Does it ever seem to you that sometimes God shows up too late? You pray and pray and pray but in the end the answer you were expecting – or needing – didn’t come in time to solve the problem. God was too late and now everything seems hopeless. “Why bother now, Lord? You go on with whatever You were doing before. Don’t worry about me.” You’re probably not the only one who has felt this way and perhaps were left feeling empty, disappointed and bitter. You may be justified in feeling this way, I can’t really say, but maybe…maybe you didn’t let things play out long enough to see what God was really up to. You’ve probably already guessed, but there is a great story in the Bible about a man for whom Jesus was too late… or at least it seemed that way.
And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years…
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
As you may know, this incident happened at the same time that the woman came up to touch His garment and was healed. I wrote about that incident in The God at the End of Our Rope, but in this story, we see Jairus desperate for Jesus to come heal his daughter. She was mere minutes from dying – literally – and there wasn’t a moment to lose. Not a moment! and this woman jumps in, distracts and delays Jesus. I’m sure that Jairus was beside himself. “Really?! She’s been sick for twelve years; couldn’t she wait another 20 minutes for Jesus to heal my daughter?”
Then the heartbreaking news. “Your daughter is dead.” I cannot imagine the things going through Jairus’ head. “What a cruel joke God is playing with me. It’s not fair, how come this woman gets healed but MY daughter dies. Jesus is TOO late!” The heart-rending pain must have been unbearable. What happens next though is unthinkable. Jesus says to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” “ONLY BELIEVE? In what? My daughter is dead. What is there to believe? Are you nuts?” You see it was fine for Jairus to believe that Jesus could heal his daughter while she was still alive – or barely so, but now? Sure, we can believe that Jesus will act in our lives, will answer our prayer, while we still have some resources, some hope, something to hold on to, but not when the situation is hopeless, not when it’s too late.
In spite of the devastating news and Jesus’ improbable statement, Jairus went on with Jesus. He continued to follow Him to his home to see this thing through. We, in the 21st century, have the luxury of looking back at this story and seeing the end result. Jairus, in the midst of the situation, was not so fortunate. He did not have the resurrection as a point of reference. He could not conceive of someone rising from the dead. For him, there were no options and we think to ourselves, “Oh you silly Jairus, don’t you realize who Jesus is?”
Yet are we not like Jairus? Even with the benefit of 2000 years hind-sight, we still can’t conceive of Jesus working His miraculous, life-restoring power into our lives. Can he really bring life out of the chaos that is my life, my relationship, my whatever? Instead of following through with Jesus, we hang our head and say, “He’s too late,” and we go our way angry and disappointed. Jesus still says to us, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” He can intervene in our lives in ways we cannot possibly envision, in ways that are totally outside our box. Only believe! because we know who Jesus is. Don’t underestimate Him or His ability and willingness to radically change your life. Only believe and you will be “overcome with amazement.”