22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “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.” 24So he went with him…35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. Mark 5:22-24a,35-36,41-42
This story is one of Jesus’ most powerful healing stories. A twelve-year-old girl is very sick, and her father turns to Jesus for help. But, before they get to her, she dies. The crowd tells the father not to “trouble” Jesus. After all, what more could he do? She is dead. And even the most powerful healers cannot bring someone back from the dead.
But, like so many other times, Jesus makes a bold proclamation: “Do not fear, only believe!” And then Jesus grabs this little girl by the hand and calls her back to life. This story is obviously powerful because it is a miraculous healing and because we are told once again to believe in Jesus and his authority over all things, even death. But, one detail often escapes this and other stories: The moment when Jesus held the little girl’s hand.
While there are many stories which demonstrate that Jesus does not have to touch someone to heal them, he often does. Jesus is willing to touch even those who are “unclean.” And of all the unclean things a person can be, death is one of the more serious ones (Numbers 19:11-13). By touching her, Jesus himself would become “unclean.”
The early laws regarding ritual cleanliness were a gift from God. With modern eyes, we can see that ritual cleanliness laws prevented disease and held a nomadic tribe together without getting assimilated into other cultures. After all, God had plans for these people! But, living in the moment, to be “unclean” was also to be outcast until the situation was rectified and the person went through ritual baths to become “clean” again. Yet, Jesus is unafraid of touching those who others would run from. And this little, dead girl was not someone most people would have touched.
We all need Jesus’ healing in some way. And, Jesus is intimate in his healing. He is not afraid of our diseases, uncleanliness, or even if we think we are as dead inside as that little girl. Jesus has the capacity to touch the very spots where we are the most broken. Can you hear his invitation? Do not fear, only believe. The healing of Jesus is for you, even the parts of you that you might fear are too broken to be fixed.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Rob
Ringe, Matthew S. “Mark 5 Exegetical Perspective.” Feasting on the Gospels--Mark: A Feasting on the Word Commentary, by Cynthia A. Jarvis, Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.