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.

Feb 21 2019 - Exodus 11:1-10 – God's threat to kill the firstborn

The Lord told Moses that the last plague will make Pharaoh, and with him all of the people of Egypt, want to be rid of the Israelites; indeed, they will pay them to leave. The Lord is going to come down in judgment. He will strike dead the firstborn in every home in Egypt but will ensure that his people are kept safe; not one of them will die.

To understand this act of judgment we need to turn back to words the Lord gave Moses to proclaim when he first confronted Pharaoh. In Exodus 4:21-23 we read,

The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so that he may worship me.’ But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.”’

Israel is God's firstborn son, the one in whom he has invested his purpose to bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. Israel had brought blessing to Egypt, saving its people from starvation. But now the Israelites have been enslaved and are being oppressed by the Egyptians who are intent on the destruction of this people whom they perceive as a threat. Pharaoh and the Egyptians have set themselves against the purposes of God. It has become a battle between two powers and in the end there can only be one outcome. If the Egyptians seek to oppress and destroy God's firstborn son, he will strike back and kill their firstborn sons. This is the final showdown through which it will be demonstrated that the living God, the God of Israel, is more powerful than Pharaoh and all the gods of Egypt.

God saves his people by coming down to break the power of those who hold them captive. He broke the power of Egypt that he might free the Israelites. In Jesus, God has come down to save us from captivity to sin and death. Jesus is God's firstborn Son, the one in whom all the purposes of God for blessing have come to rest. He has taken upon himself the calling of Israel to be a light to the nations. But those who opposed Jesus sought to destroy him by nailing him to the cross. There he took upon himself our slavery and oppression and paid the penalty for our sin. But his resurrection demonstrates the supreme power of the living God. He will not let his purposes fail; he will save his people and bring blessing to all the earth and its peoples. By his resurrection he has broken death's stranglehold on our lives and has brought us out of darkness into light.

The wonder of our redemption lies in this: God did not strike down the firstborn of his enemies but gave his own firstborn Son over to oppression and death that we might be set free. Here God displays the depth of his love for our world in all its sin and need.

The risen Lord Jesus is still at work liberating people from the powers that hold them captive and bringing them into the glorious freedom of the children of God. He will not rest until all peoples have come to know his saving power. And one day he will return to transform the very fabric of our damaged, groaning and dying world, that the creation itself may be released from its slavery and rejoice in its long promised freedom.

Father God, thank you that the great battle is over and our freedom has been secured. Thank you that you are pleased to call us your sons and daughters and have given us the Spirit of your Son. Gladly we own you as Abba, Father. Use us we pray to bring the news of your salvation to many others that they too may rejoice in the freedom of the children of God.

Peter Misselbrook