We’re back in the Gospel of Mark this morning, with the story of Jesus raising a girl from the dead – Mark 5:22-24a; 35-43. This story is sandwiched around what we looked at last time ,the healing of the long suffering woman. There are some interesting parallels between these stories, which you can see on your handout.
Let’s set the scene. Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee to the Eastern shore. On the way over he calmed the stormy sea. And when he arrived he cast out the legion of demons from the man in the cemetery. And now Jesus has come back across the Sea of Galilee to the Western shore and a large crowd has gathered around him (v. 21).
Picking up in v. 22 . . .
22Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24And he went with him.
A synagogue ruler was a lay person who was in charge of organizing the worship service each Sabbath, making sure there were Scripture readers and teachers and so forth. They also took care of the synagogue building. They were highly honored and also Jairus seems to be well off.
He falls at Jesus’ feet and is imploring Jesus. You can see his faith here and also his father’s heart for his dear child. We don’t know what her ailment is, only that she’s to the point of death. Put yourself in his shoes. Can you feel the emotions he must have been feeling?
These verses show us that not all Jewish leaders are opposed to Jesus. And as we see here, Jesus is more than willing to go to heal his daughter.
In the verses that follow, which tell of the healing of the long suffering woman, time has elapsed. And we learn in v. 35 something bad has happened in the meantime.
35 While he was still speaking (to the woman he has just healed), there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
Jairus believed that Jesus could heal his daughter, even though she was near to death. But who would think that Jesus could do anything once the child has died? This is the clear assumption of the messengers. Don’t trouble Jesus anymore. It’s too late! The situation is hopeless. Sure, Jesus may well be able to do many things – but not this.
36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
The word “overhearing” can also be translated as “ignoring.” However it’s translated Jesus does hear what the messengers say and he does ignore it. And he instructs Jairus, “do not fear.” Fear is the opposite of faith. Jesus is saying, don’t be afraid with regard to what they are saying about your daughter. “Only believe” that is, in him. Continue believing that he can help, even in what seems to be an impossible situation.
37And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.
This is Jesus’ inner circle (which also sometimes included Andrew.) They’re selected to witness what’s about to take place.Presumably the rest of the disciples are left to attend to the crowd that has been following Jesus; to keep them from bothering or overwhelming the family.
38They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
Things have to move quickly since in the ancient world dead bodies have to be buried in a timely fashion. And so there are already people gathering to mourn – before Jairus and Jesus arrive.
This crowd would have included professional mourners. These were hired by families, even poor ones, to show how much the family is grieving their loss. In this case there seems to be a number of them, indicating Jairus’ wealth.
These professionals would weep and wail, as it says here. And they would play musical instruments and beat their chests and so forth, until the body was buried.
39And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him.
Jesus confronts the professional mourners.
Sleep is often used as a metaphor for death in the New Testament. What Jesus seems to be saying here – is not that the girl is literally asleep and not dead, but that her death is temporary, like sleep, and he is about to wake her up.
They respond by ridiculing him. See how quickly these actors move from weeping to laughter.
But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.
Jesus takes charge of the situation. Those who don’t believe; those who ridicule are excluded from seeing the work God is about to do. Everyone has to leave, except his three disciples and the parents.
41Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.
Talitha cumi is an Aramaic phrase, the common language of Israel at this time, which means, “lamb, arise.” Lamb is a pet name for a child.
Jesus does what is impossible by all of their standards. He has healed many people, he has cast out demons, even 5,000 at once. But now he has raised someone from the dead. He simply speaks and she is alive again. At the end of v. 42 it says literally, “they were amazed with a great amazement.”
43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Jesus is back in Israel after having been in Gentile territory on the East side of the Sea of Galilee, so he once again tells them to be silent about this. This seems mostly to be about crowd control. Jesus doesn’t want to be so swamped by crowds that he can’t move or do any ministry.
Although, how this could remain hidden is hard to say. Many saw the girl dead and now she is alive and healthy – and hungry. Maybe this is just to give him time to move on to another place.
There are a number of things that can be highlighted from this story: First of all, Jesus can do the impossible. And he can do the impossible because he is God’s Son, come to bring salvation to the world. So we learn again about the identity of Jesus; who he is.
We also see a picture of this salvation that he is bringing in the raising of this girl from the dead. She was resuscitated and will have later died again. But it points forward to a day when, once again, Jesus will simply say the word (John 5:25) and the dead will be raised. This time to live eternally.
So our deaths are also only like sleep – in that it is temporary. And Jesus will “wake us up” on the final day. Jesus is lord even over death itself.
But I want to focus on Jairus’ faith, because what Jesus says to him is –
A good word for us today
“Do not fear, only believe.”
I believe this is God’s word to us today. I hope you will receive it.
It must have been a big risk for him to come to Jesus in the first place, while other Jewish leaders were rejecting Jesus. But he did come. And he believed that Jesus could cure a deadly sickness.
But then things changed. His daughter died. All is lost.But Jesus indicates to him that God still wants to heal his daughter, when he says, “do not fear, only believe.”
What will Jairus do? I mean, that’s impossible! And everyone around him is saying, ‘that’s impossible.’ Leave the teacher alone and come bury your child. What do we do when we have a promise from God, but it seems impossible to us and to everyone else around us?
Well, Jairus didn’t give in to fear, but acted in faith. He brought Jesus to his home anyway. And he didn’t intervene when Jesus started doing things that could cause him social disgrace – like rebuking the mourners whom Jairus and his family are paying, and throwing them out of his house.
He had bold faith in Jesus and because of this he experienced what was considered to be impossible – his daughter was raised from the dead. Jesus came through for him.
When we find ourselves in an impossible situation, will we freeze up with fear or will we be able to look beyond the circumstances all around us and move forward in faith in God’s promises to us? Will we look at our circumstance or to Jesus and his word to us?
I encourage you this morning to have the faith that Jairus had so that you can receive God’s grace and mercy through our Lord Jesus.