Mark 5:21-24, 35-43 “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. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and 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.’ So Jesus went with him.”
“While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher any more?’ Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’ He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’) Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.”
The larger context in which this incident is placed has been nailed up without apology by Mark in the opening words of his gospel, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. “Let me tell you about God the Son,” he is saying and this incident can only be understood when you know the identity of this extraordinary man to whom Jairus, a synagogue ruler comes. To sharpen the focus, the more immediate context of this miracle is this chapter and the one that precedes it where you have a sequence of passages which show us the vital supremacy of the Lord Jesus. Mark begins in chapter four and verse 35 and then goes on to the end of chapter five telling us of four episodes that all show the supreme authority of Christ. First, over creation and physical dangers seen in the way that the Lord stills the storm. Then there is his supremacy over demons in the incident in Gerasa recorded immediately before our text. The next incident is his supremacy over disease in the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. Finally, there is his authority even over death in the raising of Jairus’ daughter as this fifth chapter comes to an end. So Mark is taking us through these events, accurately reporting what happened, but not without passion. The result of all this is when we have read what Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, did on this planet we disciples can’t stop crying, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”
Now the healing of Jairus’ daughter took place over a period of time, involving a journey, and on that walk which Jesus and Jairus took together they met an anonymous woman who was very sick and Christ healed her before carrying on to see the sick little girl. “What Mark has done is to place one incident inside the other, in what is sometimes called a Markan sandwich . . . The flavour of the outer story adds zest to the inner one; the taste of the inner one is meant in turn to permeate the outer one” (Tom Wright, “Mark for Everyone”, SPCK, London, 2001, p. 58). The two miracles are both part of the same event, and full of interest and we will interrelate them while dealing with them separately. They are both about people struggling with sickness and hope and how Christ delivers us from one to the other. You must see yourself as part of the large crowd that greets Jesus when he gets off the boat in Galilee (v.21). You listen to the frantic plea of a desperately worried father; you take the journey with the two men and see everything that takes place, and then you see its relevance to your life, and the members of this congregation, and the people you know. What can the living Son of God do for them? He restores and will restore the life of his people. That is what Mark wants us to know.
1. THE LORD JESUS ENCOURAGES OUR FAITH.
Immediately the Lord returns to Galilee he is welcomed and wanted. A large crowd gathers and they do not appear to be hostile. “Then one of the synagogue rulers named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and 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.'” (vv. 22&23). This occurs in such an insignificant place we aren’t even given its name. Maybe a few hundred folk lived there, and so the synagogue president in that place wouldn’t be some elevated official. Yet Jairus did know of the alleged powers of Christ or he would not have come there, and also Jairus would know of the controversy that had broken out in the synagogues where Jesus had taught. Synagogue rulers wouldn’t have been overjoyed at seeing Jesus turn up in their assembles on a Sabbath, knowing that he would use the opportunity to speak to the people about the coming kingdom of God. Had Jairus thought of what he would do if in his synagogue the Lord Jesus turned up. Herod Antipas was rumoured to be none too pleased with this kingdom-of-God movement being promoted by Jesus. Would Jairus see Christ entering and take him aside to tell him that he didn’t want him to open his mouth in his synagogue? Maybe he thought that the issue would never arise and that Jesus would never visit a little place like his, and so he could sit on the fence about the claims of Christ. “I’m not getting involved in this,” he thought.
Then two things happen and Jairus has to think and act. His darling only daughter, twelve years of age, is sick. None of the homespun remedies and nothing the local physicians do can prevent her getting worse. She is a pitiable sight, and the whole household, and neighbours in the street, and the synagogue congregation ache as hope slips away. Jairus can’t look at his wife as she wrings her hands in fear. That is the first event that means Jairus has to think of Jesus again. The second is that the boat carrying our Lord grounds on the shores of his town and Jesus steps ashore and the crowds gather. The grapevine quickly spreads the message that the Lord is there, and it is no longer a theoretical matter of what Jairus is going to do. His daughter is dying and Christ is there. No one can help her, and Christ is there. His heart is breaking and Christ is there. His wife is saying to him, “Can’t you do something, man of faith and religion?” and Christ is there. Jairus comes off the fence, and throws all his reservations aside. Who worries about religious and political controversy when your only daughter is dying? When death comes nearer and nearer to us it is a race against time, and all of you are in that race.
