A Daddy and His Daughter

Last weekend, Pastor Michael and I took our daughters to Frozen on Ice. Let’s just say we were not the only ones there on a daddy-daughter date. There is something about putting Disney together with ice-skating makes it almost irresistible to the daddy-daughter pairing.

Few events have changed me like having a daughter. After becoming a father first to twin boys, having a daughter (four years later) had a strange and wonderful effect on my heart as a father — and perhaps it feels all the more significant because I did not expect it.

When we were pregnant with Gloria, our first daughter, and we didn’t know yet whether we were having a boy or a girl, I remember Michael saying to me, “A daughter would be really good for you.” And I remember thinking, Hmm, nope. Our house is already full of boys’ clothes and toys. I love to throw ball. We know how to do boys. We’re good with boys. And also boys don’t grow up to become teenage girls.

But Michael was so right. It has been really good for me to have a daughter. Daughters are good for daddies.

Four Parenting Relationships

When God created us male and female, he put into motion four distinct and powerful kinds of parent-child relationships: father-son, mother-daughter, mother-son, and father-daughter. Because men and women are gloriously not the same (but complementary), and boys and girls from the very beginning, are not the same, we find distinct, often subtle, always powerful aspects to the love shared in these four kinds of relationships.

Strangely enough, Jesus honors all four in his healing ministry.

  • A father’s love for his son (Mark 9:14–29; Matthew 17:14–20): A father brings his son who “has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.” The disciples try their hand at the exorcism, but fail. Then Jesus steps in and casts out the demon and returns the son to his father.
  • A mother’s love for her son (Luke 7:11–17): A young man dies, “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” Jesus sees her weeping and feels compassion for her. He approaches the body and says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” The young man sits up and begins to speak, and “Jesus gave him to his mother.”
  • A mother’s love for her daughter (Mark 7:24–30; Matthew 15:21–28): A Gentile (Syrophoenician) mother begs Jesus to cast out the demon from her daughter. When Jesus says let the children (Jews) be fed first, before the dogs (Gentiles), she responds with beautiful, humble boldness: “Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” “For this statement,” Jesus says, “you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.”

And then this morning we get to see a father’s love for his daughter in Mark 5.

Little Girls Need Their Daddy

Last month, the famous evangelist Billy Graham died at the age of 99. He is celebrated as likely the single most influential Christian of the twentieth century, at least in America. At his death, praise for Billy flooded Christian media, about all this man had accomplished, and the many thousands, perhaps millions, who had come to Christ through one of his many crusades.

Not many people had criticisms to offer on the occasion of his death, and that’s good. However, we do want to acknowledge flaws and weaknesses. Christianity Today had an article that caught my eye about Billy’s family life, called “Little Girls Need Their Daddy.” Billy was away from home more than not. The article quotes Billy’s oldest daughter, Gigi, and his youngest, Ruth:

  • Gigi: “It’s very difficult for me to separate who he was as a person and as a father. He belonged to the world. But I do remember crying in the bathtub, wishing I had a normal daddy.”
  • Ruth: “He parented me from a distance. . . . He loved us, but he just wasn’t around.” Looking back, Ruth says, her remarrying quickly after her first divorce, against her parents’ wishes, was because “I was just so eager for someone to take care of me.”
  • Gigi: “A lot of my insecurities came from the fact that he just wasn’t there.”
  • Ruth: “I have a lot of insecurities and lack of self-confidence perhaps because little girls need their daddy. . . . They say your view of God is shaped by your view of your father. I guess I saw God that way — that he loved me, but that he was busy with more important things.”

This morning, as we focus on a good daddy’s love for his daughter, I’m aware this touches a painful nerve for many in this room — whether you’re a daddy (or mommy) and you don’t have a daughter, and ache to have one. Or whether you’re a daughter who did not have a good daddy. Perhaps you would say, with Billy Graham’s daughters, with tears in your eyes, “Yes, little girls need their daddy. Little girls need a mommy’s specific love and kindness, a mommy’s way of nourishing and cherishing. And little girls need a daddy’s specific love and kindness, a daddy’s way of nourishing and cherishing.”

A Father’s Love for His Daughter

When a father named Jairus approaches Jesus at the beginning of this story, and falls to his knees to plead for help, he says, “My little daughter . . .” (verse 23). He doesn’t just say daughter, but “my little daughter.” It’s a term of endearment and special care, a glimpse into a father’s heart for his daughter — which is not the same as a father’s heart for a son. There is a subtle but important difference between saying “my little child” and “my son” and “my little daughter.”

There is a particular kind of love and affection between a good, godly father and his daughter, whatever her age, whether three or twelve or thirty. We would be foolish to rank a father’s love for son against his love for daughter, but we’d be naïve not to see the distinctions. It’s not that one is better than the other, but they aren’t the same.

A father loves a son as someone who, at least with respect to masculinity, is just like me. God has entrusted me to raise up this child to be like me in learning self-sacrifice and humble initiative, to cultivate a heart to lead, provide for, and protect women and children.

