If Jesus had listened to the naysayers, there would have been no miracle. Jesus was on his way to Jairus’ house, where Jairus’ daughter was seriously ill. He was on his way to heal her. But as Jesus pauses to help another person with another healing, the bad news comes. A group arrives, and they say to Jairus, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any longer?"
Now, probably, after the girl died, the family had sent that group ahead to catch Jesus before he got there. In the most obvious and literal sense, they were better qualified than anyone in the story at that point to comment on the girl's real condition. Yet Jesus doesn't even give them an answer. The Gospel says he ignores them. He simply comments to Jairus: "do not fear, only believe." He doesn't rethink his plan; he just keeps moving toward the house.
Well, he does rethink one thing. He now allows no one else to follow him except Peter and John and James. Jesus takes only his three most trusted and faithful disciples, because (as much as he can count on anybody) he can count on them to join him in ignoring the naysayers. He can count on them to take the risk of seeing things the way he sees them instead, as Dwight Zscheile calls it, of “being able to imagine God active and involved.”
When Jesus gets to the house, he finds mourners weeping and wailing both outside and inside. And them, he goes beyond ignoring; them, he contradicts. "Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping." And the crowd laughs at him. This is, to anybody with any sense, a ridiculous thing to say; anyone can tell that the girl has died.
If the first small group who came from the family were naysayers, this large, mocking crowd is worse. So Jesus asks them all to leave. No one is allowed in the girl's room with him but Peter, John and James plus Jairus and his wife, who'd be expected to hope against hope where their own daughter is concerned. The only people allowed to witness the miracle are those who will at least try to imagine God’s involvement, to see the situation the way Jesus sees it.
By getting the negative crowd to leave, Jesus isn't condemning them; he's just putting them in their appropriate place, which is outside the realm of miracle. After all, if you choose not to believe in miracles, you are pretty much guaranteed of not seeing any. In fact, even if something miraculous does happen, when someone doesn’t want the world to be that way, doesn’t want a God who gets involved, they will almost always find another explanation; I think every priest has seen that happen over and over.
But those who did hope and did believe saw a young girl restored to life. Others had said it wasn't possible; Jesus didn't argue with them about what was possible. He just told her to get up, and she did. If Jesus had listened to the naysayers, there would have been no miracle.
Now, our world is full of naysayers. You don't have to go far to find people who will tell you what you're doing isn't worth doing and is probably doomed to failure anyway. You don't have to go far to find people who hold themselves aloof, who won’t invest and won’t buy in, and think you shouldn’t either. And just like the group that came from the ruler's house, the comments these naysayers make very often aren't exactly false. They usually have some grain of truth in them. But by choosing to focus only on the negative, they block out any possibility of something different and better.
Some of us probably hear it from family members: "Why would you waste your time on going back to school?" Or from coworkers: “You don’t actually think they have our best interest at heart, do you?” We hear it in churches, too. Before the idea is even fully on the table, someone jumps to say, "Nobody's going to come on a weekday. Everybody's too busy." Or even worse, in a way, when there’s not pushback, exactly, but just that deadly “let somebody else do it” passivity.
We hear it everywhere. And when everyone keeps on saying no, we make no come true. It makes you worry, it makes you try and keep hold of what you've got, it makes you plan for failure. And it makes you assume that in the face of the odds, you’re the one who has to make things happen, which is about the worst place for a Christian to be.
When we begin to discover that God has power and that God is trustworthy, though, that in Christ he has already met the underlying needs that drive behaviors like naysaying and control, then we can relax enough to open ourselves up. We can begin to imagine his life creating new possibilities. We can begin to hope that God might actually be able to be active and involved in a way that we could notice and remark on to each other. And if that means telling all the naysaying, controlling, resistant voices to wait outside, OK.
When we open ourselves up to the presence and the action of God, we learn that there is more going on than meets the eye. We learn that what Jesus has to say about a situation may be a lot more true than what a naysaying crowd does, or what conventional wisdom does. And if we start listening to what Jesus says, we’ll start wanting to go where Jesus goes, and share in what Jesus does, and at that point we will find ourselves in the resurrection business.
We Christians are in the business, as Jesus did in today’s Gospel, of looking at death and proclaiming that the grave has no final victory, of looking at failure and proclaiming that redemption is real, of looking at hate and proclaiming that love is still stronger. Not because it’s a sweet traditional story, but because it’s true and it works.
If we start listening to Jesus, we’ll be able to look at each other, with all our foibles and flaws, all our many differences, and call what we see beloved children of God. We’ll be able to look at bread and wine and call them Christ right here in our midst. We’ll even be able to look at the gaunt, battered body of our Lord suspended half-dead on a cross and call that life and salvation. And when we do, no matter what the naysayers think, we're right.