By Ben Overby
There are few burdens heavier for parents to carry, than
that of seeing their children suffer. Worse still, is the death of a child.
Of all the various crises that we might encounter, the death of one’s child
is the most traumatic. All other forms of crisis can eventually be “laid
to rest.” However, the death of a child creates pain that is never completely
Do you remember David’s reaction to his child’s sickness?
When his child was very ill, David could not eat and he rejected the efforts
of his associates in raising him from the ground. The illness of his child
had “floored him,” both literally and figuratively. (See 2 Samuel 12:16-17.)
In Matthew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 8, we learn of a man named
Jarius who was a ruler in the synagogue at Capernaum. Typically, those
who were closely attached to the synagogue did not embrace Jesus. John
“Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed
on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess [it], lest they
should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory of men more
than the glory of God.”
Ah, but Jarius had a greater burden than that of concern
over being thrown out of the synagogue. His daughter was sick. She was
very sick! In fact, she was at the point of death.
Jarius must have felt desperate. There was no highly advanced
hospital that specialized in children’s illnesses to take the 12-year-old
girl. Imagine the state of mind you would be in if you were facing the
possibility of loosing a child to some disease. I remember years ago that
my little brother was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. For a while, we
did not know if his illness was treatable or not. For that short time,
nothing mattered except his health. He lay in the hospital with a fever
that refused to subside. To this day, one of the most horrific images in
my mind is the memory of waking up in the hospital bed next to him, holding
his hand while the nurse searched for a vein in which she could insert
an IV. He was brave as a little boy could be, as the tears rolled down
his cheeks due to fear and pain. The feeling of helplessness was one that
I never want to experience again. My brother recovered. Yet for a while,
we feared he was sick to the point of death. That was a time of utter despair.
Jarius was facing the possibility of having to bury his
little girl. Considering his options, Jarius, oblivious to the possible
consequences from his synagogue associates, sought out Jesus having heard
that he was in the region. Jesus had recently returned to Galilee from
Gadara in the region of Decapolis (southeast of the Sea of Galilee). Having
crossed the sea, a great multitude of people had gathered around Jesus
at the shore. This is where Jarius found him too.
Jarius did not approach Jesus in the same manner as many
of his “ruler” contemporaries. Often when the rulers approached Jesus,
it was in an effort to catch him breaking the law so they could charge
him with a crime. They were a proud and jealous bunch of folks. They certainly
looked down their noses at Jesus. However, when Jarius approached Jesus,
he fell to the ground at his feet. He was humble. He knew that without
Jesus his daughter had little hope of survival. Jesus had become his “last
resort.” On the ground, meek and lowly, Jarius began to speak.
“My little daughter lies at the point of death.
Come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.”
Jesus went with him and a great multitude followed; in fact,
they surrounded and pressed against him. Jarius and Jesus could not travel
quickly encompassed by such a crowd, but they headed for the house where
the sick little girl lies in bed.
Jarius had one mission and only one mission in mind for
Jesus. Jarius was focused on his poor little girl. He wanted to get back
to her before it was too late. They were making progress when Jesus stopped
and said, “Who touched my clothes?” A woman with an “issue of blood,” had
touched his garments, thinking within herself that in so doing she would
be made well. She was desperate, too. She had been sick for 12 long years,
had tried every treatment under the sun, all to no avail. But, Jarius
had a daughter who was at the point of death. This delay must have been
agonizing for him.
While Jesus was speaking with the woman, a message arrived
from Jarius’ house. Listen to these chilling words; “Your daughter is dead.
Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
How many parents have been the recipients of similar news?
There are perhaps no four words which are more painful to relate and receive
than, “Your child is dead.” Poor Jarius. He was so close. His world must
have turned upside down as those words pieced his eardrums and then ripped
apart his heart.
Jesus did not delay. He quickly stated, “Do not be afraid;
only believe.” All hope was not lost! Jesus simply told Jarius to trust
him. What a difficult task that must have been; after all, she was already
dead. But when you’re all out of options, you hold on to even the slightest
glimmer of hope.
Now, moving with a greater sense of urgency, Jesus refused
to permit anyone to follow except for Peter, James and John. The five men
made their way toward the house. The scene at Jarius’ home was not one
that we could describe as comforting. The flute players were already piping.
The mourners were already lamenting. There was a great commotion.
Keep in mind that in our Lord’s day, when someone died
the body was buried on the same day. At one’s death, it is said that even
the poorest person had two flute players and one mourner. The purpose of
the flute players and mourners was not to comfort those who had lost a
cherished loved one. The purpose was to honor the dead by exciting the
passions of those who continued to live. The sound of the flutes and mourners
would overcome the family and friends and increase the emotional outpouring.
I remember sitting in the midst of a sea of emotionally
traumatized people. The sound which this group emitted was gut wrenching.
