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A tale of two well-loved daughters

R.A. Mathews Special to The Star

The year a baby girl is born a woman loses her life.

She doesn’t die; she develops an illness so devastating that none could be near her.

Twelve years later, the woman is healed and regains her life. But here’s the interesting part: At the moment she’s cured, in the same town, the baby girl, now a 12-year-old, dies.

That’s a true story. In fact, it’s in the Bible.

If you can’t place it, don't worry. The Gospel writers don’t connect the dots for you. Matthew 9:18ff., Mark 5:21ff., Luke 8:440ff.

It happens in Capernaum, which sat on the north shore of a beautiful lake called the Sea of Galilee. Scripture paints it as a quiet fishing village. It’s here that Jesus climbs into Peter’s boat and teaches a crowd on the shore.

But take another look. According to the Bible Archaeology Report, archaeologist Mendel Nun uncovered a different scene.

Capernaum was small, about 1,500 residents in Jesus’ day, but quiet it wasn’t. Capernaum had a 2,500-foot sea wall—roughly the length of 250 cars—which was eight feet high. Sea walls can be ugly, but not Capernaum’s. It was wide and paved, creating a promenade along the lake that blended in with the city. On the water side, this boulevard framed a large harbor.

A reconstruction online by Leen Ritmeyer shows at least six different kinds of piers jutting out from the boulevard into the lake. Two long, curved ones create a large egg-shaped area with a narrow opening at the far end. It’s sophisticated—ships could enter the small opening, dock on either side, and then would be protected by the piers.

So what’s a sleepy little fishing village doing with such a nice harbor?

That’s the point. The city sat on a commercial land route that led from the east to the Mediterranean Sea. Capernaum’s harbor probably was a bustling center of commerce for the region, since goods could easily be transported by water to the trade route.

Peter’s fishing business in Capernaum meant that he must have used the harbor daily. So is that where Jesus spoke to the crowds?

Archaeologist Nun also found what he believed was the foundation for the Capernaum Synagogue. One can still see it when the lake’s water is low. Synagogues weren’t once-a-week places for Sabbath worship. According to Britannica.com, synagogues had morning, afternoon, and evening services every day. They were also a place for assembly and study. Stay with me, the harbor, the synagogue, and the deaths are about to merge.

The rulers of a synagogue were chosen by the town’s elders to care for it and schedule activities. In Capernaum, one ruler was named Jairus, probably a Pharisee and obviously a powerful man.

It’s Jairus’ only daughter who turns deathly ill at age 12. By that time, Jesus has already sparred with the Pharisees at the Capernaum synagogue. Whatever the relationship these two men had, Jairus now runs to Jesus.

According to Mark and Luke, Jairus finds Jesus disembarking a boat, probably at Capernaum’s bustling harbor. There Jairus kneels before Jesus, asking for help.

Jesus goes with him, but the crowds grow larger and stronger making it difficult to move forward, which must have frustrated Jairus. Worse yet, Jesus suddenly stops and looks around, trying to locate someone in the crowd.

The woman who lost her life 12 years earlier is there. She’s just been healed from touching Jesus’ cloak. But instead of shouting that out, she knows she’s contaminated Him. The woman steps forward when she’s caught and kneels before Jesus, trembling. Yet Jesus isn’t angry; He commends her faith.

At the same time, those from Jairus’ house arrive---his daughter has just died. Jesus will move on and heal the child, but first Jesus calls this woman, “Daughter...”

It’s the only place in Scripture where Jesus calls anyone “Daughter.”

This is a tender moment. Jesus is saying you’re much more than healed, you’re mine.

Two seemingly unrelated incidents in Scripture merge here and become a tale of well-loved daughters.

Whatever you’re dealing with, whether it’s illness, lack of finances, broken relationships, or something else, know that God loves you just as much.

Take it to Jesus. He will help you.

Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved. The Rev. Mathews is the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at Letters@ramathews.com.