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Calvin's Commentaries 
The Harmony of the Gospels

MATTHEW 9:18-22; MARK 5:22-34; LUKE 8:40-48

Matthew 9:18. While he was speaking these things to them. Those who imagine that the narrative, which is here given by Mark and Luke, is different from that of Matthew, are so clearly refuted by the passage itself, that there is no necessity for a lengthened debate. All the three agree in saying that Christ was requested by a ruler of the synagogue to enter his house for the purpose of curing his daughter The only difference is, that the name of Jairus, which is withheld by Matthew, is mentioned by Mark and Luke; and that he represents the father as saying, My daughter is dead, while the other two say that she was in her last moments, and that, while he was bringing Christ, her death was announced to him on the road. But there is no absurdity in saying that Matthew, studying brevity, merely glances at those particulars which the other two give in minute detail. But since all the other points agree with such exactness, since so many circumstances conspire as to give it the appearance of three fingers stretched out at the same time to point out a single object, there is no argument that would justify us in dividing this history into various dates. The Evangelists agree in relating, that while Christ, at the request of a ruler of the synagogue, was coming to his house, a woman on the road was secretly cured of a bloody flux by touching his cloak; and that afterwards Christ came into the ruler’s house, and raised a dead young woman to life. There is no necessity, I think, for circuitous language to prove that all the three relate the same event. Let us now come to details.

Lo, a certain ruler. Though it is evident from the other two, that his confidence had not advanced so far as to hope that his daughter’s life could be restored, there is no room to doubt that, after having been reproved by Christ, he entertained a stronger hope than when he left his house. But Matthew, as we have said, studies brevity, and puts down at the very beginning of his narrative what took place at various times. The manner in which the history must be arranged is this: Jairus first requested that his daughter might be cured of her disease, and afterwards that she might be restored from death to life; that is, after that Christ had given him courage to do so. Worship, or adoration, is here put for kneeling, as is evident from the words of Mark and Luke: for Jairus did not render divine honor to Christ, [1] but treated him with respect as a prophet of God; and we all know how common a practice kneeling was among eastern nations.

Come and lay thy hand. We have here a bright mirror in which the divine condescension towards us is beheld. If you compare the ruler of the synagogue with the centurion, who was a heathen, (Matthew 8:5-10,) you will say that the full brightness of faith shone in the centurion, while scarcely the smallest portion of it was visible in the ruler He ascribes to Christ no power except through his touching the person; and, when he has received information of her death, he trembles as if there were no farther remedy. We see, then, that his faith was feeble and nearly exhausted. Yet Christ yields to his prayers, and encourages him to expect a favorable result, and thus proves to us that his faith, however small it might be, was not wholly rejected. Though we have not such abundance of faith as might be desired, there is no reason why our weakness should drive away or discourage us from prayer.

20. And, lo, a woman who had been afflicted with a bloody flux. For twelve successive years the bloody flux had lasted, and the woman was so far from being negligent in seeking remedies, that she had spent all her substance on physicians All this is expressly stated by the Evangelists, that the miracle may shine with brighter glory. When an incurable disease was removed so suddenly, and by the mere touch of a garment, it is perfectly obvious that it was not accomplished by human power. The thought of the woman that, if she only touched Christ’s garment, she would immediately be cured, arose from an extraordinary impulse of the Holy Spirit, and ought not to be regarded as a general rule. We know how eagerly superstition is wont to sport in foolish and thoughtless attempts to copy the saints; but they are apes, and not imitators, who take up some remarkable example without the command of God, and are led rather by their own senses than by the direction of the Spirit.

It is even possible that there was a mixture of sin and error in the woman’s faith, which Christ graciously bears and forgives. Certainly, when she afterwards thinks that she has done wrong, and fears and trembles, there is no apology for that kind of doubt: for it is opposed to faith. Why did she not rather go straight to Christ? If her reverence for him prevented, from what other source than from his mercy did she expect aid? How comes it, then, that she is afraid of offending him, if she was convinced of his favorable regard?

Yet Christ bestows high commendation on her faith. This agrees with what I have lately noticed, that God deals kindly and gently with his people, — accepts their faith, though imperfect and weak, — and does not lay to their charge the faults and imperfections with which it is connected. It was by the guidance of faith, therefore, that the woman approached to Christ. When she stopped at the garment, instead of presenting herself in prayers that she might be cured, inconsiderate zeal may have drawn her a little aside from the right path; particularly as she soon afterwards shows that she had made the attempt with some degree of doubt and uncertainty. Were we even to grant that this was suggested to her by the Spirit, it still remains a fixed rule, that our faith must not be driven hither and thither by particular examples, but ought to rest wholly on the word of God, according to the saying of Paul, Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, (Romans 10:17.) This is a highly necessary warning, that we may not dignify with the name of faith any opinion which has been rashly embraced.

Luke 8:45. Who is it that touched me, Mark expresses it still more clearly, when he says that Christ looked around to see who she was. It does appear to be absurd that Christ should pour out his grace without knowing on whom he was bestowing a favor. There is not less difficulty in what he shortly afterwards says, that he perceived that power had gone out from him: as if, while it flowed from him, it was not a free gift bestowed at those times, and on those persons, whom he was pleased to select. Beyond all question, he knowingly and willingly cured the woman; and there is as little doubt that he drew her to himself by his Spirit, that she might obtain a cure: but he puts the question to her, that she may freely and publicly make it known. If Christ had been the only witness of his miracle, his statements might not perhaps have been believed: but now, when the woman, struck with dread, relates what happened to her, greater weight is due to her confession.

