Given that Greek was the common language of the first-century Roman Empire, it would have been impossible for citizens living in Roman-controlled lands not to have some familiarity with the Greek tongue. This meant that even the Jewish residents of Galilee would have known at least some Greek, particularly those Jews who as merchants had to deal with the Roman tax authorities. Nevertheless, most of the Jews in Galilee spoke Aramaic on an everyday basis. This was true of Jesus as well, as we see in today’s passage.
When Jesus came to Jairus’ house, He entered, taking with Him only the dead girl’s parents and Peter, James, and John (Mark 5:37, 40b). Then, He took the girl’s hand and said Talitha cumi, an Aramaic phrase that Mark translates for his readers. Since Mark’s gospel comes to us originally in Greek, this translation lends support to the theory that Mark wrote for a predominantly Gentile audience. The vast majority of Gentiles would not have known Aramaic and would need to have the Aramaic translated for them.
As soon as the words left Jesus’ mouth, the girl rose from the dead, completely healed, as is clear from the fact that she was able to walk and eat immediately (vv. 41–43). That Christ’s words had such power reveals something of His identity. In the beginning, God brought life into the world simply by speaking (Gen. 1:1–2:3), and at Jairus’ house, Jesus brought life to the dead girl merely by talking to her. His words had power because of His being the incarnate Son of God (John 1:1–14). John Calvin comments, “It is easy to learn from this the great efficacy of the voice of Christ, which reaches even to the dead, and exerts a quickening influence on death itself.”
Christ’s words impart not only physical life, for as we see elsewhere in Scripture, they grant spiritual life as well. Simon Peter confessed that in Jesus He found “the words of eternal life” (6:68). This was not an assertion merely that the words of Jesus inform us about eternal life; rather, Christ’s words impart life. We are cleansed “by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26), redeemed by the preaching of our Savior’s words, which cannot be limited to the Gospels but include every word of Scripture. After all, Jesus is God, and God breathed out, or inspired, all Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16– 17). By the faithful preaching of Christ’s words—God’s Word, that is, Scripture—sinners are restored to spiritual life.