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Parents of children Jesus healed and what their stories teach us

Jesus met the parents of five children whom he subsequently healed or raised from the dead. In each case there is learning for us all.

Photo: [link]Juliane Liberman[/link], Unsplash, CC0

During his three years of ministry, as recorded in the Gospels, Jesus met the parents of five children whom he subsequently healed or raised from the dead.

In each case there is learning for us all in the stories of these parents, the characteristics they had, and how Jesus responded to them. Let’s look at these five stories together and see which parent we are each most like!


Jesus heals an official’s son at Capernaum

Summary of the story

A royal official hears that Jesus is in the area and begs him to come and heal his gravely sick son. At first Jesus dismisses him, but the father persists and Jesus tells him “Go, your son will live.” The father takes Jesus at his word and heads home, greeted on the way by servants bringing him the good news that his son is alive and getting better. The time this recovery started was the same time as when Jesus had spoken to the boy’s father. The whole household then believes.

Characteristics of the parent

Desperate, despairing, begging – His son is sick, dying, he would try and persuade Jesus to come and help. He is a royal official, but not too proud to beg.

Persistent – He wasn’t put off by Jesus’ initial dismissal “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe”. The boy’s father asked Jesus again.

Hopeful? Disappointed? Worried? – The passage says he took Jesus at his word that his son would be OK. Were there tiny flames of hope in his heart? Was he disappointed that Jesus hadn’t come with him? Was he worried about what he would find when he got home? Probably all three.

Believing – Once he got the good news about his son, the father believed as did the whole household. He checked what time the boy had recovered, comparing it to the time he had spoken with Jesus; they matched.

Message for us

We can be desperate, despairing, looking for any way to help our child. Maybe we even look in the wrong places at times. Maybe we give up. This father knew Jesus had performed miracles before, he believed that he could again and so persisted. God doesn’t always heal, and sometimes we wouldn’t want him to, but that doesn’t mean we should stop bringing our child’s needs to him.

We will still have times of hope, times of disappointment, times of worry, but like this father we can hold on to the hope and to God’s promises. This father only truly believed when he realised that his son had recovered just when Jesus said he would. Let our faith and belief not wait for a miracle, but let our trust always be that we and our child are in God’s safe hands.


Jesus raises a widow’s son from the dead in Nain

Bible reference: Luke 7:11-17

Summary of the story

Jesus has travelled to Nain, and on arriving encounters a funeral procession. The only son of a widow has died, and she and a large crowd are there. The sight breaks Jesus’ heart and he tells her “Don’t cry.” Jesus approaches the dead son and commands him to get up. Life returns to him and he sits up and talks, before Jesus reunites him with his mother. All are filled with awe and praise God.

Characteristics of the parent

Grieving – the mother is filled with grief, her only son is dead, and apart from this terrible loss she is already a widow so has previously known grief and is now alone.

Respected – the Bible passage says there was a large crowd with her, so she must have earned the respect of her community for them to turn out in such numbers.

Confused – Jesus approached her and told her “Don’t cry.” She was about to bury her only son; it must have been very confusing and troubling to be told not to cry. What was going to happen?

Transformed – Jesus raises her son from the dead! Chronologically, this is the first such miracle of Jesus’ ministry. He would go on to bring life back to others (see Jairus’ daughter, below, for example) but this was the first. Not only was her beloved son restored to life, but the mother herself now had a more secure and stable future to look forward to… transformation.

Message for us

Maybe there are two key messages for us here… The first is that the mother, in her grief, was surrounded by her community. Who is our community? Who can we reach out to when we are facing tough times? Who will journey with us? The second message is that sometimes Jesus might tell us something unexpected, and we should listen! In the tough times, when we are feeling overwhelmed, he might tell us “Don’t cry.” Do we obey, listen, and wait to see what he does? Or do we ignore him, dismiss his words, continue in our grief and sorrow, and miss what he intended to do?


Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter back to life

Bible reference: Matthew 9:18, 23-26; Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56

Summary of the story

A synagogue leader’, Jairus, comes to Jesus and begs him to come and help his daughter who is dying. Jesus agrees to come but is interrupted on the way by the woman who had a condition that made her bleed.

Some of Jairus’ household then arrive to say that it is too late, the girl is dead. Jesus, however, continues and arriving at Jairus’ house finds a commotion of grieving people. He tells them that the girl is not dead, but sleeping, and all but the girl’s parents and his disciples laugh at him. Jesus takes the parents and three disciples (Peter, James and John) into the girl’s room, commands her to get up, and she does, to the astonishment of everyone and no doubt the delight of her parents!