Jairus hurries down to the lakeside and “Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying,” (vv. 22&23). The president of the synagogue prostrating himself before Jesus of Nazareth. Here is a man who couldn’t care less what they are going to say about him in the synagogue next Sabbath, or what other men in the federation of synagogue rulers are going to decide about his conduct. Death is entering his house, no one can resist it, but Jesus is here! He must have Jesus’ help. Are you in earnest to know God because every day that passes is a day nearer your exit from his world? Are you ready? Do you have a covering for your sins? Do you have a robe of righteousness in which to dress? Do you have a Mediator to introduce you to the Holy One who dwells in light, in whom is no darkness at all? You can no more postpone that meeting than Jairus could lock the bedroom door and keep death out. How earnest was Jairus when death came into his home.
What a humble posture he takes. He falls at the feet of Jesus. He is lying in the dust before him. What a picture of abasement! Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that “this is something which is found to be present, invariably and without exception, in the case of all those who have been blessed by Jesus Christ. The people who came to examine and test him invariably went away disappointed and confused, feeling that they themselves had been tested and examined in the very depth of their being. Those who came to trap him and to entice him in his words, and to get him into difficulties, invariably went away confounded and condemned and hating him with bitter hatred. But those who fell at his feet, who acknowledged him and his greatness, never failed to obtain a blessing. Let there be no mistake about this. If you approach him in the mere spirit of curiosity he will not reveal himself to you. If you come with your own ideas and conceptions in order to judge and to estimate and to try him, he will confound you by holding forth before you a standard of life to which you can never attain and an example and a pattern which makes your highest and nobles efforts trivial and childish. Approach him as if he were merely a man among men, albeit the greatest and best and noblest, to whom you are prepared to show great respect and deference and whose example and pattern you are prepared to follow – approach him in any one of those ways on your feet, and relying even to the slightest extent on yourself and your own powers, and you will not know his blessing. You may persuade yourself of many things . . . but you will never know what he really does to and for his own . . . He only blesses those who come on their knees, those who, looking at him and conscious of their own sinfulness and helplessness, realise that this is the very Son of God come on earth to deliver us” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Evangelistic Sermons,” Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1983, pp. 249 & 250).
So Jairus the ruler prostrates himself before the King of kings, but then also notice that Jairus will prescribe the manner in which Jesus was to save his daughter. He doesn’t say, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please help me.” Jairus explained to the Lord that there was a certain course of action he wanted Jesus to take, “Please come, and put your hands on her, so that she will be healed and live” (v.23). Jairus hurried out of his home that day with certain ideas about Jesus – just like you have a certain picture of Jesus. On the basis of those ideas he approached Christ and told him what he had to do. How small and unworthy were Jairus’ ideas of Christ before he’d met him. It was only in submitting to Jesus and listening to him and trusting in him that Jairus began to discover some of the most astonishing and glorious things that can ever be known.
Now we are like Jairus aren’t we? We don’t just bring our need to Christ but we tell Jesus in what precise ways he is to meet that need – that’s what Jairus did. That approach is easy to spot when you are standing in the pulpit and not in the pain of the providence. Most of us here know this, that Jesus didn’t need to go to Jairus’ house and enter the room where his daughter lay and actually see her or touch her for the girl to live. There was once a Gentile army officer stationed in Israel who had greater faith than a Jewish synagogue ruler. That centurion told Jesus of his sick servant lying dying at home, and he longed for his healing, but then he added that Jesus didn’t need to come to his home in order to heal him. “I am a man of authority,” he told Christ. “I say to one man ‘Come’ and another man ‘Go’ and they jump and get on with it. So you only have to will it – you don’t need to speak a word – and my servant will be healed.” What faith! Jesus hadn’t found faith like that among synagogue presidents, let alone in their congregations, and immediately he willed that the servant should be restored. It only takes a flash of the will that can and the dead are raised. The centurion’s servant was healed that moment. Jairus didn’t have this faith. All he had was a great need that brought him to his knees before Jesus pleading for his daughter to be restored to health, adding so artlessly: “We must go there this very minute. I’ll take you to meet her, and then you must put your hands on her and heal her.” He thought that was the inevitable way healers worked. Notice how Jesus encourages us by what he did. What do we read?
