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Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43

I can’t remember the person’s name, but I worked with him for a year during my time at seminary. He liked to get into theological discussions with those of us who were studying to be pastors. But he was one of those Christians who was all hyped up about living the Christian life, and yet he didn’t really know his Bible.

He said, “Because I am a Christian, nothing bad can ever happen to me.” I insisted that Christians have suffered since the beginning of time. He replied, “Then that means they didn’t have enough faith.” To which he went on to say, “God’s promise is that nothing bad will ever happen to me. I can leave my car windows down with the keys in the car and no one will steal it because God is protecting me.” To which I replied, “There’s an easy way to find out. Go leave your car at night in inner-city Milwaukee, and see if you still have a car by the end of the week!”

What about suffering and the Christian? Are Christians immune from evil?

Of course not. Just because you have faith does not mean that evil won’t touch you. We saw that last Sunday with the surprise storm that erupted on the Sea of Galilee. It was so fierce the disciples believed they were going to drown. Clearly their faith in Jesus did not eliminate suffering from their lives.

Today we see that suffering includes even death. That is true for both believers and unbelievers. But whereas the unbeliever vainly hopes that death ends all, the believer clings to Jesus who has overcome death, and the believer does this even when faced with death.

Like Jairus.

How tragic beyond words! A little girl, the apple of her father’s eye is dying. There is nothing left to do but to turn to Jesus. It is worth noting that Jairus was one of the synagogue leaders. He wasn’t a priest, but he was one of the distinguished laypeople who took care of the administrative affairs of the synagogue. He leaves all such dignity behind and falls down at the feet of Jesus.

Would you fall down at the feet of Jesus? Do you fall down at the feet of Jesus? Verse 23 says that he begged him earnestly, “My little daughter is dying.” (Notice that he calls her his “little” daughter). “Come and lay your hands on her so that she can get well and live.”

So, the father has faith in Jesus. Had he no faith, he would never have come to Jesus in the first place. But he does have faith, so he comes to Jesus with this request. What a beautiful picture of a father interceding for his daughter. The man has faith. Does the man’s faith keep evil from touching his daughter? No. This is a godly family and the littlest member is dying. Not the grandfather. Not even the father as tragic as that would be. The “little” daughter.

And then she does die. Do you see how God works with us? He doesn’t eliminate suffering from our lives. He can if he wants to. Sometimes he chooses to. But sometimes he chooses not to. Verse 35: While he [Jesus] was still speaking, people came from the synagogue leader’s house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Now what? Pack it up and go home? That’s what the messengers suggest. They lack faith. Sure, Jesus may be a healer, but the situation has gone beyond healing now. Healers heal. The girl is dead. Not even Jesus can do something about death! That is the thought process. And so, “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Well, first of all, with Jesus it is never a bother. Jesus doesn’t reject Jairus, and Jesus doesn’t reject you. All who come to him are welcome. Nor is the situation ever too dire to come to him. Verse 36: When Jesus overheard what was said, he told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”
“Only believe.” He says that to us too. Sound a little foolish? Your loved one dies. The pastor says to you, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” Well, it’s a little too late for that! Moreover, you say to yourself, “I did believe. I went to Jesus. I prayed to Jesus. I prayed so hard that I got down on my knees before Jesus. Nothing happened.”

Can you understand why even the Christian is tempted to see his or her faith in God as foolish? Because we pray, “Deliver us from evil” and evil still touches us. What gives? The professional wailers at Jairus’ house—they thought faith in Jesus was foolish. He went in and said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep” (v. 39). Says Mark: “They laughed at him” (v. 40).

Does God deliver us from evil? Yes, he does. And the key to understanding is in the word “deliver.” “Deliver” doesn’t mean evil will never come our way. No. The word “deliver” implies that evil does come our way. That it comes near to us, so near that it even touches us, so near that it even touches the most defenseless among us. That is why it is called evil. And death is evil.

But notice how Jesus goes with us into the darkness, into the suffering, and into the evil itself. He goes with us! And in his very going is the unspoken promise of help.

Notice how Jesus accompanies Jairus in his misery. Notice how he goes with him to the very bedside of death. He takes the child’s father, mother, and those who were with him, and enters the place where the child lies (v. 40).

“Talitha koum.” That’s what he says. He doesn’t say in English, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” He says, “Talitha koum.” That’s Aramaic. It means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up” when we translate it into English, but the words that came out of Jesus’ mouth were “Talitha koum.”

I just find it fascinating that Scripture preserves the very words that came out of Jesus’ mouth 2,000 years ago. Have you ever wanted to hear Jesus speak? Here, it is, “Talitha koum.”

And immediately the girl gets up and begins to walk (v. 42)! She was twelve years old Mark adds. And for the rest of her life, think of how many times this girl’s parents must have told her what Jesus did for her.

Do you think that family ever fell away from faith? I don’t think so. Other members of the family surely died. The girl would have witnessed her father and mother die. What do you think she heard in her head every time she witnessed death and even in the face of her own eventual death? The words, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”

His promise is that he will deliver us from even the greatest of evils. Can we trust him? Yes, we can. For he who delivered this girl from death was also put to death, and by his own power Jesus broke the chains of death three days later when he rose from the dead. You see, death holds no power over him. That’s what Romans 6:9 says, “… because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death has no mastery over him.” And therefore, “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:8).

Do you believe? Are you a fool for believing? Well, whether people at first believed that Jairus was a fool for believing, I don’t think Jairus even cared. We know he didn’t care afterwards. I’ll bet he said to himself, “I’ll go to my grave being a “fool” if it means believing in Jesus!”

And so also, we. Let them laugh. Our loved ones who died in faith are not dead in the sense that death ends all. Their bodies are sleeping. When Jesus returns will he forget about them? No. He cares for the littlest and the least. And he listens to the prayers of others on their behalf. And he goes with us as believers in all things, even if it means a journey to the cemetery. What will he say when he comes back from heaven and visits our graveside? “Talitha koum!”

When you are afraid, realize that with Jesus at your side, you don’t need to be afraid. Only believe! Amen.