The Gospel of Mark relays a touching story about the death of a child. In Mark chapter five, we read:
“And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him,and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and 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.” And he went with him.” (Mark 5:21-24)
It takes little imagination to understand the anguish of the father, Jairus. We see his pain so clearly in this passage. Mark says Jairus fell at the feet of Jesus, and begged him earnestly. Jairus is a ruler, but he comes to Jesus as a desperate man. He can rule his community but he cannot rule his daughter’s illness. He is helpless. His daughter’s state grows ever more fragile with each hour. She is only a “little” girl and she lies at the “point of death.” The only hope for this girl and for Jairus is Jesus. So he pleads with Jesus to come and make her well. Jesus agrees to go with him.
On the way, another woman in need of healing intercepts Jesus. We won’t look at her story, but suffice it to say, she delays the errand. Before Jesus can even continue on to Jairus’ house, another messenger arrives and informs them that the little girl has already died.
Let that scene settle in your mind.
The little girl is dead. Jairus’ baby girl is gone. The one he carried on his shoulders through the city at festival time, the one he watched as she peacefully slept, the one that made him smile as she twirled in her new dress…that little girl is forever gone. Jesus was too late. Jairus’ errand had failed. No more giggles in the house. No more future. No more second chances. But Jesus says the most astounding thing. Jesus turns to Jairus and says, “Do not fear, only believe.” And when Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe,” you do not fear but only believe. With that, they continue on to Jairus’ house.
When they arrive, the scene is horrific. A crowd has gathered at the house, and people are loudly crying out and wailing for this little girl. The pain of loss is overwhelming. The worst has come true. The power of Jesus seems to have fallen flat. But Jesus enters this hopeless scene undeterred.
Jesus passes through the weeping crowds and enters the little girl’s room. Pastor Timothy Keller illuminates the scene so well. I will let him describe it:
“Jesus sits down beside the girl, takes her by the hand, and says two things to her. The first is talitha. Literally, it means ‘little girl,’ but that does not get across the sense of what he’s saying. This is a pet name, a diminutive term of endearment. Since this is a diminutive that a mother would use with a little girl, probably the best translation is “honey.” The second thing Jesus says to her is koum, which means ‘arise.’ Not ‘be resurrected’; it just means ‘get up.’ Jesus is doing exactly what this child’s parents might do on a sunny morning. He sits down, takes her hand, and says, ‘Honey, it’s time to get up.’ And she does. Jesus is facing death, the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race and such is his power that he holds this child by the hand and gently lifts her right up through it. ‘Honey, get up.’” (Keller, King’s Cross, p. 68)
That is the gentleness and power of God’s word! God by His word gently lifts the little girl and yet powerfully defeats death. Is there anything God cannot do by his word?
The Bible is that same gentle and powerful word. The God who says, “Honey, get it up,” and defeats death in the process is also the God who says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Thus, when Jesus tells a physically dead person to live and she does, we know that when he tells a spiritually dead person to live he or she will live.
The word of God breaks the bonds of death. It sets captives free. And we would be foolish if we did not cling to it and mark our lives with it and proclaim it from the housetops, this word that brings life.
If you are spiritually dead, you don’t have to stay dead. If you want to come awake, turn to the word of God. If you need new life, turn to the word that can bring new life. If you long for rebirth, turn to the word that can remake you. God’s word wakes the dead, and it can waken you.