“So Jesus went with him” (v.24). That is grace. There is no little lesson given by Jesus explaining to Jairus that you don’t tell God how he is to work, and that Christ didn’t have to be there to save his daughter. There is nothing like that. In other words you don’t have to get your petitions sinlessly and spotlessly correct in order for God to hear and answer. There can be an awful lot of muddle mixed with our praying and yet through the grace of Christ God will grant our heart’s desire. Jesus doesn’t teach us that we have to get our petitions all right before he will come walking into our heartbreaking messes. See how Christ encourages us here. He went with Jairus. The Saviour encourages us by what he did.
The Lord Jesus also encourages us by what he said. We are told that they walked to Jairus’ house the ruler of the synagogue walking as quickly as etiquette permitted. If he could have made Jesus run he would have, but on their way there a sick women touches Christ and the Saviour stops and deals with her. There are delays in answers to our prayers that come to us from God. Can you imagine Jairus on tip toe dancing from one foot to another longing for Christ to keep coming with him to heal his daughter? But at that very moment some men appear whom Jairus knows. They are from his house; his trusty servants and they look grim. Jairus is more afraid than he has ever been in his entire life: “No. No. No. Please let it not be the worse news I can hear. Don’t tell me what I think you are going to say. May it not be so!” But it is that terrible news: “Your daughter is dead,” (v.35) they said. I hope they didn’t say it like that. I hope they wept, and hung their heads, and whispered while they said something like, “We are awfully sorry, but we have some terrible news to tell you . . .” But it doesn’t read like that, does it? Four horrible hope-destroying words. They even add, “So you needn’t bother the teacher to hurry home with you.”
Jairus has just heard Jesus say to the woman, “Daughter, you faith has healed you. Go in peace” (v.34). She is a woman, and Jesus has healed her. He is a man who is ruler of the synagogue who has been serving God all his life. Why doesn’t the Lord give him what he asks for? Instead of this the awful news, and then, the extra barb, “Don’t bother pinning your hopes on Jesus. The girl is dead and so what can anyone do now? Death levels the playing field for everybody. Death always has the last word. No use your bringing the teacher a step further. He’s as helpless before the grave as anybody. No one can do anything now.” These men assumed as many do today that there are some situations which are beyond the scope of Jesus: “We simply have to face up to reality. You get inspiration from Christ’s teaching and encouragement from meeting with other nice religious people and you enjoy singing the great hymns. We are happy for you, but when it comes to death all men are helpless before it.” That is the assumption of unbelief. That is how people think who have a little Jesus.
Have you found yourself thinking like that? There is a situation in your life that appears dead end, maybe. There seems to be no way out and you are thinking that even Jesus Christ can’t do anything. It is beyond the scope of even the world’s greatest teacher. That is the assumption that is working here; no one can cope with the grave. We go home and we mourn a grievous providence. What more is there to do? But listen to Christ, and hear the encouragement in what he says: “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v.36) Jesus says to Jairus. “Only go on believing,” he actually says. The verb is in the continuous sense. What does Jesus mean? Well, it is as if he were saying, “Jairus when you came to me your daughter was still alive, but in great danger. Still, you came to me. You brought your desperate need to me. You had some belief that I could do something to help. You didn’t scorn me as a fraud. You had that faith to fall before me and beseech me to help. Go on believing Jairus. Don’t stop! Please don’t stop trusting me now that things have got worse. Don’t let your fears win, those fears that say, “Death always has the last word . . . you will never see her again . . . Jesus Christ is helpless. Keep the terrible fears away by going on trusting in me.” So Jesus goes with him, and seeks to encourage him. Both in his actions and words he is a Lord of grace.