A young man had died in an auto accident. The family and friends were overcome
with grief as his favorite songs were played during the funeral. People
wailed. One person fainted. There was a great commotion as people saw to
her needs. Some screamed in misery. I can only describe the scene as an
Jarius had left his home with a smidgen of hope. Now he
returned to this scene of despair. Jesus observed the tumult and those
who were weeping and wailing loudly. There would be some who would be frantically
making burial preparations. Others would perhaps be sitting in shock. The
hired mourners would ensure that all were experiencing the agony of the
moment to the hilt.
In the midst of all of this, a voice was heard. “Why make
this commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” Now, that’s
the kind of statement that will make a crowded room grow silent immediately.
For a moment all eyes must have fallen upon Jesus, as folks peered to see who
would assert such a seemingly foolish proposition. After a pause, the predictable
ridicule began. The force of the Greek language is such, that those who
were laughing at Jesus “kept it up.” They were scorning him, over and over
again, with their sarcastic laughter.
Some things don’t mix. Water and oil. Laughter and wailing.
This must have been a terribly uncomfortable moment. Some were weeping
bitterly. Others were laughing sarcastically. Jesus only wanted to comfort
the family. He was intent on helping them. His focus and knowledge of death,
transcending that of those around him, caused him to become a momentary
Poor Mr. and Mrs. Jarius. Their little girl was dead.
Their home was in a chaotic state. Jesus had arrived too late, and he seemed
to think everybody has misdiagnosed her, thinking instead that she is only
sleeping. But, the bedlam was just the “storm before the calm.”
Jesus took the father and mother and the three men who
accompanied him into the little girl’s room. She was still. There was no
breath in her. Her complexion would have the chalky hue of the deceased.
She wasn’t just sleeping. Her mother and her father knew that she was dead.
Jesus reached out and took the lifeless hand of the girl.
He said, “Talitha cumi,” which is, being interpreted, “Damsel, I say unto
Without delay, the little girl sat up, got out of bed
and walked! We can’t imagine the impact this had on all those gathered
at the home of Jarius. Certainly, those scorning Jesus would be stifled.
Those making funeral preparations would cease their plans. The mourners
would sit stony faced. The flute players would now pipe a different tune.
Mr. and Mrs. Jarius, like everyone else, were amazed!
The little girl was dead and came back to life. Jesus had made her whole
again. Jesus was their daughter’s salvation. This news would have traveled
far and wide.
Perhaps others would have sick children throughout the
remainder of Jesus’ ministry. Who knows how often the scene replayed itself.
John said that many of the things Jesus did simply could not be written
in a book, because the multitude of the events, if written down, could
not fit in the world. So, children would grow ill. Parents would be overcome
with grief. Jesus would be sought, because Jesus was their only hope.
The same is true today, but in a more significant way.
Jesus is our only hope. He is the only hope of our loved ones. There is
a sickness that is unto death all around us. The diagnosis is sin. The
prognosis is death. The cure is Christ. How so?
Remember what Jesus told Jarius when the message came
that the child was dead? He said, “Don’t be afraid. Believe.” There is
nothing more frightful than to be dead to God. That is to say, nothing
is more grave than the wages of sin, to be apart from God. We, who have
been redeemed, ought to be sensitive to the frantic state of those who
have committed the capital crime of sin, but who are not in Christ.
When Jarius needed help for his daughter, he turned not
to the sophistication of man. Nor, did he sit about hoping that someone
would come along and help his daughter. With great zeal, fueled by a burning
passion for his little girl, he was proactive in his efforts to bring Jesus
into contact with his daughter. We should follow Jarius’ example.
Who do you know who is lying still in his bed, chalky
white with the hue of death, resulting from transgression? How many of
our friends, neighbors, children, parents and siblings are without spiritual
life? Have we given up hope? Do we listen to the pipers and the wail of
the mourners, as they convince us that there is nothing to be done for
this person or that person? Do we join the scorners in laughter at the
notion that “so and so” can live once again?
The Gospel is the power to save! Take the message of the
Redeemer, Healer, Sacrifice and Propitiation to the dead. Give the lifeless
the opportunity to have their icy hands held by the Master, as he pleads
with them to, “Arise.” Much to our surprise, as was the case with the little
girl, some will heed the Savior’s voice. They will taste of the remedy
for sin; i.e., the blood poured out at Calvary. Some will go to the watery
grave with Christ, die to their sin and arise having been made whole again.
In each instance, the power of God at work will still leave those who witness
the new life, amazed!
Pray for God’s help. As the song goes, “Lead me to some
soul today. O teach me Lord, just what to say. Friends of mine are lost
in sin and cannot find their way. Few there are who seem to care and few
there are who pray. Melt my heart and fill my soul . . . Give me one soul