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God’s Word for You

Luke 8:41-42 his only-begotten

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

41 Just then a man named Jairus arrived. He was a ruler of the synagogue.

It had been a long day, with two voyages on the big lake, and Jesus had recently finished a meal at the house of Matthew. Now a man arrived with a request. His name in Greek is spelled with three syllables, but I have found that many people with little or no knowledge of Greek maul his name so badly that they try to pronounce it as if it rhymes with “The iris.” If we were really going to say it right, it would sound more like YA-erus. But there’s no need for this. Most English readers today do not try to give his name anything other than two syllables, so that his name comes out like the beginning of the word “gyroscope.” If I pronounce a foreign word like “Paris” the way most of us do, I shouldn’t feel bad about saying Jairus in two regular old Midwestern syllables, too.

Synagogues had four levels of authorities, although a very small synagogue might have had no more than a couple of men who maintained the house. This one in Capernaum was of considerable size. There would have been a chief ruler, and under him a group of elders called synagogue rulers. Jairus appears to have been one of these. Their duty was to maintain order in the services and make sure that the ancient customs were upheld. They were also responsible for inviting various rabbis (some of them may have been rabbis themselves) to teach. The third tier was made up of men known in Latin as legatus ecclesiae, officers of the congregation, who led prayers and led what we would call the liturgy. The fourth group were servants, responsible for the maintenance of the building, cleaning, and setting up for special services. They maintained the candles, incense, and other trappings necessary for regular meetings. We would think of them a combination of a custodial staff and an altar committee.

He fell down at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house, 42 because his only child, his daughter who was about twelve years old, was dying. As Jesus went, the crowds pressed in against him.

Luke tells us that this man’s daughter was his monogenes (μονογενὴς), his “only begotten.” Jairus and his wife had no other children at all. The girl was just twelve—only Luke gives us this detail—the same age as the 7th-graders in our churches who are learning their catechism today.

Jairus had nowhere else to turn. The girl was on the point of death. Matthew uses a different word than Luke. Matthew’s word, eteleuesen, can mean either “has died” or “is at the point of death,” as in Hebrews 11:22. Jairus would not have asked the Lord to raise his daughter from the dead, but in these final moments of her life he hoped that the Lord’s saving hand might bring her back to health. The amazing truth of this story is that with God, all things are possible. He grants to us even those things we would never think to ask for.

When we are tested, where do we turn? God invites us to turn to him: “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). This should be the constant activity of the Christian, and it’s really a sign that we’re out of the habit of prayer when prayer in a time of trouble becomes difficult. When our hearts are racing and our minds can’t think straight, the Lord comes to us with his calming words: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 146:10). He is with you always. Call on him and trust him.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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