When I was a boy, almost everybody my age learned to swim at a young age. As each one of us was learning, it was common to hear that somebody without any flotation devices was on the verge of getting into the deep end. Often, however, the young boy or girl would be afraid to take the plunge. They wanted to play it safe. They were comfortable with the way things were. What would usually happen, however, is that a family member or close friend would throw the new swimmer into deep water with the words, “you can either sink or swim.”
Some hear a story like this and conclude that such actions were cruel. Invariably, the young person thrown in would swim to the edge of the pool and come out fighting mad. This was usually accompanied by the sound of the kid yelling at the family member who had thrown him in.
Of course, the anger would quickly subside as the youngster realized what he had done. He had just demonstrated that he was able to swim and would not need floaties any more. The lesson was learned: a terrifying, difficult situation turned out to have a good result. It was a growing experience. The child would almost never admit it at first, but later would say that he was glad he was thrown into the deep end.
A similar thing occurs in a famous story in Mark 5:21-43. It does not involve a young child, but a grown man by the name of Jairus. The terrifying situation this man finds himself in is that he has a 12-year-old daughter who is extremely sick. In fact, the illness would lead to the little girl’s death.
It would be hard to imagine a more difficult circumstance for a man to encounter. But it too proved to be a growing experience. In the days that followed, he certainly would acknowledge that he was glad he went through it.
It was not only the illness of his daughter that made this a hard time for Jairus. It was compounded by the fact that he was “one of the rulers of the synagogue” (v 22). He was a Jewish religious leader, and in his town other religious leaders had accused Jesus of blasphemy (2:7). Other religious leaders that Jairus had respect for had even claimed that Jesus was possessed by Satan (3:22).
Jairus, however, did not share those negative views of Christ. It is often difficult to determine with certainty whether certain people in the Gospel stories are believers or not, but it seems that Jairus believed that Jesus was indeed the Christ. First, he believes that Jesus can heal his sick daughter with just His touch. Jairus goes to Him to ask that He do so and when he comes to the Lord, he falls at his feet in an act of profound respect or perhaps even worship. He even seems to believe that Jesus can raise his daughter from the dead after the girl dies (v 36).
It seems, then, that Jairus is a picture of a believer. But because of his position in the Jewish synagogue, he would have been content not to make his positive view of Jesus known. Such belief on his part would have brought ridicule from those in Jewish ministry who saw him as a partner. Jairus would have had great respect for such men. He would have been content to simply let things continue as they were. It was easier to just play it safe.
But the condition of his daughter changed things for him. He believed that Jesus could deliver her from her illness and him from the agony he was in. It forced his hand. It pushed him into the deep end.
If it hadn’t been for his daughter’s situation, Jairus would not have gone to meet Jesus. The Bible tells us that while he was walking with the Lord towards his house, he found out that his daughter had died. When Christ told him to believe in Him even in that situation, Jairus continued to journey towards his house with Him. He then had the privilege of watching Jesus raise his little girl from the dead.
What a horrible situation this man went through. But what a great learning experience. As a leader in the synagogue, he had heard about Jesus and perhaps had seen Him from afar and heard Him teach. He knew of Jesus’ power to heal. It was evidently enough to make him a believer. At first, that kind of relationship with Him was sufficient.
But his daughter’s struggles were like being thrown into the deep end of a pool. He did not enjoy the experience, but look at what he gained from it. He got to meet the Lord. The Lord even came to his home. More importantly, the Lord showed him that He could even conquer death, and this had quite the impact in his life.
My guess is that after these events he stayed in the deep end when it came to his boldness in Christ. He did not care what others thought about his faith in Jesus of Nazareth. Not only did he tell them Jesus was the Christ, Jairus had quite the story to tell. Spiritually, he had grown because of the harrowing experience he went through.
Jairus is certainly an example for us. He shows us that God can use difficult circumstances to get us out of our comfort zone. Such experiences can cause us to learn new things about the Lord and grow spiritually. They can be like being thrown into the deep end of the pool.