“While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue leader’s house and said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?’ When Jesus overheard what was said, he told the synagogue leader, ‘Don’t be afraid. Only believe.’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
In the enormous library of real estate series on TV right now, perhaps the one I like the least is “My Lottery Dream Home.” The basic format is the same as all the rest of them: a homebuyer is shown three different homes by a real estate agent and then chooses one of them to purchase. The twist for this version of that plot is that the homebuyers have all recently won the lottery and are using part of their winnings to buy a new home. Not all of them have won huge jackpots, and some of the lottery dream homes have been pretty humble, but every episode leaves you wondering, “Why won’t that happen to me?” Jealousy doesn’t sit well with me personally, so I don’t watch the show. But I can’t avoid the Scriptures, and this passage feels like an episode of “My Lottery Dream Home” that I don’t want to watch. Let’s look anyway.
In these verses, Mark finally takes us back to the story he started telling at the beginning of this passage about the synagogue leader, Jairus, and his sick daughter who Jesus is coming to heal. And put yourself in Jairus’ sandals for a minute. His daughter was on her deathbed. Literally. He is desperate enough that he accepts the prospect of enormous shame, and goes to Jesus to beg Him for help. To His great delight, Jesus agrees to come with Him.
Then this woman touches Jesus, and distracts Him from the primary mission. Can you imagine how much Jairus must have hated her. His daughter was dying and this woman distracts his last hope for help and takes His attention for herself. And then he learned her story and things had to get even worse. She had been sick for a dozen years and was in no danger of dying any time soon. His daughter could be dead at any minute. Why couldn’t she just wait? Why couldn’t her touch have missed or not worked and then Jesus wouldn’t have stopped and given her time that was precious to His daughter’s life.
And then his worst fears were realized. Just as Jesus is finishing with this woman so they can get going to Jairus’ house again, a group from his house meets them. As he sees them coming and sees the looks on their faces his heart constricts and despair overtakes his spirit. Their words just confirm his worst fears even as he knew they were coming. “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”
In that moment an entire ocean of emotion crashed into him all at once. Grief like nothing he had ever known. Anger at this stupid woman who distracted Jesus from His more important mission with her selfishness. Fear of the shame he had incurred for his family in even going to Jesus in the first place. Despair at what the future would bring now. And a sadness bigger than anything he could have ever imagined if he tried. His daughter was dead. Nothing else mattered. The world was suddenly darker like someone had put a basket over the sun. He could do nothing more than stand there in shock, not knowing what or how to feel.
Then, with the utmost of gentleness, a hand rests on his shoulder, and a voice whispers in his ear the most powerful words he’s ever heard. “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”
Don’t be afraid. Only believe. Can we be honest? Jairus won the lottery here. His daughter died while Jesus was coming to heal her, but Jesus could fix that. He just needed to keep trusting in Jesus and everything would be okay. Like I said: lottery win.
And we want to cling to those words from Jesus in our own lives when we are facing our own desperate situations. Don’t be afraid. Only believe. After all, Jesus went on from here to heal Jairus’ daughter. He raised her back to life and everything was good again. I suspect it was men like Jairus who helped advance the Gospel as the apostles later came to town proclaiming the resurrection. He had seen Jesus’ resurrection power with his own two eyes. Of course he was going to follow that guy.
But have you ever tried this don’t be afraid, only believe thing before and it didn’t work? You prayed and sought Jesus and He never showed up. He didn’t heal the ones you loved. They died just like all the doctors said they would. Believing didn’t make any difference.
This is where I want to change the channel. I’m tempted to want to switch to an entirely different streaming service that doesn’t make shows designed to incite jealousy like this one does. Why should Jairus get such a gift as this but not me? Don’t be afraid, only believe only works when you’ve got Jesus standing there next to you. Where is He now? What hope does He offer today? Yes, sometimes people experience miraculous healings. But so many don’t. So many still have the doctors finally sit down with them and say, “The treatments aren’t working. There isn’t anything else we can do.” What hope do we have then? Where is the power of Jesus’ words then?
Don’t be afraid. Only believe.
Jesus couldn’t do for everyone what He did for Jairus while He was on earth. It wasn’t physically possible. And it’s not always the Father’s will that the sick get well again in the short term. Death still holds some power.
But that power is broken and our hope is in more than a physical healing.
Why? Because one day Jesus Himself died. And then, three days later, He came walking back out of the grave. When He did, He came bringing with Him the promise and assurance that death is no longer the end. There is something—life to be exact—on the other side of it. In that we can place our hope. Don’t be afraid. Only believe.
Only believe in Jesus and don’t fear the death that still claims its victims in this world. When your trust is in Him and when their trust is in Him, death is no end. It is merely a pause ahead of a great resurrection and reunion coming on the clouds when the Lord returns to claim His kingdom. The healing promised to Jairus is indeed coming for all those who are in Christ. Our grief will still be great in this life when we are separated for a time, but it is only for a time. It is only for a season. Seasons change. This season of death will change to one of life, but that season will last forever.
Don’t be afraid. Only believe.
Jairus may have won the lottery for the moment, but eventually his daughter died again. Perhaps he didn’t have to live through the moment a second time, but it came all the same. When we place our trust in the one who rose from the grave and defeated death permanently, we don’t simply win the lottery, we win all the lotteries forever. Eternal life is ours. Only believe. He is still in the business of bringing life. Let us live it now and look forward with hope to living it then forever.
Don’t be afraid. Only believe.