I must play the flute – Monday, 14th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 9:18-26
True leaders are humble and ask for help when they need it. This is the second ‘leader’ who has come to Our Lord for help. First, the centurion (8:5) comes pleading for his servant and now the leader of the synagogue kneels before our Lord. Mark 5:21 tell us that his name is Jairus. He is desperate; his daughter has just died and he wants Jesus to raise a dead child to life. Jesus simply gets up and follows him (verse 19).
You got to be struck by our Lords reaction. He gets up and follows the leader of the synagogue. Nine verses earlier, Jesus said to Matthew, “follow me” but now the Lord follows another to his home to work a miracle that no eye has seen so far. I am deeply touched by Our Lords response to this request; he just gets up and follows the man to his house. Jesus wants to heal us in our very homes but he can’t do that if we don’t invite him in and invite him with faith that seems ridiculous to the world. This was not a sick child, this was a dead girl but her father is faith filled, “she will live, just place your hand on her.”
The Gospel of today does not have one, but two miracle narratives. Our Lord has left for the home of the leader of the synagogue. There would not have been a single person who would not have dropped every important task just to follow Jesus and see what happens next. The Gospel of Mark fills us with the all the details of this narrative. Matthew, it seems, wants to get to the end of this miracle narrative and treats the next miracle with haste; his focus is on the first resuscitation narrative. We will hear of another one later in the Gospel of John when Lazarus is resuscitated to life.
Matthew interrupts this miracle narrative of Jairus daughter to tells us of a woman who took a chance on Jesus. Matthew tells us that she was suffering from a haemorrhage for the last twelve years. He tells us that she had a thought in her head. “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Matthew, unlike Mark and Luke does not tell us that she had spent all her money on doctors and had got worse. Nor does he tell us that Jesus, on being touched by the woman, stops mid-way demanding to know who touched him. Matthew simply tells us that Jesus turned, sees the woman and congratulates her faith. We are then told she was made well. Before I move on with this text, I want to say to you my bloggers and vloggers, take a chance on Jesus; turn to him in faith, say to yourself, “if only I touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Experience then, his miracle in your life.
Matthew brings us back to the narrative of the synagogue leaders’ daughter. This is where he wants us to focus our attention. He has deliberately hastened and glossed over the details of the woman who touched his cloak and was healed and here we are, at the home of what clearly is a dead child. Matthew wants to make a point; this girl is dead! He does this by mentioning the ‘flute players and the crowds who are making a commotion.’ These flute players and the crowd were part of the professional mourners who were employed at the time of a funeral. It is the presence of the flute players in the narrative that testify to the fact that the girl is truly dead. Also, flute players were generally employed when a child had passed away. The whole community would therefore understand that it is a child who has died in this home. Matthew leaves no room for doubt, the girl is dead and what happens next is going to be so spectacular that “the report of this will spread throughout the district (of Galilee)” (verse 26).
There is something that might elude us in all of this. Three verses earlier Jesus declared emphatically to the disciples of John the Baptist that he “is the bridegroom.” Now he arrives at the home of Jairus to perform a great miracle but the flute players greet the bridegroom with a dirge; they want to continue to play their sad songs even in Jesus’ presence. They would rather play their songs of mourning than change their tune. They are stuck in their ways and choose to mock Our Lord when pronounces that the girl is not dead but sleeping; they laugh at him! Must I be explicit in the application of this odd behaviour of the flute players to your life and mine?
When we chose not to believe, when we chose to play our sad songs in the presence of the Lord, when we refuse to stop what we are doing simply because we think we have it right and the Lord is all wrong, then he has to do with us what he did with the flute players and the crowds; he has to “put is out” (verse 25). This is what happens when we dig our trenches of disbelief, we are turned out and denied the joy of experiencing the miracle in our lives.
St Mark tells us that Jesus took Peter, James and John along with Jairus and his wife and those who believed (Mark 5:40) and they hear the words of faith, “Tal-i-tha cum” which means ‘little girl, get up.” (Mark 5:41). The Gospel of Matthew ends this miracle with a stern instruction given by Jesus, “see that no one knows of this” (9:30) but they disobeyed him and “went away and spread the news about him throughout the district.” They were disobedient!? (both the exclamation and the question mark are deliberate; read it how you may) How I wish we were too!