Last Sunday, I had an epiphany as we read the story about Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8. That’s the story of a desperate father who asks Jesus to heal his daughter. As Jesus heads to his home, he gets interrupted by a woman who touches the edge of his robe. The father’s worst fears are realized: he receives news after this delay that his daughter died. Jesus isn’t dissuaded; he says she’s only sleeping and raises her from the dead.
That’s when the obvious occurred to me: all the stories we read about Jesus can’t possibly include everyone who died in his three years of ministry.
Of course, we know from John 21:25 that the gospels are a synopsis of Jesus’ life; we don’t have everything written down. But, given the much shorter life expectancy of Jesus’ day, in three years there had to be a lot of funerals. We know that Jesus was selective about those he healed. John 5 is a remarkable passage where Jesus tiptoes through a crowd of sick people — excuse me… pardon me… sorry about that — to heal one person and then — sorry… excuse me… didn’t mean to — tiptoes back out. I can only conclude that Jesus also chose not to bring some back to life.
It gets worse that that. We know Jesus went to weddings. The only one that got recorded involved a miracle, but Jesus likely went to many weddings. He no doubt went to funerals as well. Can you imagine Jesus sitting in a funeral? All eyes had to be on him. The expectations were palpable. But he only chose three to raise from the dead.
A couple of leadership principles come to mind. First, know your mission and don’t get distracted by the huge need. This is certainly true for nonprofits. Jesus could have easily been overwhelmed by those who needed healing. Several times, he rejected miracles as a means of drawing a crowd for his message. Neither healings, raisings nor crowds were his main point as he set out with determination to launch a kingdom.
Going a little further, Jesus didn’t let others define his mission. He certainly left some people very disappointed and disillusioned.
I also recall a leadership principle I heard from Andy Stanley: Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Rather than get paralyzed by the need and decide out of fairness to not do anything for anyone, it’s better to choose a couple of opportunities to get involved. I read recently on CNN how Steve Jobs periodically sat at the help desk and answered phone calls and emails. In a few cases he intervened. In many others, his replies were very terse. But he made an impact on those he engaged with.
If the God-man had to place limits on his scope and ministry, how much more should we? It’s refreshing to me to realize that Jesus could attend a funeral and grieve with the family without having to intervene and try to solve the problem.
This blew me away.
Excellent insight and great application of the principle.
Merry Christmas! Emmanuel!
Thanks, Bob. This is a great example of God as Emmanuel. Merry Christmas!
Refreshing to me, too. Thanks for sharing the insights! Blessings on your Christmas.
Why make an assumption Jesus attended funerals?
Hi Bumblebee. Thanks for your question. It is an assumption, but I base it on a few things:
1. Jesus was recorded as attending three funerals and ended up raising the dead in all three (Luke 7, Luke 8 and John 11). Surely these weren’t the only three funerals he attended in 33 years, especially since two were not family or friends. In fact, it would be a glaring omission if he didn’t attend the funeral of his cousin and predecessor in ministry, John the Baptist (Mark 6).
2. The gospels record very few normal occurrences that don’t include a miracle or teaching. They wouldn’t have recorded every mundane event Jesus attended, because it didn’t make a good story or reinforce the point they were trying to make.
3. Jesus’ earthly father Joseph died sometime during his 33 years, and Jesus was the firstborn, with special responsibilities in a funeral.
These three examples do not describe funerals they describe incidents prior to any burial. Nowhere does the Bible tell of Jesus attending a burial. The nearest recorded is Jesus coming to Lazarus’ tomb after he died and was entombed.