Get out, everybody! The little girl is not dead – she is only sleeping!
[Here’s the whole story (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26):
While Jesus was saying this, a Jewish official came to him, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and place your hands on her, and she will live.” So Jesus got up and followed him, and his disciples went along with him. Then Jesus went into the official’s house. When he saw the musicians for the funeral and the people all stirred up, he said, “Get out, everybody! The little girl is not dead—she is only sleeping!” Then they all started making fun of him. But as soon as the people had been put out, Jesus went into the girl’s room and took hold of her hand, and she got up. The news about this spread all over that part of the country.]
As a young girl I remember learning about how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. To me that was surely a sign that Jesus was indeed God, so when I actually read the Bible all the way through as a young adult, I was a little shocked to find out that Jesus was not the only person in the Bible who did this. In fact, the Old Testament has examples of virtually every kind of miracle that Jesus performed. When it comes to miracles, it seems like Jesus wanted to enliven the best of the Old Testament and remind people that God was still alive and active like he was in the “good old days.”
Here is the story of the great prophet Elijah, one of the heroes of the Jewish faith, who raised a widow’s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24):
Some time later the widow’s son got sick; he got worse and worse, and finally he died. She said to Elijah, “Man of God, why did you do this to me? Did you come here to remind God of my sins and so cause my son’s death?”
“Give the boy to me,” Elijah said. He took the boy from her arms, carried him upstairs to the room where he was staying, and laid him on the bed. Then he prayed aloud, “O Lord my God, why have you done such a terrible thing to this widow? She has been kind enough to take care of me, and now you kill her son!” Then Elijah stretched himself out on the boy three times and prayed, “O Lord my God, restore this child to life!” The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer; the child started breathing again and revived.
Elijah took the boy back downstairs to his mother and said to her, “Look, your son is alive!” She answered, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the Lord really speaks through you!
Here’s another story where the prophet Elisha raises a young boy from the dead (2 Kings 4:18-22; 32-37):
Some years later, at harvest time, the boy went out one morning to join his father, who was in the field with the harvest workers. Suddenly he cried out to his father, “My head hurts! My head hurts!” “Carry the boy to his mother,” the father said to a servant. The servant carried the boy back to his mother, who held him in her lap until noon, at which time he died. She carried him up to Elisha’s room, put him on the bed and left, closing the door behind her. Then she called her husband and said to him, “Send a servant here with a donkey. I need to go to the prophet Elisha. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
When Elisha arrived, he went alone into the room and saw the boy lying dead on the bed. He closed the door and prayed to the Lord. Then he lay down on the boy, placing his mouth, eyes, and hands on the boy’s mouth, eyes, and hands. As he lay stretched out over the boy, the boy’s body started to get warm. Elisha got up, walked around the room, and then went back and again stretched himself over the boy. The boy sneezed seven times and then opened his eyes. Elisha called Gehazi and told him to call the boy’s mother. When she came in, he said to her, “Here’s your son.” She fell at Elisha’s feet, with her face touching the ground; then she took her son and left.
After Jesus died both Peter (Acts 9:36-42) and Paul (Acts 20:9-12) raised people from the dead. Smith Wigglesworth, the famous early 20th century faith healer, raised several people from the dead. Here is a story published in Latter Rain Evangel, p. 6-8 July 1914:
A friend of his lay dying. They had been kindred spirits from their boyhood days, perfect love existed between them. When Mr. Wigglesworth reached home one evening he found his wife had gone to see his friend who was sick and he immediately started down to see him also. As he neared the house he knew something serious had happened, and as he passed up the stairway he found the wife of the sick man lying on the stairs, broken-hearted. Death had already taken place. As he entered the room where the man lay, the deep love he had always cherished overcame him and he lost control of himself and began crying out to God. His wife who was present remonstrated with him, but as his heart went out to God he was lost to all around and felt he was being drawn up by the Spirit into the heavenlies. The deep cry of his heart was: “Father, Father, in Jesus’ Name bring him back.” He opened his eyes to find out there were no altered conditions, but with a living faith he cried out, “He lives! He lives! Look! Look !” The dead man opened his eyes and revived, and he is living today.
In modern times there is a well documented case about Nigerian Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu, who was killed in an auto accident and rose from the dead three days later. There are all kinds of YouTube videos and books documenting this incident if you want to google it.
Here is an Associated Press video from August 2013 about a guy who was dead for 45 minutes and suddenly revived. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XW-mroCCOw
There are also countless testimonies from people who have had “out of body” experiences during medical crises. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is documented in the bestselling book Heaven is for Real, the story of a four-year-old who experienced heaven during emergency surgery.
Actually there are all kinds of stories out there about people coming back to life after being declared dead. Think about the custom of having a “wake” for the dead. Some say that this custom of waiting a while before the burial was instituted to give the dead person a chance to come back to life.
A logical person might conclude that the line between death and life is a lot blurrier than we are willing to admit. In the Jewish tradition life, sleep, and death were more of a continuum. The Judaism 101 website says, “Our first thought in the morning, even before we get out of bed, is a prayer thanking G-d for returning our souls to us” (http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer.htm).
When Jesus raised the girl from death he wasn’t doing the impossible. He wasn’t showing off his own power. He was showing us what is possible when we have faith. He was showing us the kind of things that can happen when we ask God for a miracle, when we are unwilling to settle for tragedy and premature death. He was showing us that some deaths can and should be reversed when the Kingdom of God breaks out on the earth. The line between heaven and earth is as blurred as the line between life and death.
In terms of societal norms, a doctor must continue to try to help a sick or injured person until their heart stops beating. Even then they will then try to resuscitate them, and then keep them going with machines after they are clinically dead, because those doctors still have faith that the body may come back to life. Eventually the family is urged to “pull the plug” and stop the machines. Meanwhile the gravely ill receives a “last rite” or a “final blessing” from a clergical person. Then everyone gives up and accepts death as an inevitability.
But the same Jesus who tells us that we should “Ask, Seek & Knock” (see Days 57-58) tells us it’s not over ‘til it’s over. Jesus is saying that the people of God should keep going even when everyone else gives up. We should keep praying for a miracle. When there is some kind of tragic, untimely death Jesus is saying through his words and example that we should pray for the deceased person to be raised back to life. It’s something we should believe in. We should pray for it until time runs out and the body is in the grave and all hope is lost. People will make fun of us just like they made fun of Jesus. Who cares? When it comes to caskets Jesus says to think out of the box.
What does this scripture say to you?