The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter,
Painting by Henry Thomson (1773-1843),
Painted and exhibited in 1820,
Oil on canvas
© Tate Britain, London
The Raising of Jairus' Daughter
When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.
Reflection on the Painting
This large-scale painting (approx 250 x 300cm.) was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1820. It depicts the miracle described in our Gospel reading today, the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Jairus was a leader of the synagogue and his daughter lay dying. We see the daughter placed at the centre of the canvas. She is the only horizontal figure amongst vertical standing figures. She has already been prepared for burial, wrapped in linen and crowned with flowers. Jairus appealed to Jesus for help and, despite the scepticism of the mourners in attendance, the daughter was saved and returned to life. When Jesus healed the girl, he ‘allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.’ They are all depicted in this painting.
If our faith creates a space for the Lord to work, as the faith of Jairus did, then the Lord will not allow death to have the last word. Jairus is a model of faith in the face of death. Jesus will touch our lives in a healing and life-giving way, as long as we create the space for him to operate in. He does not relate to us at a distance but wants to enter our homes and our hearts to do his work... all we need to do is to simply open that door….
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Readings related to Mark 5:21-43
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