In Matt. 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, and Luke 8:40-56, we see Jesus resurrecting an official’s (Jairus’s) daughter, and healing a woman with blood issues along the way.
However, Matthew records this event as happening while Jesus spoke about fasting at Matthew’s[ “dinner-party”. But this dinner-party is linked with Matthew’s calling as a disciple, and that calling clearly happened before Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to heal the demoniac(s). Mark and Luke, however, record this healing as happening after Jesus returned from healing the demoniacs across the Sea of Galilee.
We propose the following chronological sequencing of events:
- Matthew called as a disciple (Matt. 9:9 = Mark 2:13-14 = Luke 5:27-28)
- [other events transpire]
- Wind and waves obey Jesus (Matt. 8:23-27 = Mark 4:35-41 = Luke 8:22-25)
- Demoniac healed in Gadara/Gerasa (Matt. 8:28-34 = Mark 5:1-20 = Luke 8:26-39)
- Jesus and disciples cross the sea, return to Capernaum (Matt. 9:1 = Mark 5:21 = Luke 9:40)
- Feast at Matthew’s house (including Jesus being questioned on fasting) (Matt. 9:10-17 = Mark 2:15-22 = Luke 5:29-39)
- Jairus’s daughter is healed/resurrected (Matt. 9:18-26 = Mark 5:21-43 = Luke 8:40-56)
The primary objections to this proposed ordering are:
- Matthew, Mark, and Luke all place the feast at Matthew’s house immediately after the story of Matthew being called as a disciple. Whereas, this solution puts a break between those events.
- Mark and Luke describe Jairus’s daughter’s healing immediately after Jesus and the disciples return from healing the demoniac(s), whereas this solution proposes that the feast at Matthew’s house happened between Jesus’ return and Jairus’s daughter’s healing.
Answering Objection 1: Did all 3 writers get the sequence wrong?
Though it is unusual that all 3 synoptics would preserve the same out-of-sequence ordering of events, it is not unprecedented. Consider, for instance, the order in which stories are recorded concerning John the Baptist:
- John was baptizing and preaching to many (Luke 3:1-18)
- John was locked up in prison (Luke 3:19-20)
- John baptizes Jesus (Luke 3:21-22)
- Herod thought Jesus was a resurrected version of John [whom he killed] (Matt. 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-8)
- Herod killed John the Baptist (Matt. 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29; compare also Luke 9:9)
- Jesus heard that Herod thought he was John the Baptist resurrected (Matt. 14:13)
In reality, the above events happened in the following order: 1-3-2-5-4-6. And none of the writers were confused on this. But they are recorded out of sequence on the basis of thematic arrangements.
A similar thing can be seen concerning the resurrection of Jesus and others in Matt. 27-28:
- Jesus died (Matt. 27:50)
- “Many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised…after his [Jesus’] resurrection they went into the holy city…” (Matt. 27:52-53)
- Jesus was buried (Matt. 27:57-60)
- Jesus was resurrected (Matt. 28)
Again, clearly Matthew knew that these events happened in the sequence of 1-3-4-2, but, for thematic reasons, he lumped them in this out-of-sequence order.
Even further, the language used in all 3 gospels does not link the events of Matthew’s calling and the feast at Matthew’s house as happening immediately after one another:
- “He [Matthew] arose and followed Him [Jesus]. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.” (Matt. 9:9-10)
- “He [Matthew] arose and followed Him [Jesus]. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples…” (Mark 2:13-14)
- “He [Matthew] left all, rose up, and followed Him [Jesus]. Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house…” (Luke 5:28-29)
Matthew and Mark introduce the feast with, “Now it happened,” and Luke says, “Then,” both phrases serving as very general and broad introductions.
Finally, the calling of Matthew and the feast at his house share the same location and theme. Thus, juxtaposing those stories—though it breaks sequential protocol—is completely plausible, and finds a clear precedent in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s retelling of the John the Baptist stories, as well as others. Matthew himself, knowing that these 2 events did not happen immediately after one another, could have plausibly maintained them in this order for multiple reasons. For instance he:
- did not intend to write a clear sequential ordering of events, but groups things thematically,
- would want to preserve the same established order of retelling events in his own gospel that other reputable witnesses shared (whether in written or oral tradition; especially since he is reliant, at least in part, on other witnesses for his gospel–since he was not a disciple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry like others), and/or
- would naturally link those two stories in his mind as his most celebrated direct encounters with Jesus.
Answering Objection 2: Why didn’t Mark and Luke insert a feast between Jesus’ return to Capernaum and Jairus’s daughter’s healing?
Mark says, “Jesus had crossed over…a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name,” (5:21-22).
Luke says, “So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. And behold, there came a man named Jairus,” (8:40-41).
Note that both introduce the story with the words, in the NKJV, “And behold.” In the Greek, Matthew uses, “kai,” (literally, “and,” “then,” “but,” “likewise,” etc.) and Luke, “idou,” (literally, “look,” “suddenly,” “now,” etc.) to introduce the story. Neither of these introductions establish a time-sequence link with the event preceding it. In fact, sometimes these words are used to introduce an event that clearly breaks from the narrative of the previous stories (e.g. Matt. 21:1; Acts 13:25). Regardless, they do not give enough evidence to say that Mark or Luke believed Jairus’s story happened immediately after Jesus returned to Capernaum.
However, even if we should read a clear link in timing between Jesus landing in Capernaum and Jairus’s daughter’s healing, it is quite reasonable to see how the, “multitude gathered,” to Jesus (Mark 5:21) could become the, “many,” (Mark 2:14) feasting at Matthew’s house—where Jairus approached Jesus—in a relatively quick time.
After considering the objections,
we maintain that our proposed sequence of events is the most satisfactory, and
least problematic, in accounting for all of the data.
 The author, Matthew, and the tax collector, Matthew, are one-and-the-same (see notes in Introduction).
 Matthew calls it, “the house,” presumably because it was his own house, whereas Mark and Luke had to identify who owned it.
 NKJV translates it as, “Then,” while the ESV translates it as, “And.” Luke uses the Greek word, “kai,” to introduce the feast. This word is found nearly 9,000 times in the New Testament, and can be translated as, “then,” “and,” “but,” “likewise,” etc. It is a very broad word, and could never, by itself, be used to prove a direct connective sequence of events.
 Another possibility, initially entertained by this harmony, is that Matthew’s calling and the feast at his house did happen in immediate succession to each other, while Jairus’s story (introduced in Matthew with, “while He was saying these things to them,”) happened at a separate time (after Jesus returned to Capernaum from healing the demoniac). This could be possible if Jesus repeated the same discussion (once during the feast and again after he returned from the sea), and/or, if Matthew meant to introduce a new story with the words, “while He was saying these things,” that serves as a break from the previous story. For the latter option, Donald Hagner makes the following observation: “The genitive absolute [of the Greek, ‘while He was saying these things to them,’]…is Matthew’s transition to the new story and is not to be understood as a particular time indicator. Matthew’s…’behold,’ again signifies a new, remarkable story,” (Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 1-13, 1993, 33A:248).
Our main problem with this proposed solution is that Matthew tells us that Jesus was, “saying these things to them [Greek, ‘autos’],” (Matt. 9:18). It is difficult not to see a link between the two stories in the word, “them,” because it assumes an already existing group of people (as opposed to introducing a new group of people).