Beliefnet
For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 9:18-26 reports how Jesus raised from death the daughter of a “ruler” in Israel. Matthew tells the story in passing, not even bothering to include the ruler’s name. From the corresponding reports in Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56, though, we know the man’s name to be Jairus.

Here’s what we know about Jairus:

  • His name, “Jairus” is from the Greek word, Iairos, which means “he enlightens,” or in the Hebrew context, “whom Jehovah enlightens.” Jairus is pronounced, “jay EYE russ.”
  • He lived somewhere in the region of Galilee, probably within a day’s walk (or less) of Jesus’ home base in Capernaum.
  • Although he was a leader in the synagogue, he was probably not a rabbi. Most likely he was an “elder,” which was “a layman responsible for the administration of the synagogue.” This would have given him significant authority over things like: selecting who could teach, deciding what would occur during worship services, maintaining synagogue buildings, and overseeing community affairs. As such, he would’ve been a very influential man in Galilee, because “Jewish culture revolved around the leadership of local elders.”
  • Some historians have suggested that Jairus was actually the head elder, or “the head of the local Sanhedrin or court of elders” in his community. In this role he would have carried religious, political, and judicial power.
  • It’s assumed, by his position as an elder and by the crowd of mourners that gathered outside his house (Matthew 9:23-25), that Jairus was a wealthy man, and well-known in his community.
  • He clearly loved his daughter very much. Instead of sending a servant to call for Jesus, he came himself, asking for a miracle on behalf of his beloved child.
  • He was both powerful and humble. As a “ruler” in his community, he could have come to Jesus and demanded a miracle (much like Herod did later – see Luke 23:8-9). Or he could have approached Jesus as an equal, making a formal request. But he didn’t do either of those things. Matthew says he “knelt down” humbly before Jesus; Mark and Luke reveal that in kneeling, he “fell at his feet”—that is, he groveled like a slave before the Christ and begged for a miracle.
  • He believed in Jesus. His faith drove him to hope in Christ in the first place. When servants told him that his daughter had died, he continued to trust that Jesus could somehow overcome even that final circumstance. His faith was not in vain.

 

Works Cited:

[WWA, 182; WWB, 147; SLU 213]

 

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