Then Jesus again does something. He ignores what the servants have said and he keeps walking to Jairus’ house and the dead girl. What does it say to us? That though the servants believe that he can do nothing, and though Mark doesn’t tell us about Jairus’ thoughts Jesus himself still believes! He keeps going. He is going to enter this situation. He doesn’t shake Jairus’ hand and express his sympathy and go back to the shore and start teaching. He doesn’t tell Jairus to try to come to him earlier next time, and he will do whatever he can. That is not Jesus, is it? He keeps going in the face of men’s bafflement and his word to Jairus is, “Don’t be afraid. Only keep trusting.” That is, trust my adequacy. Believe that I can handle this as well. That is what is required of any believer as he goes into any crisis. Isn’t that the word we need to hear: “Don’t be afraid; just believe”? Go on believing, and walk through the darkness and mud if you have to.
G. Campbell Morgan, the former minister of Westminster Chapel in London, has a book entitled “The Great Physician.” I have not seen it but in a helpful sermon on this passage Dr. Ralph Davis of Mississippi quotes these words: “I can hardly speak about this passage without becoming personal,” said Campbell Morgan. “I remember a time about forty years ago when my own first lassie lay at the point of death. I called for Jesus then, and he came. He surely said to our troubled hearts, ‘Fear not; believe only.’ He did not say, ‘She shall be made whole.’ She was not made whole on the earthly plane. She passed away to the life beyond. He did say to her, ‘Talitha koum! Little lamb arise’, but in her case he did not mean, ‘Stay on the earth level.’ He meant that he needed her and he took her to himself and she has been with him all those years as we measure time, and I have missed her every day. His word, ‘Just believe’ has been the strength of all the passing years.”
You see? It is as if Jesus says, “Go on believing Jairus that I am adequate for something you’ve never experienced before in your life. I have not finished with you yet. If I am adequate Jairus, when there is still hope, then I’m also adequate when there seems to be no hope. Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” He could say the same to Campbell Morgan in his grief. “I am adequate to heal her when she is ill, and adequate for you if she dies.” The Lord Jesus encourages our faith.
2. THE LORD JESUS CONCEALS HIS GLORY.
We are told that Jesus “did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James” (v.37). In other words, he took a restricted audience with him as he entered Jairus’ house. These three were with the Lord on very special occasions. They were with him on the Mount of Transfiguration, and also in the Garden of Gethsemane. So this scene is up there with those situations; we are to see through their eyes an event that occurred on this planet in space and time history of crucial importance. Everything Jesus says and does is a revelation of God, but this is one of those extra important, “Verily-verily-I-show-unto-you” occasions. The Lord wants them with him because according to Deuteronomy 19:15 “A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” So here are three men who testify that what John Mark later wrote in this record actually occurred. They were its witnesses. This mighty work of Christ’s needs to be captured in the minds and memories and preaching of these three notable and trustworthy men, Peter, John and James his brother.
This is all the more important because the crowd itself is excluded. We are told, “When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. After he had put them all out, he took the child’s father and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was” (vv. 38-40). The professional paid wailers would hang around the house of a sick person waiting for the death to be announced and then they would enter and begin their loud crying and pick up their shekels later. If you really loved your dead relative then it was judged that you showed it by the number of mourners you hired to wail for you. A rabbi who lived in Jerusalem in the second century after Christ made a pronouncement that even the poorest person should hire two flute-players and one wailing woman. Jairus had the status of a synagogue ruler and so he would have had more than that. We are told that “Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly” (v.38).
Jesus walks into that din, and commands enough attention to be heard, and he shows his mighty authority in these words, “The child is not dead but asleep” (v.39). Mark has just recorded the parable which Jesus told of a seed which is buried under the blanket of the soil and it sleeps there for a while, and then it rises up. The same thing is going to happen to this little girl. The kingdom of God is at hand! “She sleeps,” Christ says, and they all fall apart! One minute the room was full of wailing, and the next the room was full of laughter. To them the words were ridiculous, and they kept laughing at this folly. They knew when a person was dead. They knew that dead people are not sleeping people. What stupidity, and they scorned him. Then Jesus threw them out, every one of them. “Go!” said gentle Jesus meek and mild, and he showed them to the door, and out they went. He put them all out. He expelled the lot of them. He drove them out of the house. Jairus, and Mrs Jairus, you observe, seems to play no part whatsoever in that action. Our Lord does it all. These people have sent their depressing messages to Jairus urging him not to bring the Saviour to the house and now they want to drown him with their wailing and ululations. He turns on them and routs them like a sheepdog driving a herd of sheep out of a field – see their tails flying!
