Jairus was leaving his house when he noticed a sliver of a shadow. It moved, and he smiled. His wisp of a daughter was hiding. He feigned ignorance of her small body wedged behind the door and continued his steps without hesitation. As he neared the doorway she suddenly jumped, waved her arms above her head and shouted, “Boo!” He grabbed his chest and stumbled backward, letting out a small yelp. “Is that you, Abigail? Oh my, you scared me. You have to take it easy on your old father.” Her eyes opened wide, “Are you okay, Papa?” “I’m not sure” he answered. She moved closer to check for herself and he swiftly grabbed and tossed her into the air. “Ah, ha!” he yelled. “I got you!”
He loved the sound of her giggles as he caught her and gently set her down. “Papa has to go to work.” He stooped his head and she kissed his cheek before he headed out the door. He could not believe that she was already twelve years old and entering adulthood. But as he left for the synagogue his smile disappeared. The religious leaders were waiting for him. They had a problem, and he didn’t look forward to the impending conversation.
Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet with a controversial reputation, was in the area. The people loved him. He had undeniable powers and could miraculously heal the sick. But his theology was nebulous and potentially blasphemous. The religious leaders were not ready to endorse him. Jairus was caught in the middle of the dilemma. As the synagogue ruler he had to decide whether to embrace or ignore him. He listened to both sides of the argument and could not decipher which had merit. He finally ended the discussion, stating he needed time to think it over.
He walked home slowly, pondering the dilemma. As he reached the house he instinctively knew something was wrong. It was too quiet. He called for his wife and heard her frantic response come from the upstairs room. He quickly made his way up the stairs and saw his wife kneeling over their daughter. She was covering Abigail’s body with wet cloths while his daughter lay limp on the floor. “What happened?” he asked. His wife explained that Abigail was cheerfully chatting and jabbering when she suddenly complained of a chill. Within minutes the chill turned into violent shaking. His wife barely had time to grab her and lower her to the ground. Now Abigail’s small body felt like it was on fire and her mother was trying to cool her.
“What should I do?” Jairus asked. His wife looked down and her eyes filled with tears. It was not the first time they had seen this kind of illness, and usually the person afflicted did not recover. Then Jairus remember Jesus. He was in town and could heal. He told his wife he would go find him.
Jesus was standing near the lake teaching a large crowd when Jairus spotted him. Jairus quickly maneuvered through the people, reached Jesus and fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Jesus did not hesitate, and turned to follow Jairus. The large crowd followed too. But as they moved toward Jairus’ house, Jesus suddenly stopped. He said someone touched him. Jairus looked around. There were so many people near Jesus that it was impossible to move without jostling into someone. But Jesus continued to ask who touched him until a terrified woman stepped forward. She confessed she had been sick for several years and had reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak, hoping to be healed. She wept as she claimed she felt power run through her body and heal her affliction. Jesus gently addressed the trembling woman, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Jairus was astonished. But at that moment he recognized some of his relatives approaching him. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Jairus was stunned and looked at Jesus. Something about Jesus countenance calmed him. “Don’t be afraid;” Jesus said, “just believe.” With that Jesus dismissed the crowd and went to Jairus’ home. Friends and neighbors had already gathered and were crying loudly. As Jesus entered the house he said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” When they laughed at him, he ushered them out of the house.
Only Jesus remained inside with a small group of his disciples. They entered a room where Abigail lay motionless on the bed. Jairus and his wife stood close to her small body. She was dead; Jairus could see that now. And yet Jesus knelt down beside her, gently took her hand in his and said, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) Jairus breathed in heavily and supported his wife’s arm as they both focused intently on their daughter’s face. At Jesus’ words Abigail’s eyelids began to flutter. A pink hue overtook her grey skin and she opened her eyes. She looked at her parents, held on to Jesus’ hand, and got up.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27–29)