Thursday, April 12, 2012

Matthew 9:23-25 Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life

I am an auditor which means I make my living as a professional skeptic.  When someone in an entity I am auditing brings me evidence supporting something they are telling me, my natural reaction (after years of doing this job) is “Yeah, right”.  I scrutinize their evidence and always try to independently verify its accuracy.  That’s just how I roll.  So, it’s not hard for me to imagine people who heard about Jesus performing miracles not believing what they heard.  He has, in Matthew’s gospel, healed a sick person from far away, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, cast out demons, and healed the lame, in addition to His other healings.  However, while people heard about this, there were many of them that had not actually seen it with their own eyes, so they couldn’t verify it firsthand.  When you add to that what Jesus was going to do in this miracle, it’s not hard to imagine that some people doubted—dead people just don’t come back to life.  Of course, as we will see, there is a profound difference between someone who doesn’t believe something is possible until they see it and someone mocking our Lord as He went to heal Jairus’ daughter. 

The scene at Jairus’ home could best be described as bedlam.  Matthew 9:23 tells us that a large crowd of people had gathered—professional mourners and musicians who were called on to mourn for the dead.  In fact, if one goes over to the Middle East, you can still see this kind of funeral today.  Now, as Christ arrived on the scene to perform this miracle, He made an announcement.  In Matthew 9:24, He told them to leave because the girl wasn’t dead but rather she was sleeping. 

There are a few observations I’d like for us to make here.  First of all, notice that when Christ spoke, He spoke with authority.  He didn’t ask them to leave, he ordered them to leave.  When Christ speaks, He always speaks with authority since, not only is He the Son of God, He is God in human flesh.  Now, we don’t hear Christ’s voice audibly, we do hear the voice of Christ in with written word of God.  As Martin Luther said “Let the man who would hear God speak read holy scripture”.  Secondly, Christ isn’t speaking literally as if the child was just deep into a REM cycle, having a good dream, and didn’t want to wake up.  He was using a common euphemism where death was referred to as sleep.  Also, He likely meant that her death wasn’t a permanent condition.  She hadn’t died so as to remain dead.  Rather, she had died and now Christ, who is the Life, was there to raise her back to life. 

One final consideration as we come to this awesome miracle in verse 25—I can’t speak for everyone out there who read this blog, but for myself, until I started studying this passage, I don’t think I realized how spectacular an occurrence this was.  Really, the gospels only record three times where Christ raised someone from the dead—the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46—which was the miracle that made the Pharisees say “Ok, we’ve had about enough of this”), and this child being raised from the dead.  In other words, resurrection was rare.  When people died, they stayed dead and nothing could be done to change that.  So, when this happened, it was a totally unexpected, startling event.  Even for someone reading only this gospel for the first time, this is completely unusual. 

The crowd’s response is not altogether unexpected—the verse tells us they laughed.  Now, because the verb “laughed” is in the imperfect tense, we shouldn’t understand that they just had a good chuckle over Jesus’ statement.  “Oh, this guy can’t tell the difference between a dead person and someone who is asleep.  What a hoot!”  This was a mocking that went on and on, just like any crowd of people is likely to do.  You can almost hear a sing-song kind of “nanny, nanny, boo, boo” start up by the crowd—“She’s not dead, she’s sleeping.  She’s not dead, she’s sleeping.  Bwahahahahahah”.  They mocked the idea that Christ could save this girl.  They didn’t just doubt Him, they made fun of Him.  Therefore, He commanded them to leave, and then went in to see the child. 

As Christ went in to where the girl was laying, he took her hand in His and she came back to life.  The other gospel writers provide more detail (i.e. only James, John, Peter, and the girl’s parents were permitted to come with Him, He spoke to her in Aramaic) but the important point remains the same.  This little girl who I’m sure meant the world to her parents had died.  Now, because of the compassion of our Savior, she was restored to life.  As miraculous as this was, though, an even greater miracle can occur today.  Someone who rejected God and the gospel can place their faith in Christ and repent of their sins and God will save them—He will resurrect them from being spiritually dead and bound for eternal torment in hell to being spiritually alive and bound for eternity in heaven.  Praise God that He is still in the business of raising the dead.

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