Power and Compassion (Luke 8:40-54)

Everyday we are bombarded with bad news. A few examples from this past week would be an Iowa woman who tried to flush her new born down the toilet;[1] a teenage girl in India raped by her father;[2] and the amber alert of Carlie Trent from Rogersville, TN.[3] But if you look really hard, covered by all the bad news, are daily stories about examples of incredible compassion: The pope washing the feet of Muslim refugees[4] and inmates;[5] a young-adult giving the shirt off his back to a homeless man;[6] a woman donating a kidney to a complete stranger;[7] or a shelter dog comforting a badly injured puppy.[8]

There are few things in life more powerful than a sincere act of compassion. Mother Teresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go. First of all, in your own home…let no one come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” If power is defined as the ability to influence, then the more compassionate a person is, the more powerful they are. Yet, in our society, power is associated more with oppression then it is compassion. “Power corrupts, they say. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

No one understood the relationship between power and compassion like Jesus. He was, simultaneously, the most powerful and the most compassionate person to ever live.

Two Stories

Luke writes, “Now when Jesus returned…” (Luke 8:40a). Returned from where? Returned to where? Jesus returned to Capernaum from Gadarenes (gad-h-REENZ) after surviving a diabolical storm (Luke 8:19-25) and a demonized man (Luke 8:26-39). We are not told how much time had passed from healing the demoniac to returning to Capernaum, but it was enough time that people had heard about what had happened and were “expecting him” (Luke 8:40c).

Upon returning to Capernaum, “a man named Jairus,[9] a ruler of the synagogue, 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” (Luke 8:41-42a). Jairus was an important person to the community. As a leader in the synagogue his responsibilities included maintaining the building and organizing all the meetings that took place within the synagogue. In some ways, Jairus was a pastor in the community. He was constantly meeting other people’s needs, but now he had a need of his own. Jairus humbles himself, and asks for a miracle. You can feel his pain. His only daughter was dying, and she was dying at the age where she was on the verge of being a woman, eligible for marriage by Jewish customs.

Jesus immediately felt compassion for Jairus and follows him, pushing His way through the enormous crowd. As they were fighting through the crowd, “a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal here. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped” (Luke 8:42b-44). This seems like an interruption to the story, but it isn’t. It’s an important part of the story. It could be the greater part of the story. Luke wants us to compare these two healings. Jairus is a prominent person in the community; this woman is unknown and wants to remain unknown. Jairus publicly sought out Jesus; this woman sneaks up behind Jesus. Jairus is a leader in the synagogue; this woman’s condition (menstrual in nature) left her in a continual state of uncleanness, unable to participate fully in the activities of the synagogue (see Leviticus 15:25-33). Jairus is concerned for his only daughter; Jesus calls this unknown woman, “daughter” (Luke 8:48), the only time in all the gospels Jesus uses this term. Jairus’ daughter is dying; this woman is sick, but her condition isn’t life threatening. Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old, on the verge of womanhood; this woman had experienced menstrual bleeding for 12 years, unable to bear children. The unknown woman is healed in full view of everyone, even though she wanted to remain private; Jairus’ daughter is healed in her bedroom, with only a few people witnessing it, and her parents are told to keep it quiet, even though they wanted everyone to know. Jesus uses His power to display the same amount of compassion to the well-known Jairus and the unknown woman. Jesus is no respecter of persons.

“‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone has touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’” (Luke 8:45-46). Thousands of people were pressing in to get as close to Jesus as possible. How could anyone know who touched Jesus when everyone was touching Jesus? But Jesus knew that someone had touched Him for healing and had been immediately healed. Jesus wanted to know who was that person.

Recognizing she could no longer go unnoticed (though she very much wanted to), this woman “came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 8:47). Because of her disease she had been ostracized from her community. She wanted to remain invisible, but now everyone knew her and her sickness. In Luke 8, three people are described as falling at Jesus’ feet: the demoniac (v. 28); Jairus (v. 41), and now this unknown woman (v. 47). A gentile (a foreigner) needing deliverance. A dad (an insider) needing a miracle. An unknown woman (an outsider) needing healing. Whoever you are, no matter what you have done, whatever you need; the solution to your problem, and the answer to your prayer, is found at the feet of Jesus! It is not found at the bottom of bottle or in any drug. You will not find it in religion, or sex, or money, or stuff. What you need can only be found at Jesus’ feet!

