Tim Keller on the story of Jairus’ daughter. I heard him preach this and it has had a profound impact on my life and understanding of Christ to say the least. For those interested, the understanding of Talitha Cumi came, I believe although I’m happy to be corrected, from William Hendriksen’s commentary on Mark.
The quote comes from Keller’s new book, Kings Cross, pages 67-69.
Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 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. ~ Mark 5:38-42
Do you think it is odd that when Jesus arrives at Jairus’s house he says that the girl is just sleeping? The parallel account of this story in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels make it clear that Jesus understands she’s dead. She’s not mostly dead; she’s all dead. Then why does he make that reference to sleep?
The answer is in what Jesus does next.
Remember, Jesus sits down beside the girl, takes her by the hand, and says two things to her.
The first is talitha. Literally, it means “little girl,” but that does not get across the sense of what he’s saying. This is a pet name, a diminutive term of endearment. Since this is a diminutive that a mother would use with a little girl, probably the best translation is “honey.”
The second thing Jesus says to her is koum, which means “arise.” Not “be resurrected”: it just means “get up.” Jesus is doing exactly what this child’s parents might do on a sunny morning. He sits down, takes her hand, and says, “Honey, it’s time to get up.” And she does.
Jesus is facing facing the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race and such is his power that he holds this child by the hand and gently lifts her right up through it. “Honey, get up.”
Jesus is saying by his actions, “If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.” . . .
. . . There’s nothing more frightening for a little child than to lose the hand of the parent in a crowd or in the dark, but that is nothing compared with Jesus’s own loss.
He lost his Father’s hand on the cross.
He went into the tomb so we can be raised out of it.
He lost hold of his Father’s hand so we could know that once he has us by the hand, he will never, ever forsake us.