Charles Spurgeon said that doubt was like a raised foot, poised either to move forward or to take a step back. And no situation raises that foot like that of death. When confronted with death—either that of a loved one or our own potential death—we inevitably ask, “Jesus, if you really cared, why would you let this happen?”
It’s encouraging to me that this question isn’t new to us. Even in the gospels people came to Jesus in times of crisis and asked, “Jesus, why would you let this happen?” But the story of two miracles in Mark 5 helps us see several truths about Jesus, life, and death.
1. To Jesus, death is as easy to fix as waking someone up out of a short nap.
At the end of Mark 5, when Jesus arrives at the bedside of Jairus’ daughter, he doesn’t offer up a triumphant declaration (like he did for Lazarus in John 11): “Arise, come forth!” Instead, Mark tells us he said in Aramaic, “Talitha, cumi.” Talitha is a pet name, something like “honey.” And cumi isn’t a strong verb. It simply means “wake up,” like you would say to someone who had just dozed off.
Can you picture it? Here is Jesus, sitting down on this girl’s bed, like her mother would, taking her gently by the hand, and simply whispering, “Honey, it’s time to get up.”
Do you see what a beautiful picture of death this is? What is it like for a believer to die? Jesus sits by your bedside, takes you by the hand. And when you awake, his face is the first one you see, his voice the first one you hear. You wake up refreshed, more alive than you have ever been.
2. Jesus’ delay is not inconsistent with his love.
It’s easy to miss the frustration that Jairus would have felt in this story. Sandwiched between Jairus’ request for help and Jesus arriving at his house, Jesus took the time to heal a woman with a chronic condition (a “flow of blood”). That’s all well and good for her, but with his daughter’s life hanging in the balance, Jairus couldn’t see this detour as anything but risky. And sure enough, by stopping to engage this woman, Jairus’ little girl died.
“If he loved me,” Jairus probably thought, “if he cared, surely he’d have gotten there in time to help my little girl.” But Jesus knew what Jairus didn’t—that the delay wouldn’t make any lasting difference. Even the girl’s death was only a temporary setback for him.
Our afflictions in this life, no matter how bad, are only—as Paul says—“light and momentary” (2 Cor 4:17). They doesn’t mean that our darkness isn’t real. It simply tells us that in the midst of our darkness, Jesus hasn’t forgotten. The moment we step foot into eternity and see the beauty of what God has done through our affliction, all of the pain of this life will seem—in comparison—like a bad night in a cheap motel.
3. Jesus both offers more and requires more than you ever imagined.
Both Jairus and the woman with the chronic condition come to Jesus for one thing and end up getting more than they asked. But Jesus also requires more from both of them than they were expecting.
Jairus came to Jesus in need of a healing; what he got was a resurrection—a miracle upgrade. But to get the resurrection, he had to endure the pain of death and trust Jesus in the midst of it.
The woman wanted a hit-and-run with Jesus: get her healing, get home. She got the healing, and she was called “precious daughter” by the Son of God—the only time Jesus used this term for anyone in Scripture. But to be welcomed into his family, she had to expose herself to Jesus and profess him before the crowd.
This is how it is with Jesus: he’ll give you more than you think you need, but he requires more, too. There’s only one “trade” Jesus is willing to make: he’ll give you himself for all of eternity in return for your complete surrender. All of you for all of him. He has no other terms.
4. Our victory over death came only at great personal cost to him.
Mark 5:30 says that when the woman touched Jesus, “power went out from him.” That implies that Jesus actually became weak. And this is odd, since throughout the Gospels Jesus does much more with much less effort—casting out a legion of demons, calming a hurricane, without breaking a sweat.
But when it comes to cleansing us, that only comes at great cost to him. To cleanse us, he had to become dirty. To raise us to new life, he had to be struck down in death. Jesus’ death and resurrection are hinted at even here, showing us that what we need most—reunion with God—also costs him dearly.
5. Personal stature contributes nothing to overcoming death.
The two characters in this story are hardly equals. You have Jairus, a religious leader; and a women who because of her condition, is religiously unclean. Jairus is rich; this woman is poor. He has servants; she is one. He has a name everyone in the city knew; her name isn’t even mentioned, because no one knew her.
Yet Jesus gives healing to both in response to faith. Their stature, their accomplishments…even their righteousness, mean nothing to him. That means if you identify with the nameless woman, if you don’t want people to know you, if you feel broken, dirty, ashamed—that Jesus can give you wholeness and salvation. He can make you his daughter.
But on the other hand, if you think God is going to accept you because you are a pretty good person—on the scale of things, you’re in the upper third or so—then you’ll never know his forgiveness or his resurrection. God will only fill empty hands. All that you need is need.
 I am particularly indebted to Tim Keller for insight on the next two points from a message he preached at Redeemer on this passage called “The Timing of Jesus.”