There are now just seven people in the room, the parents, the three disciples, Christ and the little girl. The raising of this girl was to be witnessed by them only, and they were not to tell anyone about it: “He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this” (v.43). How could they keep such an event silent? The mourners and the servants and all the crowd following Jesus knew that the girl had died, that he had got there too late. But that night after supper she was going to be out in the street playing with the other children. They were going to know that something happened. That is not Jesus’ intention here. What he wants is that they don’t say anything about the details of what happened in the girl’s bedroom. “If reporters come the next week you’re not allowed to speak. If Mrs Jairus goes to the Jewish Ladies Weaving Guild you don’t say a thing about what occurred. If they say, “Tell us about it,” then you say, “I’m not allowed to say a word.” There were a couple of reasons for this. The first was that such knowledge of his power would at this early stage of his life bring him into much danger. If Herod knew that someone with this authority over death itself was on the loose, and at the head of a kingdom-of-God movement he wouldn’t want that to continue a day longer: “Throw him in jail with John.” If the leaders of the Temple and the Sanhedrin knew that someone was working in this way independently of getting their permission and bringing in the kingdom of God they would do their best to strangle the movement in its crib. Jesus is working according to a schedule. He has a few more years of teaching and training the twelve before he can allow all Israel to know that he is indeed the Messiah the Son of the living God. Then that knowledge will bring about his speedy murder, but in that death his victory and triumph will not be silent. His resurrection will be proclaimed over the whole world.
The other reason for the silence is that this particular group of mocking people must have this revelation of Jesus’ glory withheld from them. They have ridiculed him, and from that kind of unbelief Jesus veils his glory. He will do that. He may do that to you. He will reveal his glory to babes, but he hides his identity from clever and smart folks. They’re not going to know. Dr. Ralph Davis reminds us of President Nixon’s visit to China in 1984 when he was there for about six days. One morning his staff gathered together for a private conference, but they knew that the room was bugged, so they turned up the volume on a cassette player as they spoke, and they checked the room for listening devices. They found five and some they took home as souvenirs. The loud music played on and on because they didn’t want the Chinese to know. Why does Jesus withhold the details of Jairus’ daughter’s restoration to life? Because he doesn’t want these cynical people to know about this display of his glory. When men and women persistently bring this unbelieving attitude to Jesus he withdraws his light from them. When the people of Gesara cry to him, “Go away. Don’t stay here a minute longer,” then Jesus goes. He could do that to you. You protest, “But I still have the Bible,” but you won’t see anything there but words without the light which Jesus alone can shine into your understanding and onto the book. If you come in your haughtiness and arrogance to Christ then he won’t begin to show himself to you. You’re in the dark without Christ. If we look upon Jesus and his gospel as so much barnyard manure then why should this Saviour show you his glory? He meets disdain by concealing of his glory.
Here is a little girl who was twelve years of age and she had died, and yet there was one person who could alter that and wake her up as a mother gently awakens her sleeping child. There was only one person in the whole world who could do that, and he was there with her at that moment. It was for her sake Jesus had not stayed any longer on the other side of the lake at Decapolis. When they said, “Please go!” then he went because there was a little girl, seriously ill on the other side of the lake. There was no substitute who could in his place lift her up. We live in a day of substitutes. We go in a shop and ask for something. They say, “No, we don’t have any, but we have something equally as good and some people think it is better! It will do just as well!” So it may. But there is no substitute for the work of Jesus Christ in the hearts of boys and girls. He alone can make them live when they are dead in their sins.
Let me say something to the children. Here was a little girl aged 12. We don’t know her name. We know her father was called Jairus and he and his wife were heartbroken because this girl was their only daughter and she was dead. There is none too young to die, neither are there any too young to be made alive by Jesus Christ. There is none too small to be blessed with a knowledge of the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” None is too young to feel his sins; none too young to pray. I have baptised several little girls before thy were twelve and they are all going in loving and serving the Lord thirty years later.
