Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.
While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
There are three stories in the gospels of Jesus raising the dead. In Luke 7 he interrupts the funeral procession of a boy who has died leaving a poor widowed mother behind. Jesus’ heart ‘went out to the mother’, he touched the coffin and said, ‘Young man get up.’ In John 11 he is too late for the funeral. His good friend Lazarus is already buried when he arrives on the scene. Once again Jesus’ feelings are deeply moved and he calls the dead man to come out of his tomb.
Of the three ‘raising the dead’ stories this one, concerning Jairus and his 12 year old daughter is my favourite. I like the fact that Jairus is a ruler of the synagogue. It is good that some of the Jewish religious leaders had a very positive relationship with Jesus. I like the expression ‘fell at his feet, pleading with him’. When was the last time I fell at Jesus’ feet? I even like the human pathos and tragedy of a loving father losing his 12 year old daughter.
To us death is the ultimate. Dark, cold, irreversible. It is the ultimate black hole, the inevitable ending, death is a pit, dying is a falling into the pit, being dead is a lying at the bottom of the pit. The Greeks called it Hades, the Jews referred to it as Sheol. We don’t call it anything because we haven’t really got the confidence or wisdom to talk about it anymore.
‘Earth to earth,
Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust,’
Here however, and again in the case of Lazarus, Jesus talks about it as sleeping. This is why we often put R.I.P. (rest in peace) on gravestones. Death is not peaceful it is peace-empty, but a sleep followed by an awakening – that is peaceful.
Years ago I used to do a show called ‘The Gospel according to Queen’. I used the song ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ to talk about our death being transformed by Jesus’ death.
There’s no time for us,
There’s no place for us,
What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us.
Who wants to live forever,
Who wants to live forever…?
There’s no chance for us,
It’s all decided for us,
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us.
But touch my tears with your lips,
Touch my world with your fingertips,
And we can have forever,
And we can love forever,
So ask yourself the questions:
How much do you want to live?
For a while or forever?
For yourself or for Jesus?
For now or forever?
For self or for him?
For a good time or for a long time?
Who wants to live forever?
Open my eyes that I might see the light.
Open my heart,
That I might find the feel the hope.
Open my mind,
That I might find the faith.
And then touch my tears with your lips.