And a father loves a daughter as someone who is not just like me. God has entrusted me to raise up this child to be like the most important person on earth to me, my wife. I not only want to model self-sacrificial masculinity for her, but I want her to learn what it’s like to appropriately affirm and receive and be cared for by a worthy, Christlike man.

It’s tricky to draw the emotional lines too starkly, but there are typical distinctions between a mother’s care and a father’s care. “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). And, on the complementary other hand, just four verses later, “Like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12). And these general attributes of feminine gentleness and masculine encouragement have their distinct expressions with sons and also with daughters.

We may have another hint in the six days of creation. In days 1–3, God forms the world, and in days 4–6 God fills the world. Men form, and women fill. Or, men build, and women beautify. Or, to use the distinctions in 1 Thessalonians 2, men name, and women nurse or nurture. In a father-son relationship, we dads are charged to build a builder. In a father-daughter relationship, we build a beautifier.

Jesus picks up on Jairus’s term of endearment (“my little daughter”), and when Jesus arrives at the house (after the daughter has died) and takes her by the hand, he says, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41). Not just girl, but “little girl” — an expression of fatherly compassion and holy condescension and care. We learn she’s twelve years old, which isn’t “little” today, and especially not in the first century when twelve was on the brink on being marriageable. “My little daughter” (verse 23) and then “Little girl” (verse 41) are expressions of a tender, affectionate, even protective fatherly heart. And as a daddy to two daughters, I can’t help but hear this expression of a father’s heart.

Two Stories, Woven Together

Two weeks ago, we saw Jesus’s power over nature at the end of Mark 4, when he made the great storm into a great calm, with a word. Then last week, we saw Jesus’s power over demons in the first half of Mark 5. Now, this morning, we see Jesus’s power over disease and then (climactically) over death itself. And as he does so, he is showing us who he really is. He’s answering the disciples’ question from Mark 4:41: “Who then is this?”

These two stories — the healing and the resurrection — happened together, and now they are forever woven together. Note the differences: one is a young woman; the other is old; one is dying right now; the other has chronic condition and has suffered long term; one is healed related to her father’s faith, the other by her own faith.

Three Main Similarities (and Lessons)

The differences then setup the real punch of these two stories together in their profound similarities. There are at least four minor similarities:

  • Both are female.
  • They are linked together by “twelve years” (verses 25, 42).
  • Both are ceremonially unclean according to Jewish law (the woman because of her flow of blood, Leviticus 15:19–33, and the girl because she is dead) yet Jesus touches both, and instead of becoming unclean, he makes them clean. Jesus, living in the power of the Holy Spirit, is eclipsing and surpassing old-covenant religion. “What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did” (Romans 8:3).
  • In both stories, Jesus is misunderstood: the disciples questioning why he stopped to discover who touched him and the mourners laughing at him for saying the girl is sleeping.

But I want to briefly focus on three main similarities.

1. Our Need for Help

The Gospel of Mark tells the stories of thirteen different “supplicants” who come to Jesus asking for his help. This is the scene again and again: the disciples are beside him and so slow to learn; the Pharisees are in the distance or overhearing what he’s doing; and a man with an unclean spirit, or a leper, or a paralytic, or man with a withered hand, or a demonized man, or a father or a woman come before Jesus and demonstrate the kind of desperation and humility that Mark wants to be true of every reader.

Both Jairus and the woman are desperate. Jairus’s daughter is dying, and the woman has suffered much, for a long time. Don’t miss her pain just because the young girl is dying. Jesus doesn’t treat her pain lightly. Nor does Mark. He reports in verse 26 that she “had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.” Jesus doesn’t relativize your pain. He doesn’t compare it with someone else’s and say, “Buck up” because your suffering is not as bad as hers.

Both the old woman and the little girl are here to show us our need. We have a chronic condition called sin — delighting in other things in a way that dishonors God — and we are on the brink of death and need his rescue from his just wrath (because it is an outrage to dishonor the most valuable person in the universe). Mark means for us to be on our knees like Jairus and doing whatever we can, like the woman, to get to Jesus.

2. Jesus’s Means of Grace

Jesus doesn’t raise the girl because Jairus kneeled. And Jesus doesn’t heal the woman because she reached out and touched him. Jesus makes clear and explicit to both, what is the instrument of his grace. And he does it right at the heart of the two stories, in verses 34 and 36:

To the woman, verse 34: “Your faith has made you well.” To Jairus, verse 36: “Do not fear, only believe.”

To the woman, it is not your superstition that has made you well. It’s not that you managed to touch my garment and there’s some kind of magic in my clothes. It’s not what you did. “Your faith has made you well.”

