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Talitha Cumi

by Lisa Ann McLean

(Mark 5:21-43; Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56)

 

The sun descended, red and round, a glaring orb flaming in a smouldering sky. Grey-black, smoky clouds were wispy audience to the demise of day as it bled red and ochre across the sand, the trees, the town, and across the haggard face of dark-eyed Jairus who stood sentinel outside of his home. The end of the day: the sunset. Its unknowing symbolism was a cruel irony.

Jairus sighed heavily. He could still hear the muttering, whispering voices from inside the house. He had come out here to escape them, but their susurrus undertones had maliciously followed him. Like a taunting child, they would not leave him a moment's peace, always reminding him of what lay within...

Jairus' mouth tightened into a line. Just... stop...

He wanted to run. Clap his hands over his ears and run...

"Jairus...?"

Jairus closed his eyes. He felt his body stiffen and his hands balled into tight fists.

Oh, Lord Jehovah... please... please...

He opened his mouth to reply to Boaz, but no sound would emerge. Fear and anguish had tightened a cold noose around his throat.

"Jairus," Boaz repeated, a strained relief in his voice. "Miri was wondering where you went."

Jairus allowed a short sigh. At least there was no... news.

"Where would I go, Boaz?" Jairus found his voice—or a ghost of it, anyway.

Boaz' mouth bent into half of a mirthless smile. "I don't know—but I didn't think it would be a happy place. So, I thought I'd better find you."

"There are no happy places now, Boaz." Jairus agreed miserably.

Boaz fell silent. Both sets of dark eyes followed the sun as it sank, dimming to ember red and deepening the questing shadows around them to purple.

"Jairus," Boaz finally spoke, carefully directing his eyes away from his friend, "I... I think that you might have to accept... that Ezria might not survive this..."

“Stop!” Jairus snapped. The volume of the one word surprised both men after Jairus’ prior subdued tones. Jairus took a slow, shuddering breath in the following silence, then continued at a more restrained volume. “She's my only daughter, Boaz. Don't ask that of me. Not now. Not ever.”

Boaz sighed, dropping his eyes momentarily to the sandy ground. "No. No... of course not, but..."

Boaz trailed off as the weight of Jairus' dark gaze fell forcefully down on him, and remained there long after Boaz had abandoned the barest notion that he could make his friend see reason.

"Look," he said finally, breaking the awful silence. "I need to get home. Are you"—he paused, then continued helplessly—"what are you going to do?"

For a long time, there was no answer—only the sigh of the evening breeze that passed between them, and the accompanying rustle of the dry palm leaves overhead. Jairus was tense, his jaw clenched and working incessantly, as though truly and seriously pondering Boaz’ question.

Or maybe he’s just not listening anymore, Boaz thought.

Boaz sighed again, trying to relieve the heavy concern that seemed to weigh his chest down like an anchor. He gave up on a response and turned to leave—and so just barely heard Jairus' muttered reply.

"What did you say?" Boaz turned back and stepped closer to Jairus. He could not have heard him correctly.

Jairus turned and faced Boaz.

"I'm going to ask him," Jairus repeated slowly and clearly.

Boaz stared. He felt the night breeze blow into his open mouth. This did not help to alleviate his concern.

"By the sun and the moon, Jairus!" he finally exploded. "You can't be serious!"

Both the lack of response and the look on Jairus' face were all the answer Boaz needed.

"Jairus, the man is a lunatic!"

"The man is a prophet!" Jairus snapped, glaring so fiercely at his friend that Boaz blinked and stepped back.

Jairus sighed resignedly and dropped his gaze, his shoulders slumping such that it seemed that all of his ferocity had escaped in that one statement. When he spoke again, his voice was rough, tremulous and low.

"I've seen him... do things, Boaz. Heal people. If Jehovah was not guiding his hand, he could not do these things..."

“Is that what you think?” Boaz said gently. “That he will somehow heal Ezria? That he will bring an end to all of this suffering? Jairus, I know you want to believe that. Of course you do. But you can’t delude yourself into a false hope because you want to believe in some crazy story...”

“It is not some crazy story, and I am not deluded,” Jairus shot back. “I told you, I’ve seen and heard him. I truly believe that he can help”—Jairus paused, then—“and so does Miri.”

"Look," Boaz conceded, trying to sound calm, "I know he's got a certain... charisma. I mean, a lot of people are flocking to him just to listen to him teach. He... he does have a... I don't know... a presence about him, I guess"—he shrugged uncomfortably—"But... I've heard some of the things he teaches. A lot of the other synagogue leaders don't like him, Jairus. He's too radical, and he's starting to ruffle a few too many feathers. Think of your position! If you're seen with him, you could be setting yourself up for trouble..."

"To Sheol with my position!" Jairus shot back, his voice becoming harsh and beginning to resonate with an obstinate determination that Boaz didn't like at all. He opened his mouth to argue, but just then Jairus turned to face him and the intense desperation in his friend’s eyes struck him profoundly into silence.

"She's my only daughter, Boaz," Jairus said, almost pleading. "If it were your daughter... if it were Tamar... what would you do?"

Boaz pursed his lips, his dark eyes never leaving the anguish on his friend's face, in his eyes.

"Well, Jairus," he admitted finally, "I guess... I would do what I had to do."

Jairus nodded. Boaz clasped Jairus' shoulder firmly and bracingly before dropping his hand and walking away down the darkening road.

Jairus turned back to the gold-red glow on the horizon where the sun had disappeared, his face hard with resolve... and bright with hope.


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