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By Max Lucado

A man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, came to Jesus and fell at his feet, begging him to come to his house. Jairus’ only daughter, about twelve years old, was dying.

While Jesus was on his way to Jairus’ house, the people were crowding all around him. A woman was in the crowd who had been bleeding for twelve years, but no one was able to heal her. She came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his coat, and instantly her bleeding stopped. Then Jesus said, “Who touched me?”

When all the people said they had not touched him, Peter said, “Master, the people are all around you and are pushing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone did touch me, because I felt power go out from me.”

When the woman saw she could not hide, she came forward, shaking, and fell down before Jesus. While all the people listened, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Jesus said to her, “Dear woman, you are made well because you believed. Go in peace.”

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of the synagogue leader and said to him, “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

When Jesus heard this, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe, and your daughter will be well.”

When Jesus went to the house, he let only Peter, John, James, and the girl’s father and mother go inside with him. All the people were crying and feeling sad because the girl was dead, but Jesus said, “Stop crying. She is not dead, only asleep.”

The people laughed at Jesus because they knew the girl was dead. But Jesus took hold of her hand and called to her, “My child, stand up!” Her spirit came back into her, and she stood up at once. Then Jesus ordered that she be given something to eat. The girl’s parents were amazed, but Jesus told them not to tell anyone what had happened.

(Luke 8:41–56)

The Sparkle from Eternity

Wallace was an important man. He was the kind of man you would find leading a prayer at the football games or serving as president of the Lion’s Club. He wore a title and a collar and had soft hands with no calluses.

He had a nice office just off the sanctuary. His secretary was a bit stale but he wasn’t. He had a warm smile that melted your apprehension as you walked through his office door. He sat in a leather swivel chair and had diplomas on the wall. And he had a way of listening that made you willing to tell secrets you’d never told anyone.

He was a good man. His marriage wasn’t all it could be, but it was better than most. His church was full. His name was respected. He was a fifteen-handicap golfer, and the church bought him a membership at the country club to commemorate his twentieth year with the congregation.

People recognized him in public and flocked to hear him on Easter and Christmas. His retirement account was growing, and he was less than a decade from hanging up the frock and settling down to an autumn of good books.

If he committed a sin, no one knew it. If he had a fear, no one heard it — which may have been his gravest sin.

Wallace loved people. This morning, though, he doesn’t want people.

He wants to be alone. He rings his secretary and advises her that he is not taking any more calls for the rest of the day. She doesn’t think it unusual.

He’s been on the phone all morning. She thinks he needs time to study.

She is partly correct. He has been on the phone all morning and he does need time. Not time to study, however. Time to weep.

Wallace looks at the eight-by-ten photo that sits on the mahogany credenza behind his desk. Through watery eyes he gazes at his twelve-year-old daughter. Braces. Pigtails. Freckles. She is a reflection of his wife — blue eyes, brown hair, pug nose. The only thing she got from her father was his heart. She owns that. And he has no intention of requesting that she return it.

She isn’t his only child, but she is his last. And she is his only daughter.

He’d built a fence of protection around his little girl. Maybe that is why the last few days had hurt so badly. The fence had crumbled.

It began six days ago. She came home early from school feverish and irritable. His wife put her to bed, thinking it was the flu. During the night the fever rose. The next morning they rushed her to the hospital.

The doctors were puzzled. They couldn’t pinpoint the problem.

They could only agree on one thing — she was sick and getting sicker.

Wallace had never known such helplessness. He didn’t know how to handle his pain. He was so accustomed to being strong, he didn’t know how to be weak. He assured all who called that his daughter was fine. He assured all who inquired that God was a great God. He assured everyone but himself.

Inside, his emotions were a mighty river. And his dam was beginning to crack. It was the call from the doctor this morning that broke it. “She is in a coma.”

Wallace hangs up the phone and tells his secretary to hold the calls. He reaches over and takes the picture and holds it in his hands. Suddenly the words swirl in his head like a merry-go-round. “It’s not fair, it’s not fair.”

He leans over, holds the picture to his face and weeps.

Nothing is right about it. Nothing. “Why a twelve-year-old girl? Why her, for mercy sakes?” His face hardens as he looks out his window toward the gray sky.

“Why don’t You take me?” he screams.