3. THE LORD JESUS DISPLAYS HIS VICTORY.
We are told, that Jesus “went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you get up!’). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished” (vv. 40 – 42). That is the scene in the text. Mark quotes the actual Aramaic words that Jesus used. “It is virtually certain that, though Jesus and his followers would be able to speak and understand Greek, their normal everyday language would be Aramaic. So what’s special about these words? Why leave them untranslated, along with only a handful of others (like ‘Abba’ in the Gethsemane scene)? The best answer is probably that the scene and the crucial words, made such an unforgettable impression on Peter and the others that whenever they told the story afterwards, even in Greek to non-Jewish audiences, they kept the crucial words as they were. It wasn’t a magic formula, a kind of ‘abracadabra’; they were the ordinary words you might use to wake up a sleeping child [“Time of school: talitha koum!”]. But part of the point of the gospel story, and of this whole section of Mark, is precisely that the life-giving power of God is breaking into, and working through, the ordinary details of life” (Tom Wright, op cit, pp.63 & 64). So we read that the Lord looked at the speechless and paralysed parents and said to them, “Give her something to eat.” She had been ill and was weak; she needed food. He got them back into the daily routine, but from now on even the commonplace was under his authority.
“Little girl, I say to you, get up!” and thus the Lord raised her from her deathbed. Do you see what that says? Do you see what it’s saying about Jesus? That even the realm of death is subject to Jesus’ sway. That is the main truth.
“Jesus, the might Saviour, lives,
And he has conquered death and hell;
This truth substantial comfort gives,
And dying saints can sing, ‘Tis well.'”
This miracle is a glorious sign. It signifies what he will do for his people when he brings his kingdom in glory. He will raise them. This miracle is just the signpost of that certainty. Signposts are important, but they aren’t the destination. Why don’t we have that sort of thing now? Why don’t we find in Wales every year two or three Christians being raised from the dead and death certificates being torn up? Why don’t we have it? For the same reason that we don’t find it very often when Jesus was on earth. In the gospels you have the incident in Luke 7 of the raising of the son of the widow in Nain; and there is the raising of Lazarus in John 11, and then there is this incident. There are references to others being raised but these are the only specific ones. Jesus himself in his own ministry didn’t bring many people back to life. Why not? It wasn’t time yet. That is for resurrection day. That is, at the second coming of Jesus Christ. What we have in the life of Christ is certain samples on the way to his own resurrection. Most people who died during Jesus’ ministry remained dead. He didn’t empty the cemeteries. He didn’t put funeral directors out of business. Gravediggers still made a living when Jesus was on earth. There were just these few episodes. Why did Christ raise and restore them? In order to show that the Son of God has power over the realm of death. He can plunder the captives of the grave at will to give you courage and shed his hope abroad in your hearts. The raising of Jairus’ daughter was just a sign and a foretaste and a preliminary sketch of what is to come on the day of resurrection when Jesus comes again.
Let me use that picture of a ‘foretaste.’ When I was a little boy I spent most of the time in the kitchen in the winter months with my mother because that was the only room in the house with a fire. When my mother made cake she would put all the ingredients together in a big bowl and mix them with a wooden spoon. When all of it was the right constituency she would put the mixture into two cake tins with grease-proof paper around the edges, and then she would give me the wooden spoon to lick. I would sit back, listen to the radio and lick the wooden spoon and the bottom of the handle. That was not the real treat. That would come in an hour or two when she had spread jam and cream between the two cooked halves, and sprinkle the top with icing sugar. Then that would be cut into slices and eaten when it was still warm (after we had eaten bread and butter first) with a cup of tea. The wooden spoon was just a delicious foretaste of the real treat to come.
