How does one raise a daughter? What does a young girl need from her parents? What does she need from her mom?
I found myself intrigued by two stories in Mark about daughters. The stories have similarities.
- The daughters were about the same age.
- The daughters were from families of influence.
- The daughters lived in towns on the Lake of Galilee.
- Both of their mothers are mentioned in their story.
- Neither daughter is named by Mark in chapters 5 & 6.
That’s where the similarities end, for one daughter received good from her parents and the other received evil.
The first mother and father protected their daughter. They used their means to save her life. They valued her girlhood. They threw away their own future to gain hers. They were people of influence and even some local power. He was Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue—known and respected by everyone in town. And the mother was Mrs. Jairus.
When their daughter became very ill and it was clear she would not recover, they threw their reputation to the wind. Leaders of other synagogues and many Pharisees spoke against Jesus, the Healer. Mr. and Mrs. Jairus didn’t care if they were ostracized by those who thought them foolish to follow a fake Messiah. This couple were not interested in political correctness; their daughter’s needs were all they cared about.
And so, the leading man in town, Mr. Jairus, came and knelt at the Healer’s feet and begged for help for their daughter. Although the Bible doesn’t say this, we can imagine Mrs. Jairus saying with tears, “Go, my husband. Get help for her. I don’t care if you look foolish. I don’t care who thinks He is from Satan. He heals people. He can save our daughter’s life. Go ask him to heal our girl.”
But the father got to Jesus too late. The girl died. Jesus came to the house anyway, and declared that she was sleeping, not dead, which was greeted with derision by the mourners who had already gathered.
Jesus quietly, tactfully, respectfully, took the mother and father with Peter, James and John into the dead girl’s room. Taking her gently by the hand, He called to her, “Little girl, get up now.”
And she did.
Jesus said to the parents, “Don’t exploit this healing. Give her some food to revive her. She’s been without nourishment and she’s hungry. And, keep this quiet. Let her grow into her approaching womanhood in privacy. Don’t take her out and show her off as a girl who was dead, but now she’s alive. No, let her finish her childhood. Don’t take advantage of this miracle—think of her needs. What is best for her? She needs nurture and she needs protection.”
The second mother, Herodias and the stepfather, Herod Antipas, exploited their daughter. The mother used her daughter to gain her own ends. She taught her daughter to be sensual, to use her body for profit. This mother threw away her daughter’s future for her own greedy revenge.
Herodias was a granddaughter of King Herod the Great. Her grandmother, Mariamne, was one of his ten wives. She was reported to be one of his favorites, but he murdered her and several of his own sons. This is the Herod of the Nativity story who ordered all the boy babies in Bethlehem who were two and under to be killed.
Herodias was born into this evil family, and then she married into it—twice. First she married Herod Philip, her half-uncle and with him had a daughter. Then she had an adulterous relationship with Philip’s stepbrother, Antipas, that led to two divorces and a subsequent marriage to Antipas, who ruled over Galilee. She brought her daughter with her to Tiberias in Galilee after her marriage.
Herodias’ daughter had wealth and privilege. Herodias introduced her to sensuality. She taught her to dance in a sexually provocative way. She taught her to wear immodest clothing. She taught her to look to her mother for guidance on all things and not to use her own mind to think things through.
Herodias was a manipulative wife. Her adulterous relationship with Herod and their subsequent marriage had been publicly denounced by John the Baptist. He had declared that their union was unlawful. The truth made her furious! She hated John the Baptist for his bold words. Her husband, Herod Antipas, knew the kind of woman she was and put John the Baptist in prison, for his own safety.
Prison bars didn’t stop Herodias. When her husband planned a huge gala to celebrate his birthday, she was ready. “My dear, would you like to have my daughter dance for the pleasure of your gentlemen guests?”
This was not ballet dance; it was not the recital dance your daughter had. This was a vulgar, sensual dance that appealed to the sexual appetites of drunken men who had lost whatever inhibitions they may have had. This is where Herodias sent her young daughter. She may have been barely a teenager.
The dance pleased Herod. Immensely.
He offered his young stepdaughter anything she wanted—up to half his kingdom! How magnanimous he must have appeared before his civil leaders and army commanders.
The daughter has been trained not to think for herself, “Let me go and ask my mother.”
Will the mother say, “Oh my daughter, let’s ask that you be sent to the finest university in the world with all expenses paid!”
Will she say, “Daughter, let’s ask for you to be married to the prince of a neighboring country where you will have a secure future?”
Will she say, “My dear, ask for acreage overlooking the Lake of Galilee where you can live on your own property?”
But Herodias thinks only of herself, her revenge. “Ask for the head of John the Baptizer to be immediately brought to you.”
Herodias coldly exploited her own daughter to benefit herself. Her daughter’s needs were unimportant to her; the girl existed to please to her—she had no merit of her own.
So what does a young girl need from her parents? What can we learn from Mark’s stories about two daughters?
We learn that daughters need protection. They are vulnerable and they are dependant on their parents to shelter and nurture them. They need parents who will move as far as possible from exploitation toward unselfish care.
Secondly, they need parents who will sacrifice their own reputations to provide spiritual life for their daughters, “How will this benefit my child? Is this action for her ultimate good? Will this help her to grow into a godly woman? Am I resisting the downward pull of the culture in helping her be pure? What is best for her?”
Just like Jesus does for us—protecting us, sacrificing Himself--so that we can be formed into His likeness because that is what is best for us.