A couple weeks ago, I preached a sermon at Reba Place Church, my spiritual home in Evanston, about the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5. In my seminary studies, I read about a connection between this story and another tory of an unnamed daughter of an Israelite leader, Jephthah, in Judges 11. Jephthah’s daughter is sacrificed because of her father’s hasty and unfaithful vow, and her cut-short life is honored by Israelite women for centuries. In the book of Judges, her sacrifice represents the fallenness of Israel and the death-dealing forces at work in the world.
Jairus’ daughter is saved because of her father’s faith, and her resurrection prefigures Jesus’ own resurrection. Her healing serves as a sign of Jesus’ power for life over those death-dealing forces that surround us and speak so loudly. For me, brining these stories together helps me notice God at work in the lives of young women across the globe and throughout history, girls who have been expendable in the hands of power and vulnerable to the violence of our societies. I also began to look deeper into the ways God is present in my own struggle for life over the power of death. The audio for the full sermon is here, but below is an excerpt imagining the two unnamed daughters as one young woman who Jesus calls to life.
After clearing away the mourners, Jesus walked into the room, and he took the young girl’s cold hand in his. He said to her her, “Talitha cum!” Young woman, get up! Daughter, arise! Death is knocking hard at the walls of your heart, and death is breathing down the back of your neck, but you are not dead, only sleeping.
Daughter, arise! Do you feel the light sliding across your eyelids? Do you notice how now, again, your chest rises and falls with the wind on the breath of God? Do you sense your blood flowing again, not pooling, but racing through your limbs and circling strength back into your bones? There is a balm in Gilead, and the leaves are crushed for the healing of your being.
Daughter, arise! Death presses in from all sides; it blinds, it maims, it tears you apart. But it will never. Have. The last. Word. Whether the overwhelming weight presses from outside or the insidious shadows grow taller inside you, I always have the last word. There are forces that want to claim you as their own, that silence the loud beating of your heart and crush the strong stance of your feet, but I will not let them destroy the purpose I have called you to. My voice calls louder still.
Daughter, arise! I call you up! I name you as alive! I pull you to myself, and you are not alone. When I pull you up, you will stand. On your own two feet. And you will walk. The light in your eyes and the breath in your lungs and the blood in your veins will all work for a common cause: to move you in the dance I have set for you. You are un-paralyzed. You are re-enfleshed. You are healed for a purpose.
Daughter, arise! I am sorry that your need was faster than my arrival. But everything wrong will be made right. Everything dead will live. I will wipe every tear from your eye, and there will be no more fear. I cast out your fear when I called you my own. Daughter, arise, he told her. And he took her hand.
And she stood up.
image found here