35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But 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. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. – Mark 5:35-43 ESV
It is easy to get caught up in reading Mark’s narrative about the woman’s miraculous healing and forget all about Jairus. This poor man had been forced to bide his time and wait for Jesus to finish His conversation with the woman. And while what he had witnessed must have bolstered his faith in Jesus, it must have been difficult for him to hide his frustration at the unexpected delay. From his fatherly perspective, he would have seen his daughter’s circumstance as more pressing and immediate. The woman had lived with her chronic condition for 12 years and she could have waited a bit longer. After all, his daughter was dying.
But the chronology of these two events is critical. The woman’s decision to touch Jesus’ garment had caused what appeared to be an unexpected delay, that appears to have compromised Jesus’ plans and placed Him in a difficult situation. While He had been dealing with the woman, the young girl had died. And Mark records that the news of her death came abruptly and bluntly.
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” – Mark 5:35 ESV
The delay had been costly. Yes, the woman had received healing from her debilitating medical condition, but it had been at the expense of the young girl’s life. And it seems that Mark wanted his readers to wrestle with the conflicting emotions this sad scene would stir up. Immediately, one is forced to question what would have happened had the woman not touched the edge of Jesus’ garment. What if she had not been able to force her way through the crowd and make contact with Jesus? There would have been no delay and the young girl might still be alive. What kind of thoughts must have going through the mind of Jairus as he was forced to process this devasting news? Was he angry with Jesus? Did he blame the woman?
Mark provides us with no answers to any of these questions. He simply mentions that Jesus overheard the messengers delivering the fateful news to Jairus. But rather than expressing His sorrow over Jairus’ loss or apologizing for the untimely delay, Jesus tells the grieving father, “Do not fear, only believe.”
Let the weight of this statement sink in. Jairus has just been told that his 12-year-old daughter has died. And the one man who he believed could have healed her is telling him not to fear. In a sense, Jesus is encouraging Jairus not to allow this news to frighten or upset him. Instead, he is to replace his fear with faith. He is to believe.
But Jairus had believed. He had come to Jesus, kneeled at His feet, and begged Him to help his dying daughter.
“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.” – Mark 5:23 ESV
He had believed that Jesus could do something about her condition. But now, it was too late. She was dead. And Jairus must have struggled to control his frustration and anger at this callous-sounding comment from Jesus. The time for believing was gone.
This whole scene is similar to one recorded by John in his gospel. He tells of another delay that resulted in death. Jesus had been called to the home of His dear friend Lazarus. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had sent Jesus a message informing Him that Lazarus was ill. But upon hearing this news, Jesus delayed His departure for two days, then informed His disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14-15 ESV).
When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, He was informed that the body of Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. And Martha, the sister of Lazarus, expressed her disappointment and frustration with Jesus.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” – John 11:21 ESV
And Mary would echo her feelings.
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” – John 11:32 ESV
But go back and look at what Jesus had told His disciples.
“…for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.” – John 11:15 ESV
Jesus had delayed His departure on purpose. The two days had been more than enough time for Lazarus to die and to be buried. Jesus had purposefully created what appeared to be a completely hopeless scenario that even His disciples would have seen as beyond His power to remedy. But Jesus had allowed it so that they might believe. He wasn’t surprised by the news of Lazarus’ death. He wasn’t even concerned that, after four days, the body of Lazarus would have already begun to decay. He stepped up the tomb, commanded the stone to be rolled away, and confidently shouted, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43 ESV). And John records, “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth” (John 11:44 ESV). And the words that Jesus spoke to Martha just before this incredible event took place must have been ringing in her ears.
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” – John 11:40 ESV
So, when Jesus told Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe,” He meant it. Because Jesus knew what He was about to do. And if Jairus would only continue to believe, he too would see the glory of God.
Jesus accompanied the grieving father to his home and invited Peter, James, and John to join them. Upon their arrival, they were greeted by a scene of great sorrow with “people weeping and wailing loudly” (Mark 5:38 ESV). The mourning process had already begun. The funeral preparations were already well underway. But Jesus interrupted the proceedings with a question and a comment:
“Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” – Mark 5:39 ESV
His words must have come across as either painfully callous and insensitive or simply misinformed. In either case, the people respond with derisive laughter. But Jesus, ignoring their reaction, has them removed from the scene. Then, accompanied by the deceased girl’s parents and His three disciples, Jesus entered her room. As Jairus and his wife wept and the disciples looked on in disbelief, Jesus took the little girl by the hand and spoke to her.
“Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” – Mark 5:41 ESV
And according to Mark’s account, the transformation was instantaneous.
And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. – Mark 5:42 ESV
She went from being fully dead to being fully alive in an instant. And her amazing transformation was almost as though she had simply been awakened from asleep. And, for Jesus, restoring the dead girl to life had been no more difficult than waking up someone from sleep. It’s no coincidence that Jesus used the waking-sleeping analogy in both of these death-to-life scenarios. Even when Jesus had known that Lazarus had died, He had told His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV).
For Jesus, death was no obstacle. As John put it in his gospel account, “ In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4 ESV). And Jesus would later refer to Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 NLT). As the Son of God, Jesus was the author of all life. He was the giver of life. And He would soon prove Himself to be the conqueror of death. These two events were meant to encourage His disciples to believe that He was who He claimed to be. As impressed as they had been with His calming of the storm and His exorcism of the demons, this miracle must have left the disciples in complete shock. Mark simply says they were overcome with amazement.
They couldn’t believe their eyes. They had just witnessed Jesus do the impossible. And Peter, James, and John must have been chomping at the bit to rush and tell their companions what they had just seen. But before they could rush out the door and spread the news of this amazing miracle, Jesus throws cold water on their enthusiasm. He commands them to tell no one what they have seen. And this prohibition applied to the parents as well.
…he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. – Mark 5:43 ESV
Jesus was on a divine timeline. His mission was on a tightly-orchestrated schedule that was all part of God’s preordained plan. Jesus was a student of human nature. He knew that if news of this particular miracle got out, the people would attempt to make Him their king. Anyone with that kind of power would have no problem overcoming the Romans. But Jesus’ hour had not yet come. He had more ministry to accomplish and much more training to complete with His disciples.
And this incredible miracle was meant to provide His disciples with undeniable proof of His power and authority, but also clarify for them the nature of His mission. He had not come to be their King. At least, not yet. He had not come to destroy the Romans and restore the political fortunes of Israel. No, He came to restore the spiritually dead to new life. And that was the message He had communicated to Martha just before He restored her brother to life.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26 ESV
The young girl and Lazarus would both end up dying – again. Their new lives were temporary, not permanent. And they would both need to experience the new birth that Jesus described to Nicodemus.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 ESV
The real resurrection from death to life is yet to come. And it provides not only new life but life eternal – a never-ending, uninterrupted existence with God the Father and His Son.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.