While Jesus was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.
John Chrysostom’s comment on this: “It is possible that the man was overstating the misfortune. It is the habit among people who are in need to exaggerate their personal problems. They do this to get a more effective response.” There are days when it is not easy to love St John Chrysostom. Here he sounds rather too rational, like the demythologisers. These were modern scholars who thought that if you scraped off all the wonder and the poetry (the ‘myths’, they called it) of the Scriptures you would find the truth hiding underneath. But what if the truth lies also in the wonder and the poetry? God is a poet – a word that means ‘a maker’; and Jesus thought and spoke like a poet, not in the least like a logician.
(If we wanted to argue with John Chrysostom we could say that Jesus still saved the little girl’s life, because prompt burial was the normal procedure: on the evening of the same day, at the latest. He saved her from being buried alive.)
What does that urge remind you of – that urge to get hold of the truth as if it were a kernel hiding behind the colour and personality and detail of the text? Isn’t it quite like the urge the woman had to steal a healing from Jesus? She wanted an anonymous healing, private and impersonal, business-like. But he cut through the anonymity. “Who touched me?” he said. These are words to break through the strongest walls of anonymity. He wanted to be a friend to her, not just an anonymous benefactor. Likewise we have to approach the Scriptures in an open manner, not like investigative journalists.
Mark’s gospel has more human touches than the others. Though his gospel is only 60% the length of Matthew’s, Mark gives more than twice the amount of space to the healing of the little girl. Matthew’s account (above) is rather unemotional: “He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.” But Mark says, “He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha kum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age)” (Mark 5:41-42). The gospels are full of humanity – which is what you would expect. The truth lies right there in plain view, not hiding underneath.
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