Characteristics of the parent

Begging, pleading – the father is a synagogue leader, a man of authority, and yet he humbles himself on his knees before Jesus and begs him to come and help his daughter.

Faithful, believing – he believes that Jesus can save his daughter, that just by putting his hands on her Jesus can heal her.

Devastated – Jesus is interrupted on the way, and then the news arrives that the girl is dead. It must have been a hammer blow to the father. He surely was filled with grief and must have questioned in his mind whether if Jesus had gone straight there it would have been different.

Amazed – Jesus carries on, he isn’t put off by this news, and even when people laughed at him, he still goes in and raises the girl from the dead. Her parents must have been filled with wonder!

Message for us

Can our pride sometimes get in the way of us bringing our child into God’s presence? Do we humble ourselves as the synagogue leader did? Do we have faith, truly believing that God will hear us and respond to our prayers? We might not always get the answer we want, Jairus certainly didn’t initially, but he kept believing and trusting, even when others were mocking Jesus and no doubt mocking him too. We may not even be praying for the right thing, but when God does respond to our prayers how do we behave? Are we astonished? Or have we learned to expect answers and to give thanks for them?


Jesus heals a Gentile woman’s demon-possessed daughter

Bible reference: Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 7:24-30

Summary of the story

Jesus travels to the region of Tyre and Sidon, and a Canaanite woman comes to him, acknowledging who he is (“Lord, Son of David”) and asking for mercy for her and her daughter, who is described as demon-possessed and is suffering terribly. Initially Jesus ignores her and the disciples ask him to send her away. Jesus tries to dismiss her, quite abruptly, but she persists and reasons with him that even though she is not a Jew she can still believe and be helped, convincing Jesus of her faith, and so Jesus heals her daughter.

Characteristics of the parent

Persistent, determined – it’s hard enough for her as it is as a Canaanite, and as a woman, to approach Jesus, but then he and the disciples rebuff her. But she keeps going, she persists and keeps asking.

Persuasive – she ends up in a profoundly important theological and Christological debate with Jesus, unheard of for a Gentile woman, and her faith changes his mind. She changes the mind of God!

Rewarded – her persistence, her persuasiveness and her faith are rewarded; her daughter is healed

Message for us

We can be persistent and determined when dealing with ‘the world’. How many times have you gone into a meeting about your child with your metaphorical ‘boxing gloves’ on? I know I have. But are we so persistent and determined in our prayers for our child? Do we give up too easily? Are we afraid to push back on God if we feel rebuffed? It’s not wrong to argue and debate with God, and sometimes it is in the persistent, continued, debating prayer that we can see the breakthrough in our lives or the lives of our child.


Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit/epilepsy

Bible reference: Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43

Summary of the story

A crowd is following Jesus and in it is a man who approaches him and kneels before him asking for mercy on his son. The boy is described as being demon-possessed, but the description of his symptoms suggests epilepsy. The father has already tried to see if the disciples could help his son, but they had not been able to, so he asks Jesus. Jesus seems exasperated, probably with the disciples for their lack of faith, but also with the father who has asked “If you can do anything…” Jesus commands the spirit to come out of the boy and afterwards the boy appears dead, but Jesus lifts him up and he is healed.

Characteristics of the parent

Seeking – looking for a way to help his son, desperate to find a way to stop the seizures that have been so harmful to his son, threatening his life.

Uncertain, hesitant – not sure where to turn; trying the disciples first suggests he didn’t initially have the confidence to come directly to Jesus. Only when the disciples failed did he aim higher, and even then he wasn’t sure Jesus would be able to help “If you can…”

Confused – he kept going though, even when rebuked by Jesus, even when he wasn’t sure what he was saying, whether he believed, or needed help to overcome unbelief!

Message for us

Again, we can be good at seeking ‘worldly’ ways to help our child, but less good at seeking ‘heavenly’ ways. Are we hesitant about asking God to help us, to help our child? Do we fear rebuke, rejection, disappointment? Do we get ourselves in a confused, nervous mess when seeking God for our child? There is no need… God wants to hear from us, even with our tiny faith, for out of little mustard seeds great trees grow!

Which of these biblical parents reminds you the most of you? What characteristics do you recognise? What learning have you gained from these stories?

Maybe what brings them all together is that in each case Jesus made a difference. It was sometimes unexpected, sometimes the parent found the encounter challenging, but the outcome was that Jesus had intervened. He intervenes for us and for our children still; he still says “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) What that intervention looks like may not be what we expect or what others expect, but it will be what is is best.

So, let’s keep bringing our children to Jesus, let’s learn from the parents in these stories and put our trust and hope in him. Let’s remember that he loves them and that he loves us too, and that he wants the very best for us.




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