I have a tattoo that reads, “talitha cumi.” My brother preached a sermon about Jairus’ daughter. The sermon spoke and I was enamored with the power of those words. As I began pursuing the story it continued to reveal the action of God. Evidence of love is always in the action. Words are so easy to say, frequently easy to write. It is why James warns us about the tiny tongue and the destruction it is capable of unleashing. Those couple of words we wish we hadn’t said start the fire that devours and consumes. It leaves charred hearts. Burned out relationships. Certain words spread fast and furious and the life of them is in the wicked spreading.
Words have power for good. Yet the good only is as real as the action that accompanies them. My youngest pleads for help reaching a toy on a shelf in his room. I tell him that I will come and get it down. He is pleased. The pleasure fades the longer I go without following up with the action. Until I physically move, and follow through the words are lacking the reality, the heart, the truth.
Jesus had just gotten off of a boat from Gerasenes. Immediately he was surrounded. He was surrounded by people and needs. A ruler at the synagogue, Jairus, was desperate for his little girl, his only child. “My little daughter is at the point of death.” I know precious people who have lived this moment, pleading with God to rescue their child, from illness, disease, death itself.
I have only dreamed such horrors. I dreamed about the death of my son not long after the death of my brother. I had been grieving my brother for months and trying to comfort my parents while seeking it myself. I believed I was understanding their pain. Yet it wasn’t until I shot up in bed in the middle of that dark night with my heart hitting the covers in frantic fashion that I realized, I had no idea the magnitude of losing a child. It was only for a few seconds, that time between sleep and wake where you are not yet fully aware it was only a dream. In those suffocating seconds my son was lost to me and I was drowning in the loss. I got to wake up fully and realize the evil was untrue. My mom and dad could not do the same. Their eternal hope in the future in His presence rescues them from that drowning sensation. There are days though that this world’s slow passing of time threatens to hold us under the surface longer than we would like.
So I look to Jairus and consider his desperation. He was a ruler in the synagogue. His position must have meant spending time with other men who scoffed at this carpenter, this Hero, who was showing them up when it came time to teach. And wasn’t he teaching heresy anyway? He was thwarting plans, upending traditions. He was poking holes in the established order.
But Jairus loved his daughter.
She was near death. He could stand near her, stroke her cheek, look at her in love and say he loved her. Death would not be staved, however, by Jairus’ mere words. It was looking to devour. Consequently action was imperative if he was not to lose this treasure.
So Jairus did what love does. He went looking for this Jesus. They may say he is a heretic. There are questions about his lineage, his background. I mean, he was conceived before Mary was married. At least that’s the word. But Jairus has also heard the stories. There are stories of miraculous healing, sight restored. It is a long shot, but it is a shot. He fell at the feet of the Creator, not even fully understanding who he was pleading with. “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”
He fell at His feet, in front of a great crowd. His desperation allowed him to lose his dignity. His mission meant shame was irrelevant. There is no record of Jesus replying with any words initially. We know He went though. There are all kind of things he could have said in response to a begging father. Instead “Jesus rose and followed him” according to Matthew’s version of the event.
He didn’t speak until people were doubting. In Luke 8:49 they approach to tell Jairus not to bother, the girl is dead anyway. Jesus’ response? “Do not fear, only believe, and she will be well.” Had it not been true, this would’ve been a particularly cruel response. But it wasn’t and He went anyway.
The Hero went to Jairus’ home. Jesus’ love was action. He followed a desperate father and made his way to face death. It was not the first or last time. “Taking her by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.”
Arise from the dead little girl.
Redeemed by His word, by the Word made flesh. He was flesh so that He could understand this feeble, frail flesh. Walking in it, wearing it, He knew it. He also knew it because He designed it. By the Word, by His word (Colossians 1:16-17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.) All things are held together, including the life of a girl, of every girl, of every boy. Job 12:10 reminds “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” There in His hand–the hand that He stretches out to pull her from death and destruction to life and redemption. The Word holds her hand. He holds her hope, eternal hope. It is her assurance. He speaks the Word of life, power over creation. It is action once spoken. It can be nothing less. Creation has no option but to respond when the Creator is speaking to it. The Word is life. The Word sustains life. The Word came to restore life. He did it for her. He did it for all of us.
1 John 3 tells us “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.” Jesus alive in the world, in the flesh demonstrates this in His very existence. His love is His actual living presence. He loves in both word and in deed. The image is vibrant in Mark 5. He speaks words of life and they become life. The Word is also the deed because it is the truth.
When we consider our own lives, our own waking hours of so much talk, so much word, we must consider. We love in word well. That is the easy task. How does that word become the deed, become the truth that transforms? My brother preached on Hebrews 5. So many times I have heard that we need to get to the meat of the word. I often wondered, what scripture, what teaching, what theology qualifies as “meat”? When will I know I have left the baby’s milk and moved on? He clearly answered for me that day. We move on to the meat not when we learn some special, secret truth but when we take what we have learned and move to action. So here we come again to 1 John. Is this meat? Love that is not just a word recited, a knowledge showcased, it is the deed, it is the truth. The words on the page become the Word alive, walking among us, through us demonstrating love.