of the Savior with her pious hands, in spite of the insults of a furious mob. If this late tradition were well founded, the divine image, impressed upon the towel she used, would be an authorized portrait of Jesus left us by Himself, and thus the woman, once impure and timid, but afterward sanctified and sustained by grace, would have merited by her heroism the gift of one of the most touching relics left by the Son of God for the veneration of the faithful.

Meanwhile His coming to Jairus' house had been delayed for quite a long time, and the sorrowing father, to whom minutes were as centuries, made known to Jesus by his lamentations and even by respectful supplications that they must hasten. His impatience was, indeed, reasonable, since he learned at that very moment that his daughter had just breathed her last.

Some of his people, in fact, had come in haste from his house and said to him: "Thy daughter is dead, why dost thou trouble the Master?" The father was deeply cast down. Heaven vouchsafed no blessing upon his action, since death, instead of suspending the fatal blow in view of the Savior's coming, seemed only to have precipitated it. The strongest confidence might well have been disturbed. Jesus, turning to Jairus, said: "Fear not; believe only, and she shall be safe." At the same time He spoke to the multitude and forbade them to follow Him. The burst of enthusiasm that would salute the resurrection of one who was dead might impede the slow and normal development of the Messianic plan. Jesus energetically opposed all premature triumph. Peter, James, and John, alone, were permitted to accompany Him. These three disciples, from this time forth, are to be the privileged witnesses of the most important scenes that mark the Master's life.

As they entered the house they found mourners and fluteplayers, who, as was their custom, had hastened to commence the solemn mourning over the child. If the poorest of the Israelites owed his dead wife at least one mourner and two fluteplayers,9 it was natural to find this class of people present in great numbers at the house of a man of distinction, such as Jairus was, and for a mourning so sad. Lamentations, the noise of the instruments, cries of all sorts filled the house. Jesus, as if surprised by this spectacular exhibition of useless grief, said at once: "Why make you all this ado and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." For to Him whose hand is the power of God Himself, death is but a light sleep. He has only to speak, and those who have fallen asleep awake. Besides, if they misunderstand the divine sense of this saying: "the damsel only sleepeth," it is no great harm. The crowd at first will think that He is mistaken and will laugh Him to scorn; and then they will suppose that, perhaps, the child was in a lethargy, and the doubt that will hover before the eyes of many, as to the reality of the resurrection, will offset the untimely enthusiasm the Messiah wishes to avoid.

Therefore, without further explanation, Jesus dismisses all, save the father, mother, and the three disciples, and enters the chamber wherein the dead child was laid. Her burial robes had already been put on. The Master of life took the young girl by the hand, and addressed her: "Talitha koumi," that is, "Maid, arise." Was ever command more simple or more sublime than this? And it was addressed in homely terms to a dead body! to a corpse! Peter, who heard it with all its irresistible power, repeated it in the presence of Mark, his disciple, and this latter has transmitted it to us in the Aramean idiom in which it was uttered, as if the more surely to preserve the masterful note it bore upon the lips of Jesus.

How great must have been the amazement of those who beheld Death, obedient to this voice, humbly surrender its victim to Him who claimed her with such imposing authority! The young girl arose immediately and began to walk, and Jesus, as calm in the presence of this prodigy as a physician who has just prevented a crisis, gave His attention that suitable food10 might be given to strengthen her who at His command had come back from death to life and health.

The father and the mother, as well as the disciples, were beside themselves in their astonishment, joy, and gratitude. That He might gain time to escape the acclamations of the multitude, Jesus commanded silence. It was not that He hoped to force them to keep the prodigy secret, for too many immediate witnesses had seen the girl dead, and were now coming to find her living again, but He desired an opportunity of quitting the town, unchecked by the enthusiasm of the people. Since He intended not to reappear for a few days. He thought that public emotion would then be calmed, if, indeed, the miracle itself were not completely forgotten.

It was done as He wished, and thus He was able to take His way in haste toward the seacoast. There, as the crowd began to join Him once more, He embarked in a boat and gave the word to push out into the deep. Even then there were some who sought to follow Him; but they were few, for there were not many boats to be found at their disposal. The multitudes upon the beach sorrowfully watched Him depart.


1 Some have set down the two miracles we are about to recount apart from Levi's banquet. Doubtless the connections between the majority of the events that fill the present phase of the Savior's life are not very close, and we shall prove that we, like other biographers, have no fear of seeming frequently to break through them. If the general expressions that seem to connect these events one with another were taken literally one might say that Our Lord's ministry in Galilee did not last two months. But each day would thus be filled beyond all probability. Nevertheless, in the present instance it is difficult violently to separate events that must have occurred in succession, according to the words of St. Matthew. For he distinctly says that Jesus was yet speaking to the people at the banquet and to the Pharisees when Jairus presented himself. On the other hand, St. Mark v, 21, indicates that He was nigh to the sea; St. Luke mentions no place in particular, but both suppose it was on His return from Gerasa. Where must we look for perfect accuracy?

2 This name was also used by one of the descendants of Manasses (Numb. xxxiii, 41) and by one of the Judges of Israel, who had thirty sons (Judges x, 3). Its etymology is "He enlightens," i.e., "God enlightens."

3 The array of remedies employed by the ancients for this infirmity is somewhat terrifying. (Cf. Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in Marcum, v. 26.) We may observe that St. Luke viii, 43, is less severe than St. Mark v, 26. He refrains from saying that his brother physicians had tortured her in every way.

4 Lev. xv, 25; Deut. xxiv, 1.

5 Numb. xv, 38. Dew. xxii, 12. The Greek word kraspedon signifies, according to the etymology, kekramenon eis pedon that which falls toward the ground. Keil, Archäol., § 102; Ewald, Alterth., p. 307.

6 Peter, according to St. Augustine's beautiful thought, sees no difference between crowding one and touching him. The curious multitude crowd upon Jesus, but faith alone touches Him: "Illi premunt, ista tetigit," says the great Doctor, Serm., ccxiv, and elsewhere. "Caro premit, fides tangit."

7 H. E., vii, 18.

8 In the Acta Pilati, vii, the first part of the Gospel of Nicodemus, she makes her deposition before Pilate: "A woman of the name of Veronica cried from a distance to the President: `I had a flow of blood for twelve Years, I touched the edge of His cloak, and the illness ceased at once.'" The Jews said: "We have our law, and according to it a woman has no right to bear witness." See Thilo, Ev. Apocr., p. 563. Cf. Hefele on the subject "Christusbilder." in the KirchenLexicon of Wetzer and Wette, ii, 519524.

9 Cf. De Wette, Archæolog., § 263; Geier, de luctu Hebr., v, 16.

10 It is St. Luke, the physician, who alone gives us this detail (viii, 55), thus recalling the prescription of the physician to the convalescent patient.

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