Most parents would agree that their children are more precious than anything else. We eagerly wait for their birth and then pour time, energy, money and love into them for years.
What a range of emotions we feel for our children. We weep over them, laugh with them, worry for them. When they are ill, we watch over them, fretting. Often, we wish we could swap places, and fight the sickness for them. And if the sickness is life-threatening, despite all the medical resources we have to call on, we realise how powerless we are, and how vulnerable our little ones.
Sometimes, it’s only when we feel our helplessness and desperation, that we consider God and how he might help us in our time of trouble. Today, come and meet a man who discovered the power and compassion of Jesus, and learned to trust him when everything went black.
The Ruler of the Synagogue in Capernaum watched helplessly as his twelve year old daughter shook with fever. Her hair was wet with sweat, soft moans slipped through dry lips. The doctor had run out of remedies. No one could help. She was dying.
Jairus heard people shouting in the street. He couldn’t catch all the crowd was saying. But he heard one word clearly enough – “Jesus!” Jairus knew this rabbi from Nazareth. He’d taught in his synagogue right here in Capernaum. And Jairus had seen with his own eyes what Jesus could do. There was the day a man with a demon interrupted the synagogue service. Jesus ordered the demon to leave the man – and it did. And Jairus had seen Jesus touch feverish people and restore them to full strength. Today, Jesus was in town.
Jairus rushed out into the street with desperate hope. He followed the excited crowd heading for the lake side. There was Jesus, already surrounded by people. Jairus pushed his way towards Jesus. The crowd parted and let him through. The Synagogue Ruler fell down at Jesus’ feet. He pleaded, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
There was nothing more he could do or say. He was helpless. Doctors couldn’t help. His influence in the community couldn’t save her. His wealth was useless. He doesn’t plead his good life or piety. He simply and earnestly asks, “Please come.”
Jairus’ crisis is familiar to us – and to anyone who’s lived long enough on this planet. Unexpected circumstances rudely barge into our settled lives and tear the controls from our hands. Our possessions, position, piety turn to dust. Suddenly, we are powerless, helpless.
What a good time to come to Jesus. When all we can do is trust him, his power and compassion. When all we can do is hold out empty hands and plead, “I am poor and needy. Please come.” Jairus had seen the power and compassion of God’s Kingdom in Jesus. He would trust Jesus in his helplessness.
We, too, have seen God’s compassion and power in Jesus. We see Jesus’ love for people, as he dies on the cross to restore their broken relationship with God. We see Jesus’ power, as he rises from the grave victorious over our terrible foe, death. Sometimes life confuses us. But when we don’t understand what is happening, or why it is happening, we can be certain of this: Jesus’ love for us and his power over our lives – and in the lives of those for whom we care.
Jairus asked, “Please come.” So Jesus went with him.
Jairus’ twelve year old daughter lay on her bed, dying. When Jairus heard that Jesus had arrived in Capernaum, he rushed to him and pleaded for him to come and heal his daughter. And Jesus went with him.
Jairus strode ahead, leading the way. He didn’t want to seem impatient, but time was running out. The crowd that had gathered around Jesus surged behind them. Suddenly Jesus stopped. “Who touched me?” Of course, just about everybody was touching him. But Jesus knew that someone had touched him deliberately, and had been healed through him.
He waited patiently until a shy, pale women came forward and told her story. She told how for twelve years she had struggled with her sickness. She knew if she could just touch Jesus’ clothes she would be healed. So she did, and so she was. Jesus assured her, “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace – and be freed from your suffering.”
Jairus felt torn. Glad for the healing; yet fearful for his daughter – every minute counted. Jesus had barely finished speaking to the woman, when some men from Jairus’ house ran up to him. Their faces were strained. “Don’t trouble the teacher anymore. Your daughter – she has died.” A hush rippled through the crowd. This little girl was part of their community. Her death touched them all.
