20230219 Child, Get up.
Luke 8:41-42a, 49-56 NET.
41 Then a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue, came up. Falling at Jesus’ feet, he pleaded with him to come to his house, 42a because he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. 49 While he was still speaking, someone from the synagogue ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” 50 But when Jesus heard this, he told him, “Do not be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51 Now when he came to the house, Jesus did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Now they were all wailing and mourning for her, but he said, “Stop your weeping; she is not dead but asleep.” 53 And they began making fun of him because they knew that she was dead. 54 But Jesus gently took her by the hand and said, “Child, get up.” 55 Her spirit returned, and she got up immediately. Then he told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
We have been following the Gospels chronologically, looking at those passages that highlight commands that Jesus gave. Sometimes those commands are obvious, and sometimes they are implied and indirect. Sometimes Jesus gave his commands to his disciples deliberately, and other times he gave them to someone who is encountered along the way. Last week’s passage was an example of the latter. Jesus was touched by the woman experiencing a long-time illness, and after he healed her, he told her to go in peace.
That story was sandwiched in between today’s text. Today we are going to look at the incident where Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. The disciples are mostly just observers of this event, but I’m sure that it had an enduring impact on them. They had learned that Jesus had power over nature through incidents like the calming of the storm. They learned that he had power over the spirit world through incidents like the deliverance of Legion, the demoniac. They learned that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins by witnessing events like his forgiveness of the woman who washed his feet. In today’s text, they are learning that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He has the power to raise the dead.
As we look at the stories of these most recent events, we discover that Jesus is encountering people with desperate needs. The demoniac had been a threat not only to his own life but also threatened the lives of everyone he met. The woman with the blood illness was so desperate that she transgressed the law to touch Jesus. Her illness made her ritually impure, and she could have been arrested for just being out in public.
In today’s text, we encounter another person desperately in need of Jesus. He is a synagogue ruler named Jairus – a very important man in his community.
Notice the desperation of Jairus, the father of the child (41-42a).
Jairus was a very important man in his community, but when his little 12-year-old daughter got sick, he found out that he was helpless to save her. A life-threatening illness in someone we love makes us desperate. Jairus was desperate to help his little girl recover. He found this young rabbi and he fell at his feet and begged him to come and heal his daughter.
I think the Lord blesses us sometimes with impossible problems because if we don’t experience them we are tempted to live our lives a comfortable distance away from him. Jairus had been living his life like that. The Bible says nothing about Jairus’ character, but we can assume from the fact that he ruled in a synagogue that he was respectable in his community. But he was not close to Jesus. Then, his daughter got sick, and he was forced to own up to his own helplessness to save her.
Notice the death of the child (49).
You might think it is not necessary to point out that Jairus’ daughter died, but there is a rumor floating around that this girl was not really dead. Some interpreters believe that she was merely experiencing a diabetic coma. Some explain away the incident of the demoniac by simply assuming that he was insane. But Jesus realized the source of his insanity and removed the real problem by removing the demons. But the real problem Jairus had was that his daughter had died.
The household member who gave Jairus the news had told him not to trouble the teacher anymore. The girl was dead now, and that changes things.
The professional mourners started their mourning, and when Jesus came to wake her, they made fun of him. To them, that was a ridiculous notion because they knew she was obviously dead.
Even Jesus admitted that she was dead when he said that she was asleep. All throughout the Bible death is called sleep. To raise someone from the dead is to wake them from their sleep. When Jesus said the girl was not really dead, he was pointing out that the death people experience in this age is not permanent death. It is real death, but it is not permanent death.
We all know this. That is why we bury our dead in cemeteries. The Greek κοιμητήριον means a sleeping place. We know that death is real, but we also know that Jesus promises to return someday and wake all who are in their tombs, and they will live again. We call death sleep because if a person is sleeping, we expect them to wake up again.
Look also at how Jesus takes pains to make sure that this incident is not published in the town. He ordered the parents to tell no one what had happened. If this had been mere healing, that order would not be necessary. Jesus needed to hide the fact that he was the promised messiah because he had a date with a cross. So, this miracle had to be hidden safely in the minds of his disciples alone.
All this evidence indicates that this girl’s death was real, and her resurrection was real, too.
Notice the directions from Jesus himself (50-52).
The actions and words of Jesus in this incident are very helpful for all of us who face the anguish of a loved one with a life-threatening illness. Jairus begged Jesus to go with him to his house and heal his little girl. Jesus did not stop Jairus and tell him to just go home and trust him to do what was right. No, Jesus agreed to go with him. He wants to be with us when we face problems like that.
Jesus tells Jairus to not be afraid, to believe and the girl will be healed. Now Jairus doesn’t know that she is going to die first, but Jesus does. He knows everything. But Jesus also knows Jairus, and he knows the biggest threat to Jairus at this point is his fear of losing his child. His words to all of us are “Do not be afraid” and “believe.”
Jesus dismisses the professional mourners by telling them to pack up and stop their show. This act is also instructive for all of us who are tempted to let the loss of a loved one wreck our lives. There is a time to mourn, but we are not to grieve like the pagans who have no hope. For us, our loved one is not permanently dead. She is asleep.
Notice the derision from the professional mourners (53).
They made fun of Jesus because to them death was a period. But for Jesus, it is only a comma. The world will never understand a faith that looks death in the face and keeps believing in life. They make fun of us. But the way we handle the loss of a loved one shows our faith in his promise. His promise is that he will come again.
Notice the details of the child’s resurrection (54-56).
Jesus looked at that little girl and told her to get up. The words were simple words. Her parents had probably used those same words every morning to gently wake her from her night’s slumbers to greet the new day. It was completely natural for her to respond to those words by getting up and carrying on with her life. But this sleep was not ordinary sleep – it was the sleep of death. No matter how much they say the words, or how often they say them, or how loud they scream them, her parents were not going to be able to wake her from that sleep.
But Jesus could. He could calm the sea by telling it to be quiet. He could bring peace to a troubled soul by saying “you are forgiven.” He could rescue a demoniac from a legion of demons by telling them to go. He had just brought joy and cheer to a woman with a prolonged illness by telling her that she was healed, and could go in peace. Now, Jesus looks square in the face a problem no one has ever been able to solve. He uses those familiar words because the power is not in the words themselves. The power is in the person who says the words.
Later, he would weep at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and then cry out “Lazarus, come out.” He called his friend by name. He is the good shepherd, and he knows his sheep by name. Some day soon, he is going to be at my tomb. I’m not worried about that. He knows what to do. He has only to call out my name and tell me to come out of that grave.
“Ain’t no grave gonna keep my body down,
Ain’t no grave gonna keep my body down,
When I hear that trumpet sound, I’m gonna get up outta the ground,
Ain’t no grave gonna keep my body down.”
The Bible teaches us that death is a reality. It is not a mirage. When the enemy takes us, we will go down to the grave in silence. But we need not be afraid of that sleep. We need not fear the time of darkness and silence. We don’t have to be afraid because that time is temporary. It may last for a thousand years, but it is still temporary, like an overnight sleep. Someday our gentle shepherd will come back, and he will call each one of us by name. We will wake to a new life, a new permanent eternal life.