“Talitha Cumi” (Mark 5:35-43)
So Jesus is ministering up in the region of Galilee, and here comes a synagogue ruler by the name of Jairus, coming to Jesus for help. “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” So Jesus goes with Jairus. While they’re on their way, somebody comes from Jairus’s house with a message for him: “Your daughter is dead.” “Your daughter is dead.” So you would think that would be it. Once somebody is dead, what can you do about it? Nothing, right?
Well, in every other case, that would be right. But not when it comes to Jesus. He can help. He can do something about this. So he tells Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” Are you kidding me, Jesus? “Do not fear, only believe”? Is this what you tell a man who has just lost his beloved twelve-year-old daughter? “Do not fear, only believe.” How can he not fear? What is he supposed to believe? How can you possibly relieve the fears of someone who has just lost a loved one to death? I mean, dead is dead.
Maybe you at this funeral would feel that way if I were to tell you, right now, “Do not fear, only believe.” You who are mourning the loss of your dear friend and family member Connie–what can I tell you that will take away your sense of loss and your sorrow and your grief? Well, I cannot take away your grief. You will indeed miss Connie. The reality of death does bring us grief and sorrow. Death does cause us to fear. We fear what the days ahead will be like as we go through the grief and feel the loss. And even more so, the reality of death coming so close to home–death, looking us square in the face–this causes us to fear in another way, also. We fear our own death. Death came calling for Connie when she was 69 years old. How about us? How much longer do we have? At any rate, we do know that death will come calling, for each one of us. It’s only a question of when, how soon.
“Do not fear, only believe.” OK, Jesus, what can you possibly do about this? Let’s see what you got. Jesus arrives at Jairus’s home. There is loud weeping and wailing at the scene. The death of Jairus’s daughter has everybody upset, and understandably so. But Jesus says to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
Man, Jesus, what is wrong with you? Don’t you get it? The girl is dead. Like in, really dead. Like in, she stopped breathing. Her heart stopped beating. The child is dead, there’s no two ways about it. And yet you say, “The child is not dead but sleeping”? Are you mad?
But there is a method in Jesus’ madness. Of course Jesus knows that the child has died. But the reason he says she is not dead but sleeping is this: Sleep is something you get up from. It is not permanent. And Jesus now is going to “wake her up,” so to speak. Or to put it more plainly, he is going to raise her from the dead.
Jesus takes the child’s parents and a few of his disciples with him into the room where the child is. He takes the girl by her lifeless hand and says to her–in Aramaic, the language they spoke–Jesus says to the girl, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
“Talitha cumi.” “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And of course she did get up and start walking, back to normal, whole and restored. Jesus raised this girl from the dead. Amazing! What power, what authority, this Jesus must have! Authority even over death, to raise someone from the dead.
But Jesus, why won’t you come over to where Connie is, here, now, and say to her, “Talitha cumi,” and raise her from the dead? I mean, we are mourning her loss. Won’t you help us? It really shouldn’t matter whether the “little girl” is twelve years old or 69. The reality of death is still the same, and we feel it and we hate it and we wish it were not so. So don’t you have another “Talitha cumi” in there for us?
“Do not fear, only believe.” No, this is not some easy throwaway line. This is the truth, and I say it in all earnestness. “Do not fear, only believe.” This is the word of the Lord for you today. Jesus is here to help.
Listen, the raising of Jairus’s daughter is one of only three such incidents we have recorded in the gospels. Jesus raised her. He raised the widow of Nain’s son. And he raised Lazarus from the dead. That’s it. Three. What about all the other people who died? Did Jesus have nothing for them? And even with those three, after they were raised from the dead, they went on and lived for however many years more, and then they died again. And there was no raising them up that time. The twelve-year-old girl may have gone on to live to age 69 or 70, say, but then she did die. So why bother raising her up?
Here’s the deal. Jesus did these few, select raisings from the dead as a demonstration, as an advance showing, of the ultimate result of what he was coming to do. This raising from the dead business tells us what is in store for all of us who trust in him, namely, the resurrection of our bodies and, not just for a few more years, but for an eternity of life, life completely restored, in both body and soul. That’s what this raising of Jairus’s daughter is there for, to let us know that this Jesus has that kind of authority, authority over death, authority to give life and restore life. That’s the meaning of this “Talitha cumi.” That’s how Jesus can say, and I can say to you today, “Do not fear, only believe.”
But how? Why? When? Tell us more, preacher. Alright, here goes. The death problem is tied to our sin problem. Because we all sin, that is why we all die. Death is the curse and the result of our sin. That is true for every one of us, Connie included. Each one of us, no matter how good we may be to our friends and family, not one of us is good enough or righteous enough to be rated as acceptable in God’s sight and therefore spared from judgment. No, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Death has entered the world as the result of man’s sin and God’s righteous judgment. And eternal death would be the final destination, if God had not intervened.
But God so loved the world–he so loved Connie, he so loved you and me–that God did intervene. God gave his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would not die eternally but rather have life, eternal life, through faith in Christ. Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, this same Jesus who raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead, even though he was sinless, took all the sins of all of us sinners and carried them to the cross for us. And because he is God’s own Son, holy and righteous, when Jesus sheds his blood for us, as the sacrifice in our place, all of our sins, all of our guilt–all of that is covered and atoned for and taken away. Jesus did that for Connie. Jesus did that for you. In him you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
And then, if that is not enough, Jesus himself arose from the dead, on Easter Day, sending us the message that in him, when our sins are forgiven, death loses its power, death loses its grip. And so Jesus comes to us today and lays his hand on our shoulder and says to us, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Yes, Jesus has triumphed over death and hell. Trust in him, and you share in his victory.
“Do not fear, only believe.” Does Jesus have another “Talitha cumi” in store for us? In store for Connie? Oh, yes, he does! That is the good news that will comfort us in our loss and relieve our fears at the prospect of death. Jesus has won the victory over sin and death. He bestows his forgiveness freely upon us. Trust in him. Connie did. By God’s grace and through the ministry of the gospel, Connie trusted in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And so Connie is with her Lord even now, her soul safe and secure in his arms. And on the Last Day, when Christ returns, Jesus will come and raise her body up, whole and restored, no more sickness, no more death, ready to live forever. Jesus will come and say to her, “Talitha cumi,” “Connie, cumi,” “Connie, I say to you, arise.”