AA medical crisis threatened the life of Jarius’ 12-year-old child. Desperate for a miracle, he did the only thing he knew to do: he fell to the ground and prayed, “My little daughter is about to die! Please come and touch her, so she will get well and live.” To his great relief, Jesus went with him. If they made it back in time, his girl would be healed.

But along the way, something interrupted the healer. A woman pushed through the crowds, trying to get near Jesus. She’d been bleeding for twelve years, and multiple doctors had done nothing but increase her pain. Finally, she touched Jesus’ clothes. The bleeding stopped. Jesus stopped, too.

Jesus scanned the crowd, looking to see who touched him. Finally, he asked, “Who touched my clothes?” The disciples, motioning to the large crowds, said, “Look at all these people crowding around you. How can you ask who touched you?” But Jesus continued looking. Finally, a woman knelt before him, trembling with fear, and told him the whole story. Jesus addressed her tenderly, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

At that moment, someone from Jarius’ home arrived with a message. It was too late; his daughter had died. There was no use bothering the teacher anymore.

If you were Jarius, how might you feel at that moment? I got there first. I prayed to Jesus before she did. She’d been bleeding for 12 years without dying — obviously, her healing could wait one more day. If he hadn’t paused to answer her prayer, he could have made it to my house to heal my daughter. Jesus’ delay in answering his prayer cost him the life of his only daughter.

The death of Jarius’ daughter was not the last time Jesus’ delay in answering a prayer for a medical crisis resulted in death. When Lazarus was deathly ill, his sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Yet Jesus waited until after Lazarus had died to head to Bethany. Upon his arrival, Martha lamented, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Jesus’ delay in answering her prayer cost Lazarus his life.

How should we interpret Jesus’ lethal delay? Does it indicate a lack of care? Not at all. For John wrote, “Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was.” “So” means “because.” It was because of his love for Lazarus and his sisters (not despite it) that Jesus delayed his departure, allowing Lazarus to die.

How could Jesus’ love motivate him to say “No” to their prayer, to delay his answer until after their brother died? The answer is found in his words at Lazarus’ tomb — “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe you would see the glory of God?” Only then did he raise Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus had something better, more loving than healing in mind for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It was better for them to see Lazarus raised from the dead after several days than to see him healed immediately. For the glory of God in Christ was more evident there.

Jesus had a similar purpose in mind for Jarius. They found a crowd of mourners when they arrived at Jarius’ house. Jesus questioned their weeping and wailing, insisting that she was dead, just asleep. The people laughed at him. Undeterred, Jesus emptied the house of everyone except a few disciples and the girl’s mother and father. Then, he took the pre-teen girl by the hand and told her to get up — and she did.

As with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Jesus had something more loving in mind than an immediate answer to prayer. He had something better in mind than healing — he planned a resurrection. By waiting, the crowds were forced to acknowledge the desperation of the situation. She was dead. When Jesus suggested she could wake up again, they laughed at him. But when he raised her from the dead, no one laughed — they worshipped.

Jarius didn’t get the answer he wanted to his prayer for his daughter’s medical crisis. He got something better. And, as with Mary and Martha, it wasn’t because Jesus didn’t care about Jarius. No, he let his daughter die because he loved him.

It wasn’t a waste for Jarius to pray for his daughter in her medical crisis. Nor was it a waste for Mary and Martha to pray for their deathly ill brother. Prayer is the proper expression of faith. But it would have been a tragedy for any of them to conclude that an unanswered prayer meant Jesus failed to love them. He loves us in ways that far surpass what we could ever think to pray.

We have no guarantees that Jesus will answer our prayers for our children. We have no guarantees of healing or resurrection in this lifetime. But we do have this promise: “Neither death nor life … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). In healing and loss, we are guaranteed the love of God that is our in Christ Jesus.

God’s love for us in Christ is sure because God gave Christ for us — “He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?” (Romans 8:32) If God gave up his beloved Son in death for us, we know he will grant us everything with his Son in the resurrection. We and all who hope in Christ will see a glorious resurrection in which sorrow and death are forever wiped away.

So, in our child’s medical crisis (and every other situation), let’s pray with faith for God to intervene. When he does, let’s praise him for his present mercy. When he does not intervene, let’s praise him for his future mercy — a glorious, unending resurrection — which is ours because Christ died for our sins and rose again.