Matthew 9:22. Take courage, my daughter. This expression shows the weakness of her faith for, had there been no impropriety in her trembling, Christ would not have corrected it by exhorting her to take courage Yet, at the same time, he commends her faith; and this supports the view which I have already stated, that, while she sought Christ by the guidance of the Spirit, and from a sincere and pious desire, she hesitated in such a manner as to need to be strengthened. Thus we see that faith, in order to please God, needs forgiveness, and is at the same time sustained by new aid, that it may acquire additional strength. We may here draw a comparison from the health of the body to that of the soul: for, as Christ says that the woman’s deliverance from her disease was the consequence of her faith, so it is certain, that we obtain by faith the forgiveness of sins, which reconciles us to God.

Mark 5:34. Go in peace, and be delivered from thy scourge. From this exhortation we infer that the benefit which she had obtained was fully ratified, when she heard from the lips of Christ what she had already learned from experience: for we do not truly, or with a safe conscience, enjoy God’s benefits in any other way than by possessing them as contained in the treasury of his promises.

MATTHEW 9:23-26; MARK 5:35-43; LUKE 8:49-56

Mark 5:36. Fear not, only believe. The message about her death had induced despair: for he had asked nothing from Christ but relief to the diseased young woman. Christ therefore bids him take care lest, by fear or distrust, he shut out that grace, to which death will be no hindrance. By this expression, only believe, he means that he will not want power, provided Jairus will allow him; and, at the same time, exhorts him to enlarge his heart with confidence, because there is no room to fear that his faith will be more extensive than the boundless power of God. And truly this is the case with us all: for God would be much more liberal in his communications to us, if we were not so close; but our own scanty desires hinder him from pouring out his gifts upon us in greater abundance. [2] In general, we are taught by this passage, that we cannot go beyond bounds in believing: because our faith, however large, will never embrace the hundredth part of the divine goodness.

37. And did not permit any one to follow him. He forbade that they should be allowed to enter, either because they were unworthy to be his witnesses of the miracle, or because he did not choose that the miracle should be overpowered by a noisy crowd around him. It was better that the young woman, whose dead body they had beheld, should suddenly go out before the eyes of men, alive and full of rigor. Mark and Luke tell us that not more than three of the disciples were admitted, and both mention also the parents. Mark alone states that those who had accompanied Jairus when he came to supplicate Christ were admitted. Matthew, who is more concise, takes no notice of this circumstance.

Luke 8:52. And all were weeping. The Evangelists mention the lamentation, that the resurrection may be more fully believed. Matthew expressly states that musicians were present, which was not usually the case till the death had been ascertained, and while the preparations for the funeral were going forward. The flute, he tells us, was heard in plaintive airs. Now, though their intention was to bestow this sort of honor on their dead, and as it were to adorn their grave, we see how strongly inclined the world is not only to indulge but to promote its faults. It was their duty to employ every method for allaying grief; but as if they had not sinned enough in disorderly lamentation, they are eager to heighten it by fresh excitements. The Gentiles even thought that this was a way of soothing departed spirits; and hence we see how many corruptions were at that time spread throughout Judea. [3]

Mark 5:39 The girl sleepeth. Sleep is everywhere in Scripture employed to denote death; and there is no doubt but this comparison, taken from temporal rest, points out a future resurrection. But here Christ expressly makes a distinction between sleep and death, so as to excite an expectation of life. His meaning is, “You will presently see her raised up whom you suppose to be dead.” That he was ridiculed by thoughtless and ignorant people, who were wholly engrossed with profane lamentation, and who did not comprehend his design, ought not to awaken surprise. And yet this very circumstance was an additional confirmation of the miracle, that those persons entertained no doubt whatever as to her death.

41. And he took hold of her hand, and said to her Luke 8:54. And he took hold of her hand, and cried Though naturally this cry was of no avail for recalling the senses of the deceased young woman, yet Christ intended to give a magnificent display of the power of his voice, that he might more fully accustom men to listen to his doctrine. It is easy to learn from this the great efficacy of the voice of Christ, which reaches even to the dead, and exerts a quickening influence on death itself. Accordingly, Luke says that her spirit returned, or, in other words, that immediately on being called, it obeyed the command of Christ.

43. And he charged them Though Christ did not admit all indiscriminately to behold this resurrection, yet the miracle might not have remained long concealed. And it would indeed have been improper to suppress that power of God, by which the whole world ought to be prepared for life. Why then does he enjoin silence on the young woman’s parents? Perhaps it was not so much about the fact itself, as about the manner of it, that he wished them to be silent, and that only for a time; for we see that there were other instances in which he sought out a proper occasion. Those who think that they were forbidden to speak for the purpose of whetting their desire, resort to a solution which is unnatural. I do acknowledge that Christ did not perform this miracle without the intention of making it known, but perhaps at a more fitting time, or after the dismission of a crowd among whom there was no prudence or moderation. He therefore intended to allow some delay, that they might in quietness and composure revolve the work of God.


[1] “Car Jairus ne pretendoit pas d'attribuer a Christ un honneur appar-tenant a la majeste Divine;” — “for Jairus did not profess to ascribe to Christ an honor belonging to the Divine majesty.”

[2] Mais la petitesse, et (par maniere de dire) la chicete de nostre foy, l'empesche de faire decouler plus abondamment ses biens sur nous;” — “But the smallness and (so to speak) the niggardliness of our faith, hinders him from making his benefits flow more abundantly on us.”

[3] Dont nous pouvons recueillir comment le pays de Judee estoit lots reinply de beaucoup de corruptions, et diverses sortes d'abus;” — “whence we may infer how much the country of Judea was then filled with many corruptions, and various sorts of abuses.”