In the Gospel today we have these two healing stories that the author Mark binds together so closely that you need to read them both together.
The 12-year old daughter of Jairus, an important Synagogue official, is very sick, indeed she is at the point of death. She is linked in the story to the woman who has suffered from this bleeding for 12 years. Jairus keeps referring to his daughter, and when Jesus addresses the woman, he tells her ‘my daughter, your faith has saved you.’
After Jesus has healed the woman by only a touch of his prayer shawl, when the group is on their way to the official’s house, they are met by this delegation from his house. Capernaum is only a small village, so it would not have taken very long to walk from one side to the other. The people come and say ‘do not bother the Master anymore – your daughter is already dead.’ Perhaps they could have listened more closely in the counselling course and found a gentler way to break this devastating news to poor Jairus. It is then that Jesus turns to Jairus and says ‘don’t be afraid; just have faith.’ This is the answer that Jesus would give to us whenever we are afraid of death, whenever we are confronted by death. ‘Don’t be afraid; just have faith.’
So they continue to the house. Jesus knows that there is nothing that is outside the boundaries of his love and his power. Even though the crowd says, ‘it’s pointless; it’s useless – send him away,’ Jesus continues to go to that house. When they get to the house, they find this huge crowd of people weeping and mourning and lamenting – including the paid mourners who would come to help the family express their grief at this terrible moment. And Jesus says, ‘why all this commotion? The girl is not dead, she is … asleep.’ When Lazarus died (read the story in John 11), Jesus said the same thing: our friend Lazarus is asleep.
Jesus then goes into the little girl’s room, and with her parents he says to her what any loving father would say in the morning to wake up his daughter: ‘my darling, it is time to get up; time to wake up.’ In the original words of Jesus he says ‘talitha, koum’ – ‘little girl, arise.’
In the resurrection of Jesus, death has been destroyed. Death has no power over us anymore. Jesus says ‘Don’t be afraid; just have faith.’ And this is the way that a Christian should experience death. One day, when Jesus returns, he will say similar words to us to awaken us from the sleep of death: “little child, arise!” The love of God will indeed win.
+ Lord Jesus, as you continue to gaze at us in love and call us from fear to love, help us to trust in your power over sin and death. Amen.