And to Jairus, when word comes that his daughter has died, when his daddy’s heart, already in shambles, is about to fall to pieces, Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Can you imagine how Jairus felt at that moment? While his little daughter was dying, Jesus stopped to have a conversation with an old woman with a chronic condition. How did Jairus not think, Jesus, save my little girl first. Then come back and help this woman later? Jairus is rushing. The disciples are rushing. But “Jesus always had time.” That’s one of my favorite lines in all the Jesus Storybook Bible, and it’s for this story (and my daugthter’s favorite story about “the sick little girl”). “Jesus always had time.”

When Jairus is tempted to fear, when he’s tempted to fall to pieces because his little daughter is dead, there is some vital information he does not yet have. Which is why Jesus says, “Only believe.” Trust me. I have this under control. Jairus doesn’t know it yet, but he is standing in the presence of God himself. Just stay with Jesus. Don’t leave. Jairus is with Jesus. He’s in the right place with the right person, even though he doesn’t yet have all the details. As Tim Keller writes,

It seemed to Jairus and the disciples that Jesus was delaying for no good reason, but they didn’t have all the facts. And so often, if God seems to be unconscionably delaying his grace and committing malpractice in our life, it’s because there is some crucial information that we don’t yet have, some essential variable that’s unavailable to us. (Jesus the King, 71)

3. A Father’s Heart for His Daughters

Jesus allows only Peter, James, and John to come with him to raise the girl because, like his Transfiguration (which is coming in Mark 9:2–9), this is a shocking sneak-peak into who Jesus is, not only as a great teacher but as God himself. We’re not as stunned today by Jesus raising Jairus’s daughter, because we’ve heard this story before and, on top of that, we know how Jesus’s own story will go, that he himself will rise from the dead. It takes some effort to put ourselves into the original story of feel the power of this moment. But Mark piles on language to describe how astounded the girl’s parents and the three disciples are. Literally, in verse 42, “they were astonished with great amazement.” They knew he could heal, but reclaim someone from death? This is an astounding display of power, and identity!

Not only does Jesus command demons and they obey (Mark 1:27; 5:6–13), but he rules over death itself. Here he shows, ahead of time, that his Father has power over the final enemy, and so much so, that he’s able to treat death as if it were merely sleep. “Little girl, it’s time to get up.” Jesus can defeat death like rising from sleep.

Which is what makes Jesus’s interaction with the old woman so remarkable. He asks, “Who touched me?” And when she falls down before him, and tells him the whole truth, he doesn’t rebuke her, but shows her a father’s heart for a daughter. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34). Daughter. Just as Jairus has shown the unique tenderness and compassion of a father’s heart for his little daughter, now Jesus shows us his heart — God’s heart — for one of his daughters.

Look at verses 34–35. Mark makes the connection plain for us by putting the two “daughters” back to back. In verse 34, Jesus calls the woman “Daughter.” In verse 35, a messenger comes from Jairus’s house to inform him, “Your daughter in dead.”

Loved Like a Daughter

It is not just 12-year-old girls who ache to know the love and delight of their father, but grown women too need God’s special Fatherly care. I do think women should be encouraged by this double story of healing an old woman from the pains of disease and rescuing a young woman from the jaws of death. Sister in Christ of Cities Church, Jesus cares about you. He calls you “Daughter.” No matter how much your earthly father failed you. No matter how you’ve been hurt or mistreated. Your condition — however unashamedly or shamefully you own it — does not disqualify you from his concern. He looks on you with compassion, with the special love that a good daddy has for his daughter and says, Trust me. I’ll make you well. I’ll heal your chronic condition called sin. I’ll save you from the final enemy called death. If you will just take my hand, death itself cannot even capture you, and one day I will say to you, “Honey, it’s time to get up.” And you will wake, as from sleep, to no more tears, no more sorrows, no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

And, men, it’s not just women who need to know themselves loved by God as a daughter. All who are in Christ receive not only the Father’s care as beloved sons, but also as cherished daughters. The peculiar kind of loving condescension and deep compassion and personal delight, and fierceness to protect, that a good father has for his daughter is what God made us all, even men, to receive from our heavenly Father.

So, in Jairus’s heart for his daughter, and Jesus’s heart for these women, we catch a glimpse of God’s father-daughter love for his people, alongside the other distinct aspects of his love. He looks on us with the compassion, affection, and protection that a daddy has for “my little daughter.” It is so good, for women and men alike, to know ourselves loved by God like a father loves his daughter, and better.

Two Foreshadowings

As we come to the Table, it’s worth noting two amazing foreshadowings in this double story. The first is verse 30. When the woman touched Jesus, he “perceive[ed] in himself that power had gone out from him.” Power must go out of Jesus for the woman to be healed. This is where his life is headed. To the cross, where all his power will go out from him, to the point of death, so that we might be saved.

But he will not stay dead. That’s the second foreshadowing. When he heals this little girl, he shows God’s hand. That’s why he only lets in three disciples and the girl’s parents. This will show his cards. Death will not be able to hold Jesus. He has the power over death, and he will rise again.