Jairus turned tear-filled eyes towards Jesus. Sorrow’s long, cold fingers crushed his heart. Something in his throat choked off his words. Jesus’ eyes blazed with compassion. He gripped Jairus by the shoulder. “Don’t be alarmed and worried by bad news. Keep on trusting me.”
And we could stop the story right there. That’s all we need to know. What happens next isn’t all that important for us. What is important for us is paying attention to Jesus’ words. Jesus says to us in our times of uncertainly, grief, pain, “Don’t be alarmed and worried by bad news. Keep on trusting me.”
That’s what real faith is all about. Faith is trusting Jesus even when you can’t see how your distressing circumstances will turn out. Faith is trusting Jesus even when it seems that he is as powerless as we are – or just doesn’t care.
Like Jairus, our eyes might be filled with tears, tears that blur our vision. But faith turns those tear-filled eyes upon Jesus, sees his death, his resurrection, and sees there his endless compassion and power. And faith grasps his comforting presence in the darkness. Hope rose in Jairus’ heart when he heard Jesus’ words, “Don’t be alarmed and worried by bad news. Keep on trusting me.”
Jairus is taking Jesus to heal his sick daughter. But on the way he hears the news that she has just died. Jesus encourages him, “Keep on trusting me.”
When they arrive at Jairus’ house, the professional mourners have already begun their morbid work. “Have flute will dirge. Have tears will wail.“ Jesus raises a calm voice above the din and commotion. “Why are you crying and making so much noise? This child is not dead. She is only asleep.” The music and wailing shudder to silence.
People mean well when they spout platitudes in the face of tragedy. But they are not always helpful. “She is in a far better place.” “Perhaps God took her so that she wouldn’t have to go through even worse suffering.” “She is only asleep.” Well meant, but inside us every fibre is screaming, No! It shouldn’t be like this! Children shouldn’t die! This is all desperately wrong. I just want her back. Here. Now.
It’s right to feel like that; because that’s reality. Suffering and death are dirty – especially when they seize children. It cuts us up when we see children suffering: little bellies swollen with malnutrition, little limbs maimed by land mines, little lives devastated by disease. This shouldn’t be. Where is God? Where is his power, his compassion?
“She is only asleep.” The crowd greets Jesus’ words with contemptuous laughter. Death is death. She is gone. And platitudes don’t make a scrap of difference. Unless the words are accompanied by God’s compassion – and power.
Jesus sends the scornful crowd away. He takes Peter, James and John, and with the child’s parents enters the house. The wax-like figure of a young girl lies on the mattress, so still, so cold. Jesus reaches out and takes her little hand. He says, “Talitha koum.”
Here is one of those little moments in the Gospels that makes you sit up and take notice. This is no myth or legend. This is an eyewitness report. Mark alone records Jesus’ actual Aramaic words. An ancient tradition says that Mark recorded Peter’s recollections. This moment has a profound impact on Peter, and he remembers it vividly. For here in Jairus’ house, Peter sees for the first time Jesus’ power over death. And he remembers Jesus’ precise words, “Talitha koum” – “Little girl, get up!”
Her eyelids flutter open. Slowly she sits up, colour returning to her cheeks. She smiles at her parents, then looks up into Jesus’ face. Next minute she’s on her feet and walking around the room. Her parents stand there, stunned into silence. Jesus – always practical, always down to earth – commands them, “Get her something to eat, she’ll be hungry.”
When crisis strikes our families, we can trust God – just like Jairus did. And God will bless us just as he blessed Jairus. I don’t mean that our children will always recover from sickness. And should they die, they won’t be restored to the family’s embrace in this world.
But God will bless us just the same. We will discover how Jesus’ compassion and power sustains us in this sad world. Does God care when things go wrong in our lives? Yes. We have seen the cross. Has God the power to put things right in our lives? Yes. We have seen his resurrection. That’s a rock solid foundation for faith in God. On that foundation we can live courageously with calamity.
God won’t always take away what hurts us, but he will always draw near and strengthen us. The Psalmist testifies: “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV). May the Lord stay close to you in your pain.