Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 21 2013 - Mark 5:21-43 – Talitha koum

Just a few times in the New Testament, the Evangelists record the words of Jesus in the form in which he actually spoke them – in Aramaic. Most notable are Jesus' words from the cross, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" meaning "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). These words are remembered and recorded in the language in which they were spoken because they made such a deep impression on the disciples who heard them. They could not forget that cry of dereliction.

We have another instance in the passage we have read this morning. Jesus has been summoned by Jairus, a synagogue official, to come and heal his daughter who is seriously ill and is on the point of death. Jesus begins to accompany Jairus to his house.

But on the way, a woman who has suffered from bleeding for twelve years finds her way through the crowd of followers so that she might touch Jesus’ garment. Immediately she is healed. Jesus stops and asks who has touched him. When the woman comes forward and admits to what she has done he encourages her with the words, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

But the delay has proved fatal. While he is still speaking, messengers come from Jairus's house to tell him that his daughter has died and that he should not trouble Jesus any more. But Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid; he should continue to trust the one whose power to heal he has just witnessed.

Arriving at the house he tells the mourners to stop their wailing and, taking Jairus and his wife with him, along with Peter, James and John, he enters the room where the young girl is lying. Taking her by the hand he says to her, "Talitha koum!", which means, "Little lamb, get up!" or "Get up, kid!" At these words, she does just that. Jesus restores her to her parents and tells them to give her something to eat.

It's a wonderful story and Jesus' words obviously made a deep impression on the disciples, particularly Peter, who passed on to Mark what the Lord had actually said. And Mark also saw fit to record Jesus' words in their original Aramaic. This was not done for Jesus’ command which stilled the wind and the waves. Somehow these gentle words, summoning a little girl back to life were remembered verbatim and handed on for generations to come to hear and to relish.

Why are these words of Jesus treasured in this extraordinary way? The simple answer is that we do not know. But perhaps there is in them an anticipation of the words of Jesus in that last day when the Great Shepherd of the sheep will call all of his lambs from the sleep of death, "Talitha koum!", and we also shall rise.

When Jesus said that the child was sleeping, the mourners turned from their wailing to laugh in his face. They knew she was dead and believed that she was therefore beyond all help. The New Testament, perhaps in remembrance of this incident, uses the term, ‘sleep’ for those who have died trusting in Jesus (see for instance, Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15). Many may mock at our hope that dead bodies will be raised to life at the return of Christ. But our confidence is in the one who has conquered death and gives life to the dead; “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

Lord Jesus, thank you for your words to Jairus, “Do not be afraid, only believe.” Strengthen my faith and drive away my fears through a continual awareness of your presence and your power.

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Peter Misselbrook