He sits up. He walks over to the coffee table by the couch and picks up the box of tissues he keeps handy for counselees. As he’s blowing his nose, he looks out the window into the courtyard of the church. An old man sits reading a paper. Another enters and sits beside him and throws bread crumbs on the cobbles. There’s a rustle of wings as a covey of pigeons flutters off the roof and snatches up the food.

Don’t You know my daughter is dying? How can You act as if nothing is wrong?

He’s thinking about his daughter. In the springtime she used to come by every day on the way home from school. She would wait in the courtyard for him to walk her home. He would hear her chasing pigeons below and know it was time to go. He’d stop what he was doing, stand at this same window, and watch her. He’d watch her walk a tightrope on the curb around the garden. He’d watch her pick a wildflower out of the grass. He’d watch her spin around and around until she became so dizzy that she’d fall on her back and watch the clouds spin in the sky.

“Oh, Princess,” he’d say. “My little girl.” Then he’d stack his books and headaches on his desk and go down to meet her. But it is not springtime and his daughter is not in the courtyard. It is winter, his little girl is nearly dead, and two old men are sitting on a bench.

“Dear, dear Princess.”

Suddenly a third man enters the courtyard. He tells something to the other two. Then the three hurry out. Must be a fight, Wallace thinks to himself. Then he remembers. The Teacher. He is here.

He’d almost forgotten. Jesus was arriving today. As Wallace was leaving the house this morning, his neighbor had asked him if he was going to see the controversial Teacher.

Inwardly he’d scoffed at the idea. “No, too busy today,” he’d answered with a wave, knowing that even on a slow day he wouldn’t take time to go see an itinerant preacher. Especially this one.

The journals from headquarters had branded this guy a maverick.

Some even said he was insane. But the crowds hung around him like he was God’s gift to humanity.

I’m going. Wallace replayed the neighbor’s response in his head.

“Yeah,” Wallace had said to himself, “you also subscribe to National Enquirer.”

“They say He can heal … ,” he recalled his neighbor saying. Wallace stood up straight. Then he relaxed. “Don’t be foolish.”

“Faith healers are an insult to our profession,” he had declared while lecturing at the seminary last fall. “Parasites of the people, charlatans of the church, prophets for profit.” He’d seen these guys on television, stuffed into double-breasted suits, wearing mannequin smiles and powdered faces. He shakes his head and walks back to his desk. He picks up the photograph.

He stares at the face of the child who is about to be taken from him.

“They say He can heal … .”

Wallace began to weigh the options. “If I go and am recognized, it will mean my job. But if she dies and He could have done something … ”

A man reaches a point where his desperation is a notch above his dignity.

He shrugs his shoulders. “What choice do I have?”

The events of that afternoon redirected Wallace’s life. He told the story whenever he had a chance.

I circled the bus terminal three times before I found a place to park.

The cold wind bit my ears as I fumbled through my pockets looking for parking meter change. I buttoned my overcoat up to the knot of my tie, turned into the wind, and walked.

I passed a pawnshop window still flocked with Season’s Greetings.

Someone came out of a bar as I walked by. A dozen or so teens in skintight pants leaned against a brick wall. One flipped a cigarette butt at my feet. Three men in leather jackets and jeans warmed hands over a fire in a ten-gallon drum. One of them chuckled as I walked by. “Looky there, a poodle in the pound.” I didn’t turn around. If he was talking about me, I didn’t want to know. I felt awkward. It had been years since I’d been on this side of town. I glanced over at my reflection in a drugstore window. Wool overcoat. Wingtip shoes. Gray suit. Red tie. No wonder I was turning heads. Their question was written in their eyes. “What brings Mr. White-collar across the tracks?”

The bus station was packed. I barely squeezed through the door.

Once I got in I couldn’t have gotten out. Heads bobbed and ducked like corks on a lake. Everyone was trying to get across the room to the side where the de-boarded passengers entered the terminal. I managed to squeeze through ahead of them. They were just curious; I was desperate.

As I reached the window, I saw Him. He stood near the bus. He had only been able to advance a couple of strides against the wall of people.

He looked too normal. He wore a corduroy jacket, the kind with patches on the elbows. His slacks weren’t new, but they were nice. No tie.

His hairline receded a bit before it became a flow of brown curls. I couldn’t hear His voice, but I could see His face. His eyebrows were bushy.

He had a gleam in His eyes and a grin on His lips — as if He were watching you unwrap the birthday present He just gave you.

