It is so hard for a mother – or a father, for that matter – to lose a child, whether it be a stillborn babe, or the child who ran out in front of a bus, or the ugly disease that would just not let go, all those bad choices and addictions that end a life. A parent would do anything, anything, to prevent the going or to bring back the life. So that day when his daughter is so ill, Jairus looks for Jesus, the healer, the miracle worker. He is desperate. The doctors are shaking their heads. May be the preacher can help. Jairus wants his daughter to be well. He wants her to live.
But the preacher has gone across the sea and who knows when he will return. There was that storm last night. Will they risk crossing the water again so soon? And then a cry goes up – the boat has been seen. And Jairus waits impatiently for the preacher to return. As soon as the boat pulls in to the shore, there are people rushing to meet it. Jairus pushes past them and falls to his feet. “Master, my daughter is dying. Come, save her!” And the Master nods, and follows.
They haven’t gone far when the Master stops. Another delay. Jairus is already so anxious. There is no time to linger and have conversations with strange women, especially diseased women who are beyond the pale. You keep away from women like that if you want to remain pure and holy, you don’t touch them, they can’t cook, they can’t have a role in society, they can’t be a proper wife even. But this woman wants to be well. She wants to live! For twelve years she has endured a living death. She too is desperate. She touches Jesus’ clothes, breaking the age-old taboo. She thought that no one would notice in the crowd. But Jesus did. “Who touched me?” he asked. There were so many people. Anyone could have touched him. But she knows he means her. So she steps forward to explain. The moment she touched the Master’s hem, she was healed, and he commends her for her faith. Her faith is reinforced when she comes forward to admit her illness, to admit to touching him. And in her faith, her healing is confirmed. But more than that, in coming forward she is witnessing to what Jesus did. The crowd hear her testament.
Meanwhile Jairus’ little girl lies dying. For him, Never mind faith! Heal my daughter! Come on! Now! It seems that Jesus himself is not disturbed by the interruption caused by the woman. There is no agitation, no sense that he should really be somewhere else by now. The agitation is all with Jairus.
And then some distant relative arrives from Jairus’ house. The girl is dead. There is nothing the preacher can do now. Let him go. But the preacher insists on coming to the house. And Jairus finds he wants him there, that left over little bit of faith that says Yes to the Master.
“Don’t be afraid!” says Jesus, just as he said to the disciples in the middle of the storm, just as he says to us when our faith is worn down. Do not be afraid. What is the opposite of faith? It is fear. Do not be afraid.
The weeping women are in the house already, keening the pain of loss. Why should the preacher want to touch a dead body? A dead body is unclean, impure. You don’t touch the dead, not if you want to remain holy. Jesus says she is not dead, and they laugh at him. You could argue that the little girl was in a coma, but the women know death all too well. He sends them away, the faithless ones, leaving his core team, Peter, James and John, and the girls’ parents.
Jesus takes the girl’s hand and invites her back into life. “Lamb,” he calls her, “Get up!” Wake up! And the girl open her eyes and gets out of bed. The Good Shepherd has rescued the lost lamb, just as he saved the lost ewe on his way here.
For Jairus and his wife, the rollercoaster is on the way up again. Their daughter is alive! But it’s not just about joy and thankfulness, they have to come to terms with something happening that is very weird. And when they get their heads round it, it will affect them profoundly, because it will open their eyes to the presence of God, to who Jesus is. Jairus’ name is prophetic: it means God will enlighten, God will awaken. The girl has awoken from death and her healing has awoken new faith, new insight, new enlightenment. The fear has gone.
“Give her something to eat,” says Jesus – a practical instruction. Give her nourishment. But it is also proof of the healing. Dead children don’t eat.
At the end of the story, the child is well. She is alive. The woman is well. She is alive, fully alive. That’s what it’s like in the kingdom of heaven – to be well and fully alive, to be open to God’s presence and to see the light of Christ. In the kingdom of heaven, death is never the final word. In the kingdom of heaven, we find eternal life. There is no need for fear.
All through our lives we have cause for fear, when we are ill, when our loved ones are ill or die and our circumstances change. Life happens. Life is a struggle. There is no need for fear. In Christ we find life, real life. Because our father who would do anything to save us is God himself. And we can trust in him.