That is the way these miracles of Jesus function. They gave hope to the people of God. They gave it to James especially. We all know about Peter, and we all know about John. They lived long lives and were mightily used in their speaking and writing, but James is a more anonymous figure. He wrote nothing, and there is no record of his preaching, but he is with Christ here, and also on the Mount of Transfiguration, and again in the Garden of Gethsemane. Why don’t we know much about James? Because a year or two later he is killed by Herod’s orders for his faith. He was the first of the apostles to die for Jesus and the Saviour gives him a special foretaste of glory in Jairus’ home and on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Here is the mightiest miracle of the four that Mark records for us in these two chapters. Illness and demon-possession and calming the storm are one thing, but dying and entering the realm of the dead is something else! Yet the Lord Christ brings them back! That is his promise in John chapter 6 verse 40: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” That is the promise, and if you say that that is too good to be true, and ask, “Whoever heard of anyone being raised from the dead?” I say to you that today you just did. You say that obviously Mark is prejudiced in Jesus’ favour. I say that the gospel writers, when they write of these extraordinary things that Christ did were writing in the first century when there were all sorts of people running around who knew the truth about whether Jesus had done this or that in Galilee or what had been done in Jerusalem. If Mark were feeding us a lie here he would have been exposed as a con man and Christianity would have been exposed as a so-called ‘pious fraud’ back in the first century, and there wouldn’t have been any chapels in Wales. Do I believe the record? Yes, there are good reasons to believe the record. It may sound fantastic but it’s true. This is what happens when the Son of God begins to walk amongst men.
In Revelation 1:17&18 the risen Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” You know what keys are, don’t you? Keys are a symbol of authority and control, and Jesus has the keys of death and Hades. I admire the style of writing of an American author called Joan Didion. I am not recommending her, but I have enjoyed her reporting of places and events over the years. She once wrote about California in the sixties, the hippie decade of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, flower power and drugs. She was working in Los Angeles in a large house with many people coming and going throughout the summer months, looking for meaning and love. She checked them in and gave them their keys and she picked up the keys before they departed. She said, “I had the keys . . . but I didn’t have the key.” There are millions just like that, they have the key to their office, and to their bank-deposit box, and their summer cottage, and their sports car, and their mistress’ apartment – plenty of keys, but they don’t have the key to life and death. Christ has that key. He is the one who controls the grave. He tells death when it may close its mouth on someone, and he can say, “Now open your mouth and release the prey,” and death will obey. That is why his people can rest in him.
We have an example of that here. Do you see the hopelessness of the mourners, and the pessimism of the messengers: “Your daughter is dead . . . Why bother the teacher any more?” ? (v.35). What utter despair! But Jesus gives life in the face of death. It is not hopeless. There is a Saviour who has conquered death, and Jairus’ little daughter playing again with her friends tells you that not even death can put you beyond the grip of Jesus’ strong hand.
Our God is a God who performs miracles; that with him nothing shall be impossible; that the hardest thing with God is easy. May this be a point to you in your prayers, and in your hard causes, that the Lord still says, “The cause that is too hard for you, bring it to me, and I will hear it.” It is not too hard for him. Now may you hear him speaking today. This same God, the God who raised Jairus’ daughter in the presence of witnesses, says today, “Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me? Anything? Any sin I cannot forgive? Any door I cannot open? Any problem I cannot solve? Any difficulty I cannot deal with? Is there anything – anything too hard for me?”
You have in our text such a kind and mighty Saviour. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want him to be your own Saviour. Looking on this passage I can’t see why you shouldn’t long to be hidden in this Saviour and have him as your own. Why anyone should want to turn away from him as he is revealed here I cannot understand, except that we love darkness rather than light. Andrew Bonar once talked to a Christian lady who told him that she had lost her fear of death by thinking about those words in Revelation 1, “I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Her reasoning was this, “If Jesus has the keys of death then the first face I shall see will be his.”
Now Jairus’ daughter wouldn’t be able to express her hope in that way, I guess. This little girl eventually died. She had been dead, and Jesus brought her back to life, but that wasn’t final resurrection life for her, and so she died again later. She probably lived many years and saw her father Jairus die and her mother also, and saw them both buried. Then later she died and her dust is somewhere in Galilean soil today. But on her dying bed did she assure her friends that she had lost her fear of death ever since she was twelve years old? She left that fear with Jesus long ago. She’d say, “The first hand I’m going to feel will be his, and the first voice I’m going to hear will say to me, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!'”.
22nd June 2003 GEOFF THOMAS