In a fallen world, the cold fingerprints of death mar all things. Men were originally created top be young and strong forever, with heart, mind and body all perfectly at their zenith and consecrated to the glory of God and the love of people. Relationships with both were intended to not be fickle or have lulls, but flourish and deepen. Our relationship to the world around us was to be one of loving dominion, imaging God by cultivating His world from a garden into the grandest inhabited earth one could imagine.
But sin changed all of that.
Instead, we are God’s enemies and our love for Him and people is often twisted or grows cold altogether. We find disobedience and selfishness more alluring than the joys of love. Our bodies grow weak, old, sick, and eventually die. The world opposes us with frustration, bad weather, ungodly culture (perhaps the subtlest of earthly effects of the Curse!), predatory animals, and many pathogens, temptations, diseases, accidents, frustrations, and setbacks.
The world and all in it, created to manifest and redound to the glory of God, is now at one level opposed to Him and His loving purposes. (At another, it is fulfilling them precisely as He takes “the long way around” to the consummation of His plan.) Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than the reality of physical death, especially in the young. Sometimes, those of us who prize sound theology and precision scoff at ministries and believers that emphasize the non-personal-salvation related aspects of the Lord’s redemption, like physical healing and relational reconciliation. It is as if we think these things are optional or add-ons to the Lord’s program of world redemption. While demanding healing or blessing in certain ways in this life does not allow the Lord the sovereign freedom to ordain our days that is His right as holy God, it is we who have missed the point in out binary approach to such things! Jesus did not merely come to save sinners from their sin, but to redeem the world and everything in it at every level for the glory of God. Yes, the foundation and basis of all else is reconciling sinners to a holy and just God through His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, and that is the heart and lifeblood of the gospel. But the plan of God is far bigger than that, and in the raising of Jairus’s daughter we do not merely see a picture of Jesus’ power to save sinners from spiritual death, but a multifaceted display of His glorious plan and the compassionate mercy that drives it all. What a precious, wondrous Savior we have!
Because an outline was not provided I have created my own for ease of comprehension.
A. The Threshold to the Miracle (vv. 35-37)
In this moment, Jairus has an excellent opportunity to learn the lesson James Montgomery Boice insightfully taught: The delays of Christ are the delays of love. For Jesus has paused in His journey to save Jairus’s daughter to show saving compassion to a forgotten woman, and now that delay has pushed the little girl over the brink of death into that cold abyss. She is gone. Jairus gets the news, and it is almost shocking how restrained Mark is in his depiction. Surely Jairus howled, wept, maybe even got angry at Jesus for stopping to help the woman. In all this, Jesus comes to Jairus and tells him, “Do not be afraid any longer only believe” (v. 36). Both verbs are in the present tense. Stop being afraid; keep believing. Jairus obviously knew the Lord’s intent was to save his daughter, and faith would respond to this setback by saying death couldn’t stand in the face of Jesus. He had to cling to the loving and sovereign intent of the Savior rather than give into what his circumstances were telling him. This is deeply instructive for us. Christianity does not call us to some denial in the face of suffering, but just as insistently it does not call us into despair, as if our trials are the last word. They assuredly are not! Unbelief sees the death, the illness, the prolonged singleness, the disqualification from ministry, the empty cradle, the loneliness, the financial struggle, and says that this is how it will always be, perhaps that God Himself could not even change it. While He may not remove the trial in this life, to doubt His ability to do so or His loving purpose in it is unbelief, not realism. We serve a resurrected, living God whose sovereign love cloaks all He has made. There is nothing too hard for Him, nothing He cannot redeem, nothing and no one He cannot bless and restore! Faith trusts this and waits on Him. All unbelief sees is the setback, the circumstance, the trial. It does not look upward from them to the smile of God and the omnipotent scepter firmly in His scarred hand.
His faith bolstered, wiping the tears, Jairus resumes the journey with Jesus. Praying and hoping with each step. Notably, though all twelve apostles are present, the Lord only permits Peter, James, and John to accompany Him to the house (v. 37). Unknown to them, but fully known in the counsels of the Godhead, was that God was making apostolic leaders out of each of these men in the establishment and exposition of New Covenant, last-days ministry. And we see all three of them in prominent roles in the book of Acts (though James will be dispatched to heaven early in his ministry). The demonic, human, and religious opposition they will face as they found the church and give the new messianic community guidance and leadership will necessitate great faith in the sovereignty and compassion of their resurrected Lord. They need to see His power and wisdom at a deeper level. But before that they will see a forceful manifestation of unbelief, to which we now turn.