He was so different from what I had anticipated I had to ask a lady next to me if that was Him.

“That’s Him,” she smiled. “That’s Jesus.”

He bent over and disappeared for a minute and surfaced holding a toddler. He smiled. With hands around the little boy’s chest, He pushed him high into the air and held him there. The hands were rugged and slender. Someone had told me that Jesus grew up in Mississippi — the son of a mechanic in Tupelo. He brought the little boy down and began walking toward the door.

I knew if He entered the bus station, I’d never get Him out. I put my hands flat against the windowpane and began edging along the window.

People complained but I moved anyway.

When I got to the doorway, so did Jesus. Our eyes met. I froze. I guess I hadn’t considered what I would say to Him. Maybe I thought He would recognize me. Maybe I thought He’d ask me if there was anything He could do. “Oh, my daughter is sick and I thought You might say a prayer . . .”

That’s not how it came out. The words logjammed in my throat. I felt my eyes water, my chin quiver, and my knees hit the uneven pavement.

“It’s my daughter, my little girl. . . . She’s very sick. Could You please touch her so she won’t die?”

I regretted the words as soon as I said them. If He’s a man, then I’ve asked the impossible. If He’s more than a man, what right do I have to make such a request?

I didn’t dare look up. I was ashamed. If the crowd was going anywhere, they were going to have to move around me. I didn’t have the courage to raise my face.

I guess He knew I didn’t. He did it for me.

I felt His fingers under my chin. He lifted my head. He didn’t have to raise it far. He had knelt down in front of me. I looked into His eyes. The gaze of this young preacher embraced this old pastor like the arms of an old friend. I knew, then, that I knew this Man. From somewhere I’d seen that look. I knew those eyes.

“Take me to her.” His hand moved under my arm. He helped me stand. “Where is your car?”

“A car? This way!” I grabbed His hand and began to fight a path through the crowd. It wasn’t easy. With my free hand I moved people like I was parting stalks of corn in a cornfield. Faces tumbled in on us. Young mothers wanting a blessing for their children. Old faces with caved-in mouths wanting release from pain.

Suddenly I lost His hand. It slipped out. I stopped and turned and saw Him standing and looking. His abrupt stop surprised the crowd. They hushed. I noticed His face was pale. He spoke as if speaking to himself.

“Someone touched Me.”

“What?” one of his own men inquired.

“Someone touched Me.”

I thought He was telling a joke. He turned, slowly studying each face.

For the life of me, I couldn’t tell if He was angry or delighted. He was looking for someone He didn’t know but knew He’d know when He saw her.

“I touched you.” The voice was beside me. Jesus pivoted.

“It was me. I’m sorry.” The curtain of the crowd parted, leaving a girl on center stage. She was thin, almost frail. I could have wrapped my hand around her upper arm and touched my finger to my thumb. Her skin was dark, and her hair was in a hundred braids with beads on each end. She was coatless. She hugged her arms to herself — hands squeezing bony elbows as much out of fear as out of cold.

“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus assured. “What is wrong?”

“I have AIDS.”

Someone behind me gasped. Several took a step back.

Jesus stepped toward her. “Tell Me about it.”

She looked at Him, looked around at the throng of people, swallowed, and began. “I am out of money. The doctors say it is just a matter of time. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. But now …”

She lowered her eyes and began to smile. She smiled as if someone had just whispered some good news in her ear.

I looked back at Jesus. My lands, if He wasn’t smiling too! The two stood there and stared at each other, smiling like they were the only two kids in class who knew the answer to the teacher’s question.

It was then I saw the look again. The same gaze met her that only moments before met me as I looked up from the pavement. Those same eyes that I knew I’d seen I saw again. Where? Where had I seen those eyes?

I turned and looked at the girl. For a moment she looked at me. I wanted to say something to her. I think she felt the same urge. We were so different, but suddenly we had everything in common: What a strange couple we were. She with her needle-tracked arms and midnight lovers; I with my clean fingernails and sermon outlines. I had spent my life telling people not to be like her. She’d spent her life avoiding hypocrites like me. But now we were thrust together against the enemy of death, desperately hoping that this country preacher could tie a knot in the end of our frazzled ropes so we could hang on.

Jesus spoke. “It was your faith that did it. Now go and enjoy life.”

