“Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” Mark 5:36
This is the line Jesus gives the synagogue official Jairus to tell him to relax in the midst of horrific tragedy – the serious illness of the man’s young daughter. At the opening of the story, Jarius comes to Jesus during a large gathering by the seashore to compel him to come to see the girl. You can almost sense the anxiety and commotion around the official’s arrival. Jesus stands at the seashore with the water lapping behind him, the sun brightly shining and reflecting off of the water. Even in the heat of the day, people continue to gather and increase the size of the crowd – some standing, some sitting – all silent, trying to hear the voice of the Teacher. A man comes running and begins to press through the people, stepping over children, pushing passed men and women; his eyes fixed on the man at the shore. “Teacher! Teacher!” he cries and breathless, falls at Jesus’s feet, arms stretched along the ground. “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.” Looking down, Jesus is filled with compassion for this man and his family. A decision is made to leave the lesson for another time and the bewildered crowd follows the two men into the town. The people continue to press in on Jesus, hungry for his words and wanting to know more about this mysterious man they heard about. The confusion grows as the crowd gets louder, calling to Jesus.
Full stop. Someone touches Jesus’s clothes, a discussion ensues among the disciples, and Jesus must address the newly healed woman. The crowd still presses around, curious about the miracle that occurred. Jairus stands near Jesus, baffled and dazed by his anguish and anxiety. “Your daughter has died,” people from his house say to him, “Why trouble the Teacher anymore?” At this point, maybe Jairus drops his head, hot tears filling his eyes, and his hands stretching out to Jesus, again. Jairus’s whole body becomes limp with grief.
I imagine the chaos that surrounds Jairus as he receives this sad news: the crowd straining and grumbling and muttering, the healed woman crying out in astonishment and joy, the disciples discussing among themselves about the change of plans for the day. Does he stand in defeat? Anger? Shock? “I trusted you!” he might say. “Why trouble the Teacher anymore?” they whisper in his year. The noticeable sarcasm plants the seed of doubt. (Is this really the man they say Jesus is? Where is the miracle here? Why did Jesus chose the woman instead of the girl? He’s too late. He did not care enough. This is not fair!)
Then, turning to look at only Jairus, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”
The official was clutched by fear. Fear is physical and debilitating. Jesus asks him to make a turn that is not only the opposite action from fear, but in many ways is a less “active” behavior than fear. Belief also requires a whole body effort, but is more like a pause than the aggressive experience of fear.
In the midst of chaos, Jesus says, “Pause.” Breathe. Only believe. Only wait. Only watch.
In the context of this story, belief is the more difficult action. It requires patience and control over the fear that can consume us, mind and body.
What areas do I have in my life that are controlled by fear? Are there so many that I do not realize that the fear is there? Fear can turn into indifference because it opens the door to doubt. Doubt causes us to take wrong action or walk away from our Truth. Fears can arise from the benign (“Should I eat this cookie? What if I gain weight?!”) to the brutal (“How can I live without my loved one?”) Fear makes us try to take control over the situation or give up completely (also a form of control.)
Making the decision to believe is brave, but how to do it can be puzzling. Belief in itself is a contentious idea in the postmodern world because it is often criticized for being “unintellectual,” misguided, or absurd. In Jairus’s story there is instruction for how to believe as Jesus wants us to believe. Belief rises from hope. The sick woman who touches Jesus’s cloak is also functioning through belief – example number two in this story. Reach out. Take a chance. Ask the Teacher to come with you. Reject fear.
That is belief.
Living without fear gives room for hope. Hope guides us into a life full of love (“[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13: 8, 12-13) Remember the actions Jairus takes: first he comes to find Jesus, setting aside the fear of rejection; then he walks with Jesus back to his home, each step an act of belief; finally, standing in the midst of chaos and while doubters whisper statements of fear in his hear, Jairus and Jesus stand face to face. Pause. Wait. Watch. Believe.
Then, Jesus raises the girl from the dead.