B. The Response of Unbelief (vv. 38-40a)
As they approach the house, they can hear the wailing from a distance. In that culture, funerals were a surprisingly lavish affair that featured paid mourners (women who would cry and wail in a high-pitched, emotional way) and harsh, sharp music played on flutes to echo the emotional cacophony and bewilderment accompanying death. It is into this chaos our Lord steps (there’s a lesson there for us) and says, “Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep” (v. 39). Here we see a perfect portrait of how different the divine perspective is from our fallen human one. And what a reminder of our need for renewed minds and discipleship! For this is the truth. To a sovereign God, death is as easily recovered from as a nap. To fallen people bound by unbelief and tunnel vision, this thinking is the height of foolishness, and they laugh in His face! The Greek is something like “laughed to scorn” or “in derision.” How quickly the exaggerated mourning has turned into scoffing and unbelief!
O that we would have eyes to see the loving hand and perspective of God and trust Him in the face of every thorn, human frailty, and fiery dart!
C. The Sovereignty of Love (vv. 40b-43)
Matthew adds one phrase to Jesus’s rebuke: “Get out!” We can be sure they quickly filed out! Jesus takes the three apostles and Jairus and his wife and they go into the little girl’s room, where her cold little body lies still on the bed.
I wonder what was going through the minds of the apostles and parents. Fear? Anticipation? Faith? Probably a mixture. The authoritative, compelling rabbi from Nazareth steps over to the bed, taking the still hand in His bigger, calloused one. Here, we see the tenderness and insight of our Lord. Recall that Greek is the lingua franca of the day. Most people knew it as a trade language in addition to the Aramaic they spoke at home (it is likely Jesus did much of His public preaching and teaching in Greek, not Aramaic). But this girl Mark tells us explicitly, is little. She does not know Greek yet. Her heart language is Aramaic. Had Jesus called her little spirit back in Greek, she would not have understood! But as he calls her in Aramaic, with tender words, His voice breaks through that invisible but impenetrable veil of death and draws her spirit back into her body. One commentator speculates that the wording Jesus used may have been the same call she heard each morning from her mother; it certainly would fit the obvious tenderness expressed by our Lord. “Talitha” is Aramaic for “little lamb,” a term of endearment and affection. Jesus recognizes the sweet tenderness of this little girl, knows the trauma she and her family have lived through, and as Creator, Savior, and perfect Man His great heart overflows in lovingkindness to her. Does He not do the same with you? O Christian, hear the voice of your Savior as He speaks to you in the same tender way. Dopes not His resurrection life flood you and every trial you face? Does He not love you, persevere with you, overrule for you, bless you, guard you, defend you, provide for you, undertake for you? Does He not plead with you to trust Him and bank on His power in the ravages of a fallen world as you make the long trek to heaven? Does He not remind you that you do not have because you do not ask, and that so much of His power and redemption could be experientially manifest to you if you simply asked in faith? And is not all this besotted in personal, tender, enduring, unbreakable, conquering Calvary love that yet stoops to you can calls you little lamb with utmost gentleness?
It is only unbelief that keeps us from seeing the full weight of these things.
Immediately, at the sound of His voice, the little girl’s body floods with color and life, and she sits up, and the first thing she hears are the cries of joy and gasps from her parents. And she looks into the eyes of this kind carpenter, whose hand is still holding hers, whose face is crinkling into a smile of delight and approval. She is able to walk and skip and jump immediately, the cries of joy around her being her music.
Jesus turns to the parents and tells them not to tell anyone that He healed her—why? Because in that climate it was far too easy to selfishly see Jesus only as a miracle worker, not as the divine Savior of sinners, and He did not want His priorities and ministry confused. He also tells them to make sure she eats (doubtless she and they were tired and hungry after such an ordeal).
Jesus is our compassionate redeemer at every level and in every circumstance of life. Dare we doubt His power, goodness, or ability? Impossibilities are mere playthings in the hand of a God who will stop at nothing to redeem the world. Choose to trust Him, and be blessed!