- When we are reading the Gospels we notice many people with whom Jesus had contact only briefly. Most of those we never hear about after that initial contact.
- For some of these people, the records we have are so brief we can know almost nothing about them. But for others, enough is recorded for us to learn from them.
- This series I am calling, “Snapshots with Jesus.” It is almost as if a camera captured a picture of Jesus with each of these people. True, the image is verbal instead photographic; but the picture has been preserved for the ages through the Gospel narratives.
- We begin by looking through our “photo album” of snapshots in Capernaum.
JESUS AT CAPERNAUM:
- The Gospels tell us Jesus moved to Capernaum soon after He began His public ministry: Matthew 4:13; Mark 2:1, Luke 4:31
- Capernaum was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 30 miles by road from the mountainous region of Nazareth. It is always called a “city,” indicating it was larger than other towns like Nazareth, Bethsaida, Chorazim, Cana and Nain which are never designated as such. Consulting some good Bible dictionaries like the Nelson’s New International Bible Dictionary and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia we learn several things about Capernaum:
- Center of the fishing trade on the lake
- Had a place where Roman taxes were collected – Matthew 9:9
- Was located on both a Roman road and a major trade highway running from the Mediterranean coast up to Damascus
- Supported a significant synagogue built with the financial help of a Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-10), and probably indicating also that a garrison of Roman soldiers were stationed there
- Ray Vander Laan at www.ThatTheWorldMayKnow.com says the Jewish people in Capernaum and Galilee were devout students of Scripture. He also indicates a school for training rabbis was located at the synagogue in Capernaum. We can learn more about Capernaum at www.bibarch.com and www.biblescholars.org.
- Jesus made Capernaum his “headquarters,” returning here time and again during His ministry. More of His miracles took place in and around Capernaum, and many of His teachings like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and The Bread of Life discourse (John 6) occurred here.
- We might wonder why Jesus chose Capernaum. There were at least three other cities in Galilee larger and more prestigious: Sepphoris, Scythopolis (Beit She’an) and Tiberias. Yet each of these were primarily Gentile cities and are never even mentioned in the Gospel accounts! It seems to me and others that the strong emphasis on teaching the Law and training rabbis at Capernaum led Jesus to go there – to those who knew the teachings of the Law and Prophets better than anyone else.
- Time does not allow us to explore more fully the many miracles Jesus did in this city.
- Jesus taught often at and near the synagogue there, as well performed several miracles in the synagogue – check a good Bible dictionary for details.
- Certainly then, both the synagogue ruler(s) and the people who met there were very familiar with Jesus. But many of them were not believers in Him, and some even antagonistic toward Him.
JESUS MEETS JAIRUS:
- Our story is found in Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Matthew 9:18-26; and Luke 8:40-56.
- Jesus has just returned from a round trip across the Sea of Galilee where he both stilled a storm and healed a demoniac on the eastern shore of the lake.
- On His arrival (at the fishing docks) crowds are pressed around Him as He makes His way into town, perhaps heading to His abode (Mark 2:1).
- Then Jairus, one of the synagogue rulers, came to Him and, falling at His feet, begged Jesus to come heal his dying daughter. The Nelsons New International Bible Dictionary in its “Synagogue” article says the synagogue rulers (whether one or several) were appointed by the group of elders who oversaw a synagogue. The ruler’s job was to oversee the care and use of the building and plan its services.
- Almost certainly Jairus had seen Jesus heal in the synagogue, and probably knew of the many reports of other healings He had done in the city (Mark 1:32-34).
- As Jesus accompanies Jairus to his house, they are interrupted by the woman seeking healing for bleeding (Mark 5:25-34), which will be the subject of our next lesson.
- Jairus receives word from home that his daughter had died before Jesus could arrive to heal her.
- We can scarcely imagine the grief and anguish he felt, perhaps thinking, “If only Jesus had not stopped. If only I had come sooner. If only…”
- Jesus knows his heart and thoughts and reassures him, “Don’t be afraid; keep on believing!”
- What did Jairus think? His heart is broken, his daughter is dead, his wife and family are devastated. And he has pinned his last hope on someone He perhaps had only just come to believe in, and who is going to arrive too late! But Matthew records that he believed Jesus could bring her to life, for he said, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” (Matthew 9:18)
- Jairus’ heartbroken trust in Jesus is tested even further when they arrive home and Jesus says, “Your daughter is not dead, just asleep.” Clearly she IS DEAD! Is this some kind of cruel joke on Jesus’ part? Is He really a fraud as some already believed?
- But within moments, in front of both Jairus and his wife, Jesus gently takes the dead girl’s hand and tells her to get up. At that moment, the impossible happened! She stood up – ALIVE! – and walked about the room! No doubt, Jairus was both astonished and overjoyed beyond words! In fact, in Mark’s account it says they were “completely astonished!”
- Was it even possible they would or could obey Jesus’ words to them that they not tell anyone what had happened (Luke 8:56)?
- Is it not true that the Lord often does not act as quickly or in the way we ask and pray for Him to do?
- Is it not true that we are often afraid because of circumstances far beyond our control, that may even involve life and death situations, whether of our loved ones or ourselves?
- Is there not enough evidence for us to believe that He will take care of us and do what is best for us when we cannot see that on our own? Has he not asked us to “walk by faith, and not by sight?”
A Message for those who teach: Learn how to tell a good story. God created our hearts to respond to them. The power of stories like that of Jairus is involves several things:
- An experience we and our audience can connect with
- An emotional element with which we can empathize
- A story which, when well told, will move each one who hears
- And an application that calls on us to have the same faith that Jairus needed to have.
The photograph is from the online Wikipedia encyclopedia and is of the synagogue ruins in Capernaum.