This woman’s sickness was as much emotional as it was physical. But in spite of her embarrassment, and in spite of all the people watching, she humbled herself. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace’” (Luke 8:48). This woman, who had been marginalized by her friends and forsaken by her family, was now called “daughter” by Jesus, the Son of God. Amazing! Furthermore, Jesus’ use of the word “peace” carries with it the idea of the Hebrew word, “shalom,” meaning, “spiritual wholeness.” By placing her faith in Jesus, this woman was healed physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

While Jesus was still ministering to the woman, someone from Jairus’ house came to them with the worse news a parent could ever hear, “Your daughter is dead…Don’t bother the teacher anymore” (Luke 8:49). Interesting, is it not? Apparently the messenger (and Jairus) believed Jesus could heal the little girl, but they did not believe He could raise her from the dead. I don’t blame them. I don’t think I would have believed that either. But Jesus is more powerful than my belief in what I think He can and cannot do. Filled with compassion, “Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed’” (Luke 8:50). In context, I think Jesus was telling the important Jairus to use the unknown woman’s faith as an example of how he should place his faith in Jesus. It’s an important lesson. A religious leader learning what it means to believe from an unknown, possibly outcast, woman! Religion doesn’t save you. Only faith in Jesus saves you. The people you think are beneath you may be the very ones who can teach you what it really means to believe.

Luke continues, “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’” (Luke 8:52). For reasons not explained, Jesus only allows three of His disciples, along with the little girl’s mom and dad, to witness this miracle.[10] In Matthew’s retelling of this story he says “When Jesus entered the ruler’s house” He saw “flute players” (Matthew 9:23). This means that Jairus was a wealthy person and so professional mourners where paid to show up and lead the wailing and the mourning.

When Jesus said the little girl was only sleeping, “They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead” (Luke 9:53). Jesus ignored the laughter, walked into the little girl’s room, “took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’” (Luke 8:54). No pomp and circumstance, no ritual or ceremony, no smoke and mirrors. Just simple, unassuming words “My child, get up!” After Jesus spoke, “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” (Luke 8:56). I think, in context, Jesus wanted the people to think that the doctors were wrong and He was right when He said she was only sleeping. Furthermore, what Jesus had done for the parents was only for the parents. Besides, why should the people that mocked Jesus now praise Him? But I doubt very seriously Jairus and his wife kept this to themselves. I am pretty sure they told everyone they knew what Jesus had done for them.

Isn’t that what you would do?

Then why do you keep quiet?

The Bible says you were dead in your sins, but through faith in Christ you have been given new life. You were dead! Now you are alive! How can you not tell other people what Jesus has done for you?

Power and Compassion

Compassion without power is incapable of producing change.

Power without compassion leads to oppression and abuse.

But power and compassion? When both are displayed, nothing can equal its force.

Jesus has both power and compassion.

Jesus has the power to change your life. He has the power to forgive you of your sins. Jesus has the power to heal you. He has the power to make you whole. But power, without compassion, is manipulation and oppression.

Jesus has the power, but He also has the “want to.” He also has compassion. He loves you. He wants to forgive you. He wants to heal you. He wants to make you whole. But you have to believe. You have to place your faith in Him. Even if you think there is no hope. Reach out your hand and, through faith, touch the hem of his garment. Even if you think it is impossible, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v. 50) and you will be healed. Place your faith in Jesus and hear Him say, “Daughter (son) your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (v. 48). Be healed physically, spiritually, and emotionally.


[1] https://www.yahoo.com/news/woman-accused-trying-flush-newborn-180040155.html

[2] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-india-rape-20160509-story.html

[3] https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/tbi/alerts/attachments/Carlie_Trent_-_AMBER.pdf

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/03/25/children-of-the-same-god-pope-francis-washes-the-feet-of-muslim-migrants/

[5] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/04/02/pope-francis-celebrates-holy-thursday-by-washing-prisoners-feet/

[6] http://abcnews.go.com/US/good-samaritan-shirt-off-back-homeless-man-nyc/story?id=36223452

[7] http://nypost.com/2015/09/17/this-woman-is-donating-her-kidney-to-save-a-complete-strangers-life/

[8] http://www.aol.com/article/2016/05/08/shelter-dog-comforts-badly-injured-puppy-in-beautiful-act-of-com/21373119/

[9] Pronounced jay-EYE-ruhs.

[10] I think, at least one reason, Jesus limited the eyewitnesses to this miracle is because the crowds had laughed at Him (v. 53). Why should they witness His power since they did not believe?

About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider, author...in that order.
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