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.)

Seeds grow… it’s their nature

DaAndMuleIt’s the nature of seeds to grow (see Mark 4:27-28).

The farmer doesn’t really know how, but if he sows seed in the ground, the dirt makes the seed sprout and grow. Then the farmer takes advantage of that process and harvests the crop. That somewhat explains the earlier verses in Mark chapter 4.

Picture the planting season: The farmer takes a sack of seeds down to the field. Some seeds fall out along the roadway, not the designated place at all – hard, packed down dirt. Still, those seeds sprout!

Further along, the edges of the field are lined with stones, probably gathered out of the field to prepare it for planting. Some stray seeds fall into the stones, and they too sprout.

A bit further along, the farmer crosses the perimeter of the field where the thorns and weeds still exist. Here too, some seeds drop out and here too, they sprout.

Finally he gets to the plowed land. He sows the seeds where they are supposed to be, in the field where the ground has been cultivated. The stones, briers and weeds have been carefully removed so there’s nothing to prevent the seeds from getting plenty of nutrients and water.

Eventually the farmer harvests a good crop, even discounting the seeds that sprouted in all the wrong spots.

Why? Because it’s the nature of seeds to grow. No farmer can create seeds, or dirt – but the smart farmer knows how they work and he takes advantage of them.

Jesus relates the seed to his word. If we’re as smart as farmers we’ll take advantage of this principle.

(Originally posted February 17, 2008.)

Don’t eat the seed corn

seed-cornSeed corn: don’t eat it, plant it.

Back when most people grew their own food, that didn’t have to be explained.

When I was a little girl spending my summers on my grandparents’ farm, I learned that you didn’t eat the seed corn. I helped my grandmother pick over a big basket of seed corn that was being put aside for the next year, cleaning the trash and dead bugs out of it.

A seed has life built in, no matter whether it’s corn, or butterbeans, or sunflowers. It doesn’t have to wonder what to do, it “knows” to grow. The faith for growing is entertwined in the life…

But there is something else about seeds. They need stuff. Like soil, food, water, fertilizer, and protection from pests. Today, vegetable and flower seeds are sold in stores with a coating of plant food and/or bug killer surrounding them, so you have a head start on getting a good crop. Smart idea.

Jesus told his disciples, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can tell this mountain to be removed and be cast into the sea, and it would obey you. (See Matt. 17:20)

Now, a mustard seed is really small. And Jesus was saying they didn’t have even that miniscule amount of faith.

They could have, though. It was offered to them as a gift when Jesus said, “Have the faith of God.” It took Jesus making a gift of it to get it back then, and it still does. That’s how we get saved, born again, in the first place (Eph. 2:8).

And that seed of faith Jesus gives us contains life, just as seed corn contains life.

But some people leave it like that, tiny, encapsulated and dormant, and then they wonder why no mountain ever moves for them.

Mark 4:14-20 explains part of it. Seeds have to be nurtured and cultivated. No self-respecting farmer would plant corn in an uncultivated field full of rocks and briars.

Seeds have to be planted in good soil, soil deep enough to allow for roots to get a good start. And weeds need to be weeded, rocks removed, and critters prevented from getting in.

When my children were small we lived on a mini-farm outside of town, and one summer we planted lots of field peas and corn at a distance from the house. When it was time to pick them, we discovered the raccoons had taken a bite – just one bite – out of every ear of corn. And the deer had made a good meal out of the field peas! The critters won that round and we learned a good lesson. Electric fencing solved that problem the next year.

II Peter 1:5-8 continues the explanation. Faith seeds also need to be fed, watered, and fertilized with virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, kindness and love.

Well, all that takes work. And you have to deal with “critters” like fear and doubt, fatigue or depression, and ordinary every-day distractions from a lot of different sources.

Faith has all the life it needs built right in, just like a seed of corn or field peas. And the nature of life is to grow, mature, and eventually replicate itself.

It takes work to get to that place, but the one who gave us the faith in the first place is still present to instruct us and help us grow it, if we’re willing to do the work.

The Apostle Paul commended the church of the Thessalonians, because “your faith groweth exceedingly…” (II Thess. 1:3)

I would love to receive that compliment some day, wouldn’t you?