Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The simplicity and tenderness of Jesus' power

I am currently reading Timothy Keller's latest book, King's Cross, which is based on a series of sermons he preached on Mark's Gospel. Like the rest of Keller's work, I am being refreshed and challenged by his profound reflections on the Scriptures. The following quote is about Jesus' raising of Jairus's daughter in Mark 5 and I am moved by the beauty and simplicity of Jesus. I cannot begin to imagine what it would have been like to have been there and witnessed it.

Do you think it is odd that when Jesus arrives at Jairus's house he says that the girl is just sleeping? The parallel accounts of this story in Matthew's and Luke's gospels make it clear that Jesus understands she's dead. She's not just mostly dead; she's all dead. Then why does he make that reference to sleep?

The answer is in what Jesus does next. Remember, Jesus sits down beside the girl, takes her by the hand, and says two things to her. The first is talitha. Literally, it means "little girl," but that does not get across the sense of what he's saying. This is a pet name, a diminutive term of endearment. Since this is a diminutive that a mother would use with a little girl, probably the best translation is "honey." The second thing Jesus says to her is koum, which means "arise." Not "be resurrected"; it just means "get up." Jesus is doing exactly what this child's parents might do on a sunny morning. He sits down, takes her hand, and sayd, "Honey, it's time to get up." And she does. Jesus is facing death, the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race and such is his power that he holds this child by the hand and gently lifts her right up through it. "Honey, get up." Jesus is saying by his actions, "If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep."

But Jesus' words and actions are not just powerful; they are loving too. When you were little, if your parent had you by the hand you felt everything was okay. You were wrong, of course. There are bad parents, and even the best parents are imperfect. Even the best parents can slip up, even the best parents make wrong choices. But Jesus is the ultimate Parent who has you by the hand and will bring you through the darkest night. The Lord of the universe, the One who danced the stars into place, takes you by the hand and says, "Honey, it's time to get up."
Tim Keller, King's Cross, pp.67-68