Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
In the three and a half years of ministry of Jesus Christ, he resurrected three people from the dead – or at least, three such incidences were recorded. There was more famously Lazarus [John 11:1-44], there was the widow’s son at Nain [Luke 7:11-17], and lastly, there was the daughter of the synagogue ruler, Jairus [Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56]. In each case, there was someone grieving for the dead as though all was lost. In each case, Jesus comforts those who grieve and overwhelms them by his acts of resurrecting the dead. In this study, we will examine how in Christ, we can still believe even if the situation seems to be impossible.
Ignoring what they said – Who is ‘they’, and what did these people say that prompted Jesus to intervene verbally with such an encouraging command and promise? Looking at the context, we know that ‘they’ are some men from the house of Jairus [Mark 5:35]. And what did they say? – Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore? The implications of their words were clear – since your daughter is dead, even if you fetch the teacher (Christ), it is useless. If she had still been alive when he arrived, he might have been able to heal her; bu now that she is dead, he is useless. It’s not difficult to relate to these men. Resurrection was not a common thing then (it isn’t common even now). If you had never seen a resurrection being performed, you wouldn’t have imagined that Jesus Christ could resurrect people – he had the authority to do so.
It must be noted that in Matthew’s recount of this event, Jairus had already known about the incident at the point where he knelt before Jesus to ask for help – While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live [Luke 8:41]. If that is true, then the faith of Jairus must be immense, for he invited Jesus to his house to save his daughter even though he knew she was dead – herein lies a strong faith that even if his daughter is dead, Jesus can still save her.
Do not fear, just believe – This is perhaps the most unusual line of condolence you would hear come out from anybody’s mouth when somebody has just died. Usually, we would say, don’t be sad; but here Jesus immediately tells Jairus, do not fear. Perhaps Jairus was already showing signs of agony when he heard that his daughter had died, or maybe he was already on the verge of tears and Jesus expected his fear and grief to surface.
Remember the story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection? When Jesus met Martha and told her that Lazarus will live again, Martha answered that she knew he would live again in the resurrection at the last day, prompting Jesus to have to explain it once more. Why should Jairus or his men be any different? Jesus was at that time known to be a healer. He had healed many sick and wounded, and they knew of him as an amazing healer. In comparison to that, Jesus’ resurrecting people had been unheard of – even if they had heard of it, it would still require them to have honestly believed those tales for them to understand that in Christ Jesus possesses an almighty power in which he was able to exercise a resurrection.
Do not fear, Jesus had said. Do not fear that it was too late to bring Jesus to the daughter, because it wasn’t too late. Do not fear that Jesus would be powerless in front of a dead person – do not fear that Jesus could not rescue the girl from the depths of death and back into the living. Do not be afraid, and do not doubt – instead, believe. Believe that since Jesus had complied and had followed you after your request, he would fulfill his promise and indeed, save the girl, even if she is dead.
Just believe – I like how the word ‘just’ is so simply used here. In several other translations, the word rendered in place of ‘just’ is ‘only’. Linguistically there is little difference to me – it highlights the fact that in crucial times, in matters of life and death, there is only one thing we need to do, and that is to believe in Christ. In fact, that is the only thing we can do; the only thing that we can rely on. Our faith. In the context of this story, two miracles had mingled with one another. While on the route to Jairus’ house, they were delayed by a woman who had touched the robes of Jesus in the hopes that just by touching his robes, she would be healed. Jesus had praised her faith. And imagine Jairus standing by the side, looking on as the woman was healed? Imagine how his faith would have soared?
A lot of times waves of harsh reality will hit us, along with the words of advise of our peers – give up. It’s not going to work. It’s not beneficial. But everytime a peer had just given you some kind of dubious comment or advise, always remember what Jesus said to Jairus when he was in that moment of receiving the advice from his men.
“Do not fear. Just believe.”