This morning’s reading is Mark 5:21-24, and then 5:35-43 (this story is interrupted by the story of the bleeding woman, who I talked about yesterday.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him…
(time passes – the bleeding woman is healed, and then…)
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
I love this story. First, the absolute faith of the synagogue ruler Jairus, that Jesus could do something about his desperate situation.
Second, the contrast Jesus makes in v36 “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” I wonder for how many circumstances in my life, I would avoid unnecessary anguish if I did not give in to fear, but simply believed. Perfect love casts out all fear. Jesus embodies the perfect love of God. If I believe in him, then I do not need to fear. What are you afraid of right now? Health issues? Finances? Unemployment? Addictions? Don’t be afraid, just believe.
Thirdly, it was part of Jewish law that contact with a corpse would make a person ritually unclean. The “uncleanness” of the corpse would be transferred to the person touching them, and they could no longer take part in the religious life of the community. This would be particularly problematic for a rabbi or other religious official.
But in this case the force of “death-uncleanness” meets the force of “life-cleanness” in Jesus, and there’s no doubt about which way the transfer goes. The girl is raised, and Jesus is not made unclean.
As a child, I always feared death. In fact, if people talked about it, I would leave the room so I didn’t have to listen. But now I don’t. I see that Jesus wins the “death-match” and through his own resurrection, and through raising others from the dead, has proven that he is Lord even over death. So what is there to fear? Death for the Christian is like walking from one room into another. The “moment” of death between being alive as a human, and being alive forever with Jesus is a millisecond – it seems as though we hardly experience “death” at all, just a transfer from one (broken, ailing) mode of existence to another (perfect, forever) one.
And while the Bible is somewhat vague about the exact nature of heaven, and it can be difficult to separate metaphor from reality, we know that it will be wonderful. And so we can have a “Christmas morning” type of expectation. We don’t know exactly what we will get, but we know it will be fantastic and beyond our wildest imaginings. Don’t fear the reaper.