Sisters and Brothers,
In yesterday’s passage we were told that Jesus was asked by Jairus, a synagogue official, to heal his daughter who was on the verge of death. Jesus went with the worried father, but was briefly interrupted by the woman who was cured by touching his cloak.
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Today’s passage, we get word of the girl’s death, but Jesus is not stopped by this news. Jesus says to Jairus and the others “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”
Jesus is accompanied by the three central disciples, Simon Peter, James, and John and they quickly go to the synagogue leader’s house. They are met at the house by a crowd of mourners who laugh at Jesus. Either they think it is a cruel joke or just wishful thinking when he says “The child is not dead but asleep.” It is a laugh of despair and not of happiness. Jesus seems too hopeful and unrealistic.
This story is usually considered to be a resurrection story, as when Jesus later brings the widow’s son and Lazarus back to life, but I think that we are supposed to take Jesus at his word. The little girl may seem lifeless, but she is asleep… or what we might call a deep coma. People in such condition were sometimes assumed to be dead.
Jesus take the girl by the hand and speaks the words“Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, get up!”). Remember that the Gospel of Mark was written in Greek, but these are not Greek words. They are the words that Jesus actually spoke in his native language (which is called Aramaic). They are not special words in themselves. In fact, they would have been thought very mundane words, as if Jesus was waking her from a nap. Immediately she wakes and springs to her feet. Everyone is amazed, but Jesus tells them to give her something to eat (which is proof that she is alive and a mundane thing in itself).
Since we know the story, it was probably through Simon Peter that we know it. We are told nothing more of the girl. We assume that the rest of her family was amazed but soon get over it. We assume that she goes on to live a long and happy life and that her father is grateful.
For us, there is a big difference between a healing story and a resurrection story, but for Jesus they are not much different. Jesus brings healing as easily as he brings new life. Whether this girl was actually dead or in a deep coma, the story is the same. We should follow Jesus because he brings both healing and eternal life. We will not be resurrected to live in pain and sickness, but the promised new life is one of wholeness and health.
Some Christians have said that people like Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, should be pitied because Jesus returned him to mortal life, so Lazarus would have to die again before entering God’s kingdom, but the resurrection we face is an eternal one.
Part of the beauty of this story is that Jesus healed the girl with such simple words and a touch of the hand. Another part are the words, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”
We all face fear. Either it gets the better of us, or we live with it, or we repress it. Jesus implied that we can quash fear with belief. The more we believe in Jesus Christ, the less room we have for fear.
We need to believe even when it seems too late. We need to believe in Jesus Christ even when we are hopeless.
I don’t know what resurrection feels like, but I know what healing feels like. I don’t know what to expect of resurrection, but I hope it is like Jesus taking your hand and saying, “It’s time to get up.”
A Question to Ponder: Does it ever seem too late to ask Jesus for help?