“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” These are the arresting words Jesus spoke to Jairus as they walked to Jairus’ house. (See Mark 5:21-43 for the entire story.) The words by themselves are challenging enough, but when they are seen in their context they take on even greater impact. Jesus gave these words to Jairus when things went from bad to worse. So, in the face of worsening circumstances, Jesus advises, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Jairus had fallen at Jesus’ feet imploring Him to come heal his daughter. Things were bad. His daughter was at death’s door. Jairus’ only hope was Jesus. No doubt he had heard of what Jesus could do. It may be that as synagogue ruler Jairus had witnessed firsthand how Jesus had delivered a man from demon possession during a worship service at the Capernaum synagogue (Mark 1:21-28). But as Jesus was en route with Jairus to go help his daughter, news reached them that she had died.
At that point, in that very moment, Jesus gave Jairus these stirring words, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Now, “just believe” does not mean, “all you need to have is faith,” as though Jesus were explaining the minimum response needed. No. Jesus is not identifying a minimum response; He is calling Jairus up to an exclusive response. Not, “all you need to have is faith” but “all you should have is faith.” Faith to the exclusion of fear—“don’t be afraid.” Faith alone.
Jairus had already demonstrated faith. After all, he had come to Jesus to ask for the healing of his daughter. He believed, to some extent, that Jesus could heal people, even from fatal conditions. He did have faith. But when things went from bad to worse Jesus told him to step up in faith. Get rid of fear and have faith alone.
Jesus’ words are penetrating. Uncomfortable. Challenging. His counsel to us when things go from bad to worse is this: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Step up.