And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district.
(Matthew 9:23-26 ESV)
Today we conclude the story of Jesus and one of the Jewish leaders, who was possibly a Pharisee. The man had come to Jesus knowing his daughter was dead but also believing that Jesus could make her alive again.
When Jesus came to the ruler’s house there was a funeral in progress. Funerals in mid-eastern cultures, even today, are not the quiet, subdued affairs we experience in western society. Rather they are characterized by loud wailing voices and the discordant playing of musical instruments. In today’s passage we see this with the flute players and the crowd making a commotion.
In addition in ancient Israel people would hire professional female mourners. There women would intentionally create an atmosphere of sorrow through their crying and wailing.
As we can see, mourning for the dead had become nothing more than a show in Israel at this time. The hired mourners cared nothing about the deceased. They were only present for the money. The entire thing was a sham. It was into this atmosphere that Jesus came.
When he gets there He dismisses the crowd telling them that the girl is not dead but sleeping. The response of these mourners was to laugh at Him, showing their lack of sincerity. They went from allegedly mourning to laughing in a split second. But Jesus was not intimidated. He doesn’t let the mocking crowd distract Him from what He is going to do. Neither should we, His followers, be intimidated by those who mock us when we live for and teach others about Him.
Jesus took [the girl] by the hand and she arose. This is the first recorded instance of Jesus bringing a person back to life. Previously Jesus has demonstrated power over disease and over demons. Now He demonstrates power over death. Every enemy of man has been defeated by Jesus.
It’s interesting that Jesus said the girl was sleeping. She was certainly not asleep as we know it. From a human perspective she was dead. There was nothing that any man could do or hope for (besides a divine miracle) that would resuscitate this girl.
But from God’s perspective, death is just like sleep – it is temporary [1 Kings 2:10, 11:43, 14:20 et. al]. Every one of us is an eternal creature living in a temporal body – a body that at some point will cease to function. We call that death. But that is not the end of our story.
Some day in the future, when time on earth comes to an end, we will all arise out of our “sleep” of death and will be placed into new eternal bodies that will not die. Each of us lives forever. That is how God designed us.
Just like life on earth is temporary, so is death. None of us will cease to exist. There is no annihilation. Eternal life is forever.
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