Nameless Women // Talitha Koum

He has never felt so helpless in his life.

In twelve years of parenting, fear has never run so deep and failure has never felt so close. She’s been laying in this bed for what seems like an eternity, and each day she’s gotten worse.

He is a leader in the local synagogue, a man of deep devotion and faith, but he hasn’t left her bedside for days. In the early days of her illness, he spent hours on end at the altar on his knees in prayer; but lately, he cannot drag himself from her side. His prayer feels more real here; the agonizing cries of a father’s heart, beckoning from a bedside altar. He worries that every breath will be her last and he could never forgive himself if he wasn’t with her.

This is his little girl.

“Jairus, please eat something,” his wife says, carrying a piece of bread and a small clay bowl of water. He knows she is right. He cannot remember the last time he’s eaten, but his appetite left him when his little girl stopped opening her eyes.

They kneel together next to her bed, clenching each other’s hands but not making eye contact with one another. They sit in silence and stare at the nearly lifeless body before them; a shell of the once joyous little girl whose sweet giggle filled their home.

The illness came on quickly. Unsure of the cause or the cure, they called on every doctor they knew. Some were able to ease symptoms, but none were able to pinpoint the source. One by one the doctors came and left, each of them taking another piece of hope out the door with them.

“When I was at the well this morning, I heard a woman from the next town over say the Prophet was in her town,” Jairus wife shares, breaking the deafening silence of the room.

“The Prophet?” Jairus responds.

“The one named Jesus, the man the other leaders say is a rebel of sorts.”

Jairus has heard stories of this man. The other synagogue leaders say he is trouble, a man practicing dark magic. Some say he is not to be trusted.

“I heard from one woman that he cast out a legion of demons from the cave dweller,” she shares in hushed whispers. The tone of her voice alludes to more than sharing well gossip.

Why would evil cast out evil? Jairus thinks to himself. If he truly did that, dark magic doesn’t make sense, but surely he possess power of some kind.

Quiet moments pass. Jairus sits deep in thought, his wife looks with curiosity.

“I’m going to find him,” Jairus stands and proclaims.

“The Prophet?” his wife answers.

“What do we have to lose? We’ve tried everything. If he casts out demons, he cannot be evil as they say. Perhaps, he can heal as well,” Jairus explains.

They both look to their daughter. Her breathing is labored and quiet. Her body is still.

“Go,” his wife says. “Go as fast as you can.”

He takes the hands of both his girls. He leans to his daughter and kisses her forehead. “Wait for me,” he whispers.

He grabs nothing and instantly is gone.

His feet have never moved so quickly.

Lord, hear my prayer. Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen and answer me quickly when I call to you.

He resonates more deeply with the cries of the Psalmist than ever before. His feet have never moved so quickly on the dirt road.

“Jairus!” a neighbor shouts. He is recognized because of his prominent place in the synagogue, but he doesn’t have a moment to spare today.

“I’m sorry,” Jairus responds without a moment of hesitation in his footsteps.

My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite. Because of my groaning I am reduced to skin and bones.

He has cried out every possible prayer to Elohim and finds comfort in lament. He is not the first to experience such agony and he will not be the last. God accepted the cries of David; he knows his suffering is heard.

The sweat begins dripping from his brow and he is drawn from the cries of his heart to the reality before him. When did he start running? How long had he been moving at this pace? It must have been quite sometime because he sees a crowd ahead of him that he hadn’t noticed before.

Jairus had heard the way people come in flocks to get close to the Teacher. He instantly knows Jesus is at the center of this crowd. He presses to the center and falls weeping at his feet.

“My little daughter is dying,” he choked the words out through tears. “Please come lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

Jesus lifts Jairus to his feet, locks eyes with him, and with two hands on his shoulders and two words from his lips, he puts fear at total odds with hope.

“Take me.”

You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem and now is the time to pity her. Now is the time you promised to help.

“This way,” Jairus leads with intent.

The disciples talk amongst themselves and the crowd expands as they walk. Words are being shared, but none are able to be processed in his mind. Jesus is a man of few words, he is mostly just listening to those around him. He is stoic and his presence alone draws so many emotions from Jairus.

He had heard stories, he had been told to keep his distance, he was taught to believe this man was someone to be hated, but why then did he feel so drawn to him? Jairus stays close to his side and focuses on prayer.

He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas.

The crowd stops suddenly.

“Who touched my robe?” Jesus asks.

Confused, Jairus looks around. Are people not to touch him? I’m fairly certain I have been touching him this entire walk? Is he talking to me?

The disciples mutter a few things when suddenly a woman falls down weeping. Jairus steps back and anxiety fills his heart. Unsure what’s going on, his mind races back to his home. What is happening there? Does Jesus not understand the urgency of my little girl’s sickness? Does he care less about my daughter? Surely he knows my heart is more open than the rest of the synagogue leaders, he is not punishing me, is he?

Jesus is in deep conversation with this woman when two men approach Jairus. “Your daughter is dead,” they say with low voices and heads bowed. “There is no use troubling the Teacher now.”

In an instant Jairus crumbles.

“My little girl,” he gasps, head in his hands and hot tears filling his eyes. He blinks, sending them streaming down his cheeks. “I should have been there! I told her to wait for me…”

Jesus overhead what was happening and looks to Jairus as if they are they only two present, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

The crowd goes silent. This man was just told his daughter is dead. What could Jesus possibly mean?

“Stay here,” Jesus commands the crowd. He glances to the woman who was at his feet and gives her a nod. She smiles and the look in her eyes is like nothing Jairus’ has ever seen before; her joy is radiating. Jairus glances back to Jesus.

“Peter, James, John,” Jesus says. With no other words, only being called by name, then men come immediately. The rest of the disciples stay with the crowd and begin telling stories of their time with Jesus.

“Who is this man? Could he be…?” Jairus wonders out loud.

He leads the four men silently back to his home where they are greeted solemnly by mourners.

“Why all this commotion and weeping?” Jesus asks. “The child is not dead; she’s only sleeping.”

Before he can finish his statement, the crowd laughs at him as if he is a lunatic.

“What a waste of time, Jairus,” one of the mourners scoffs. “You left her side to go find an insane man.”

The insult stings, but hope is at war within him. “This way,” he leads.

They walk to her room to find a lifeless little girl and distraught mother.

“Oh Jairus…” his wife sobs into his arms.

“Wait,” Jairus says as he directs her attention to the Teacher approaching their daughter’s bedside.

Jesus looks deep into the position of their little girl. He closes his eyes and rests for moments that feel like hours. The crowd is making a commotion outside their home, but in this room the atmosphere is thick with silence.

Jesus reaches out his arm and holding her hand he says to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up.”

In a moment, everything changes.

Jairus stares as his daughter’s eyes open for the first time in days. She sits up and turns her legs to the side of the bed. She stands to her feet, turns to her parents, and walks across the room.

“MY LITTLE GIRL!” Jairus exclaims. They wrap their arms around their daughter filled with awe like the day she was born.

“Thank you,” his wife says in the only voice she can muster between tears.

“Get her something to eat,” Jesus says with a smile. He turns to Peter, James, and John and together they exit the home.

“As I said, she was only sleeping,” Jesus says as they leave.

Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked down to earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners to release those condemned to die.

Inspired by Mark 5:21-43 and Psalm 102

Little girl, get up.
Photo: Juliana Cole Photography

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