Mark 5:35-43

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

This young girl could not be more different from the nameless woman of the last scene. Whereas the older woman is destitute, the young girl enjoys life as the daughter of a leader. Whereas the woman who had been suffering for twelve long years had no one to advocate for her, the young girl has her father. And all those years the older woman bled, the young girl played. No, they couldn’t be more different.

Except for this: both were in need. Both were united by blood, bad blood. The older woman could not stop bleeding and likely could not bear children; the young girl, at the edge of being able to bear children and pass on life, was about to die. So different, united only by their need. And Jesus responds to each.

This is another dramatic scene in Mark’s story of Jesus. The details he offers are brief but telling; the ones he doesn’t share, we can fill in. How anxious Jairus must have been, having won the consent of Jesus to come tend his daughter, only to have to wait for this exchange with the woman. I wouldn’t blame him if he resented this interruption. After all, she had bled for twelve years, so what’s a few more hours? Whereas his daughter was in need now, right now – every second counted. And then comes the news he had feared all along – they were too late, she had died.

Yet Jesus is not deterred. “Do not fear, only believe,” he tells him. We are again at the intersection of faith and fear, and lest we imagine that faith knows no doubt or fear, we can think back to the storm at sea and recall that fear, in this case, is the immobilizing fear of despair. “Do not despair,” Jesus encourages, “only believe, only trust, only hope, for I am here.”

And he does. He believes, whatever his fear, and follows, desperately clinging to Jesus’ promise.

Not so the crowds. They hear Jesus’ words and respond with, really, what is a perfectly reasonable, rational reaction – they laugh. It may have been a bitter laugh, one colored by grief or perhaps even tinged with derision. They’d been to funerals before, after all, and they knew what death looked like – why would this man be so foolish, and so cruel, to confuse death with sleep?

But this is Jesus. And as we have seen from the beginning of the story, he doesn’t just proclaim God’s rule and activity, he embodies it. The heavens were torn open at his baptism and God has been on the loose ever since. He has come to do battle with all that would rob the children of God of the life and goodness God intends, and that includes death. And so he enters her room, calls her from the sleep we name death, and giver her back her life, her family, and her future.

Two very different women, yet united in their need…and in their restoration to life, health, and community. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Dear God, in our darkest moments draw us to you, that we may not be overwhelmed by despair and fear but, trusting in your promises, may be renewed in faith and life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Post image: “The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” by Edwin Long