The gospel writers tell many different stories about the life of Jesus, and they tell a few of the same ones. But often, their stories differ to some degree. One reason is that witnesses rarely describe an event exactly the same way. Second, each writer may have been affected by the story differently or saw the story from a different perspective. Last, they have different reasons for including specific stories in their accounts.
My NIV Bible has a consistent heading in Matthew, Mark, and Luke: “Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman.” Let’s look briefly at how each author added or subtracted details.
Part 1: Jarius’s story – the scripture
While he was saying this, a synagogue leader 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 got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He 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.” So Jesus went with him.
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
Part 1: Jairus’s story – what I noticed
Mark and Luke give us a similar setting in this healing story – Jesus had returned to the western coast of the Lake of Gennesaret. They note a moment in time. Matthew’s story is set in the middle of 2 chapters about Jesus’s healing ministry – the longest consecutive passage that illustrates His power and purposes in healing.
Notice also that Mark and Luke name the dad asking for Jesus to heal his daughter. His name was Jairus, and Jairus is an eyewitness to Jesus’s power. Matthew condenses the story to make his point, telling only the part after the daughter had died. Mark elaborates on the healing method – Jairus asking Jesus to put his hands on his daughter to make her well.
Part 2: Jairus’s story – the scripture
When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
Part 2: Jairus’s story – what I noticed
Again notice, Matthew ends the story as briefly as he began it. But he is telling sets of healing stories, each set with a specific purpose. Healing Jairus’s daughter was grouped with the healing of the bleeding woman, the blind men, and a mute man – all examples of Jesus’s compassion.
What’s particularly interesting to me is that Mark’s book is the shortest, yet he gives the most details about this particular story. I wonder if Mark knew these people, or if he had had a sick daughter or wife – so the details of their stories hit close to home. Notice Mark uses the Aramaic language to relate what Jesus said to the little girl. He tells us that Jesus instructed the parents to feed the girl. Mark is also the one who tells us that the little girl was twelve years old.
The Woman Who Was Bleeding
In the middle of the story about Jairus’s daughter, each of the gospel writers tell about the woman healed from 12 years of bleeding. Again, the story is brief in Matthew’s gospel, and more detailed in Luke’s, but it has the most details in Mark’s writing. It is a beautiful story of Jesus’s attention to detail – even while being crushed in the crowds, He knew power had left Him. And He wanted the woman who experienced that touch to be seen and heard – not to embarrass her but to assure her that He noticed, healed, and recognized her faith.
Do you notice the parallels between these two stories that are grouped together? Jairus seeks help for his daughter. And the woman who was bleeding is the first that Jesus calls daughter in any of the gospels, maybe the only time he calls a woman “daughter.” The woman had been bleeding for twelve years, and the little girl was twelve. Maybe not significant, but definitely fascinating!
The So What
The gospel writers had to edit all that happened during Jesus’s ministry on Earth. They could not tell every detail. So it is unsurprising that they include different details when telling the same stories. This makes the reading of the gospels all the more interesting. And it fuels my imagination as I try to place myself in that time and place to see what each of them saw.
Father, You who gave us the rich
Account of Your son’s life, You who
Tell us that the words are living and active,
Make them active in our lives –
Open our eyes to see the riches of the truth
So that we will love Jesus more fervently,
Serving Him more faithfully. Amen.