Jesus spoke to the dead girl as if her ears still worked

Gabriel Max (German, 1840-1915). 'The Raising of the Daughter of Jairus,' 1881. oil on canvas. Walters Art Museum (37.170): Acquired by Henry Walters, 1906.“Talitha cumi,” he said to her. Little girl, get up. So she did. Feed her, he said to her parents. So they did.

But where’s the beginning of this story? We find it in Mark Chapter 5.

Jesus and the disciples had been across the lake (Sea of Galilee) for a while, then came back to where they started. One of the religious leaders was in the crowd waiting for them with a very sad story. His daughter was dying.

Please come, he begged Jesus. Put your hand on her, and she will be healed and live!

And so Jesus did. Now, he could have just spoken a word or two and sent the fellow home. After all, that’s what he did with the Centurian and the sick servant. No need to travel, just say something short.

But in this case Jesus did what the father asked. Before they had gone far, some men met them and said, Don’t bother, your daughter’s dead. Sad news, fear-creating news, doubt-filled news.

Jesus ignored their words. Still, he knew the father probably couldn’t just ignore their words, so he countered them with faith-filled words — “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

The father had to choose which words to accept. Since they continued on to the house, he obviously chose Jesus’ words.

When they got to the house, there was a lot of noise – the mourners had already gathered. You’re wasting your time, she’s dead, they claimed. Again Jesus countered their words. “She’s not dead, she’s asleep.”

They laughed – and Jesus put them out. It wasn’t his house, but he still put them out. He got rid of the mournful, faithless folks and once they were gone, he took the faithful disciples and parents into the girl’s room.

Jesus again did what the father asked. He put his hand on the girl and spoke to her as if she could hear him. “Talitha cumi.” Little girl, get up. And she did!

She didn’t just get up, she walked around. Knowing she’d be hungry, Jesus told them to feed her, and I’m sure they did.

What happened here? Why did Jesus agree to the requests of this man? Jesus came, he put his hand on the dead girl, she was healed and she lived, just like the father had said.

How did the head of the synagogue, a religious leader, get this faith in Jesus? Enough that he ignored the men from his own household, ignored the grieving mourners come to offer sympathy to the family?

I think about the statement Jesus made to several other people. Your faith has done it. Your faith has healed you. Your faith has healed your servant. Your faith has healed your daughter.

Your trust, reliance, assurance, confidence, your knowing-that-you-know faith. Not just in who Jesus is and what he can do, but in his will, his desires, his compassion.

This man had to have received this faith from listening to Jesus’ own words and making a firm decision from his heart, a decision to believe him. He had to reaffirm that decision on the road to the house when Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing not just any words, Jesus’ words. Despite his religious training and position in the community, this man had made the decision to believe in Jesus. Jesus recognized it, acknowledged it and honored it.

These days as in those days, that kind of faith is a rare commodity. Churches are filled with people like those mourners, those so-called friends of the family. “It’s too late,” they say. “We can’t know God’s will for sure,” they say. Their words lack confidence, boldness and power.

“I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith,” Jesus said of the Centurian. (Matthew 8:10)  We might as well say “anyone in America,” or “anyone in Florence.”

My goal is to be one of the disciples Jesus will let into the room. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Jesus asked. (Luke 18:8) Yes! Oh yes! Is my prayer.

(Originally posted March 10, 2008.)

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