She resisted all effort to hide her joy. She smiled, looked back at Jesus, and jumped up and kissed Him on the cheek.

The crowd laughed, Jesus blushed, and she disappeared.

I hadn’t noticed, but while Jesus was speaking, some other men had worked their way into the crowd. They were standing behind me. When I heard them speak, I immediately recognized their voices. They were from my congregation.

One put his hand on my shoulder. “There’s no need to bother this teacher anymore; your daughter is dead.”

The words came at me like darts, but Jesus intercepted them: “Don’t be afraid; just trust Me.”

The next few moments were a blur of activity. We raced through the crowd, jumped in the car of the man who brought the news, and sped to the hospital.

The waiting room was chaotic. Church members, neighbors, and friends were already gathering. Several wept openly. My wife, seated in one of the chairs, was pale and speechless. Her eyes were red. Her hand trembled as she brushed away a tear.

As I entered, people came to comfort me. Jesus stepped in front of them. They stopped and stared at this stranger.

“Why are you crying?” He asked. “She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

They were stunned. They were insulted. “Of all the insensitive things to say,” someone shouted. “Who are You anyway?”

“Get that joker out of here!”

But leaving was the last thing Jesus had on His agenda. He turned and within a few seconds was standing in front of my daughter’s hospital room. He signaled for a few of us to follow. We did.

The six of us stood at my daughter’s bedside. Her face was ashen.

Her lips dry and still. I touched her hand. It was cold. Before I could say anything, Jesus’ hand was on mine. With the exception of one instant He never took His eyes off my daughter. But during that instant He looked at me. He looked at me with that same look, that same slight smile. He was giving another gift and couldn’t wait to see the response when it was opened.

“Princess,” the words were said softly, almost in a whisper, “get up!”

Her head turned slightly as if hearing a voice. Jesus stood back. Her upper body leaned forward until she was upright in bed. Her eyes opened. She turned and put her bare feet on the floor and stood.

No one moved as my wife and I watched our girl walk toward us. We held her for an eternity — half believing it couldn’t be true and half not wanting to know if it wasn’t. But it was.

“Better get her something to eat,” Jesus teased with a smile. “She’s probably famished.” Then He turned to leave.

I reached out and touched His shoulder. My willingness was in my eyes. “Let me return the favor. I’ll introduce You to the right people. I’ll get You speaking engagements at the right places.”

“Let’s keep this between us, OK?” and He and three speechless friends left the room.

For weeks after that day I was puzzled. Oh, of course I was exuberant.

But my joy was peppered with mystery. Everywhere I went I saw His face. His look followed me. Even as I write this, I can see it.

Head cocked just a bit. Tender twinkle of anticipation under bushy brows. That look that whispered, “Come here. I’ve got a secret.”

And now I know where I’d seen it before. In fact I’ve seen it again — several times.

I saw it in the eyes of the cancer patient I visited yesterday. Bald from chemotherapy. Shadowed eyes from the disease. Her skin was soft and her hand bony. She recognized me when she awoke. She didn’t even say hello. She just lofted her eyebrows, sparkled that sparkle, and said, “I’m ready, Wallace. I’m ready to go.”

I saw it last week as I spoke at a funeral. The widower, a wrinkled-faced man with white hair and bifocals. He didn’t weep like the others. In fact, at one point I think I saw him smile. I shook his hand afterwards.

“Don’t worry about me,” he exclaimed. Then he motioned for me to lean down so he could say something in my ear. “I know where she is.”

But it was this morning that I saw it the clearest. I’d wanted to ask her for days, but the right moment never came. This morning it did. At the breakfast table, just the two of us, she with her cereal, I with my paper, I turned to my daughter and asked her. “Princess?”

“Uh huh?”

“What was it like?”


“While you were gone. What was it like?”

She didn’t say anything. She just turned her head slightly and looked out the window. When she turned around again, the sparkle was there.

She opened her mouth and then closed it, then opened it again. “It’s a secret, Dad. A secret too good for words.”

Peace where there should be pain. Confidence in the midst of crisis.

Hope defying despair. That’s what that look says. It is a look that knows the answer to the question asked by every mortal, “Does death have the last word?” I can see Jesus wink as He gives the answer. “Not on your life.”

Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Max Lucado. From the book Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God. Published by Thomas Nelson; September 2008, ISBN: 978-0-8499-2124-7.

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