When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.
The Old Testament took thousands of years to unfold, but the events recounted in the gospels unfolded in just a couple of years. Mark’s gospel in particular leaves an impression of breathless haste; it is like a child telling a story. Many sentences begin with “And”; he often uses phrases like “straight away”, “and immediately”; he uses the ‘historic present’ (“Jesus says to them,” not “said”), which gives a feeling of urgency. He also ‘sandwiches’ events, adding to the feeling of urgency: in today’s reading, for example, Jesus healed the woman while he was on his way to save the little girl. There is an urgency about the whole gospel that makes it quite clear it is not just for reading; it is for doing.
Coming back to the beginning of the passage: look at the synagogue official. Synagogue officials differ – or rather their circumstances differ. In Lk 13:14 we saw an angry one: he was angry that Jesus healed an old lady on the sabbath. But in today’s reading we see one who “threw himself at Jesus’ feet and asked him earnestly” to heal his little daughter who was dying. It would be wonderful if we knew that it was the same official! There is nothing like a crisis to restore our humanity: not any kind of crisis but one of the heart. Any crisis that only challenges your mind is not deeply challenging; you are not really open till your heart is open. Your real inside is not your mind but your heart. Culture and travel and training can open your mind, but that isn't much. You are not open till your heart is exposed. As soon as the official had a sick child he ceased to be an official and became a father.
In both stories there is a child. The words Jesus spoke to the little girl in the ‘outer layer’ story are quoted in Aramaic, his native language: talitha kumi, “little girl, get up!” The New Testament is written in Greek, but the writers kept just a few words in Hebrew and Aramaic: for example, the last word in the Bible, maranatha, and Abba! And talitha kumi, an expression of great gentleness and tenderness. It must have been as distinctive as his prayer; they remembered it forever in its own language. Talitha kumi.
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