When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.
God made us in the image of his own nature, and death is not part of God’s nature.
Death came into the world, we are told, because of our pride, because of the Devil’s
envy. The devil, and the devil is in all of us, is envious of God’s power and we all at
times want to be gods in our own little kingdoms. Hades, the underworld, the place
of the dead, or Satan, holds no power on earth wherever God’s spirit is found. Those
who are partners of Satan are part of what the late Pope John Paul II called, ‘the
culture of death’, a culture with no future except death and nothingness. In the
gospel, in contrast, Jesus shows us a culture of life. In the face of disease and death,
Jesus offers the possibility of a culture of life. Simply nothing impressed Jesus so much
as faith. The faith of Jairus, whose twelve year old daughter is at the point of death,
and the faith of the woman whose life blood is haemorrhaging away is enough to
move Christ to action. The woman who furtively touches the hem of Jesus’ garment
has a simple, almost a superstitious faith. She has an unpleasant complaint and one
which would mean that she was ritually unclean always and socially ostracised.
Jesus does not despise any of this but rather he helps her to have the courage to
approach him in a personal way, so that she is not only cured of her ailment but also
of her fear and isolation and she is given back the dignity which befits one made in
the image of God, and her peace is restored. ‘My daughter’, he said, ‘your faith has
restored you to health, go in peace and be free from your complaint’. The faith of
Jairus has to do battle with the silence and the disbelief, even the condemnation of
the crowd. ‘Your daughter is dead, why put the master to any further trouble’? To
this Jesus replies, with the instruction which is so common in the New Testament.
‘Do not be afraid’. He adds ‘only have faith’. He raised the child, or young woman as
she was, in that culture, from the sleep of death and to their astonishment she walks
about. The sleep of death is interrupted.
A French writer called Peguy once wrote that there is a little child called ‘Hope’
asleep within each of us who must be woken up regularly, made to get up and walk
about. Faith in the God who champions life, can make the longest night, the darkest
valley open out into the morning of resurrection. The culture of life which Christ
preached, banishes fear, and for those who have faith, death has no power over them