Bible boy_reading_bibleContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 8:49-56

49While he was still speaking, someone fromthe ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

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My last post on Luke 8 tells the first half of Jairus’s story. He was the ruler — or one of the rulers (leaders) — of his synagogue. His 12-year old daughter was dying and he asked Jesus to go to his house to heal her.

I wrote about Mark’s treatment of this miracle in 2012.  Mark adds a touching detail, described below. Matthew’s account (Matthew 9:23-26), on the other hand, is perfunctory by comparison with Mark’s and Luke’s. However, it does add the epilogue which the other two do not (emphases mine):

23And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26And the report of this went through all that district.

Now on to Luke’s account. In verse 49, a messenger from Jairus’s house comes to say that there is no point in asking Jesus to see the girl as she has died.

Jesus answers the man with a message of faith (verse 50): fear not, only believe and she will be well. Matthew Henry has two excellent observations here:

Note, Our faith in Christ should be bold and daring, as well as our zeal for him. They that are willing to do any thing for him may depend upon his doing great things for them, above what they are able to ask or think. When the patient is dead there is no room for prayer, or the use of means but here, though the child is dead, yet believe, and all shall be well. Post mortem medicusto call in the physician after death, is an absurdity but not post mortem Christusto call in Christ after death.

When he arrived at Jairus’s home, He directed everyone to stay outside except Jairus, his wife and His inner circle of Apostles, Peter, John and James (verse 51).

Outside, the mourners carried on. Jewish funerals then were loud, emotive affairs marked by much wailing and music. John MacArthur explains:

He stopped the crowd from following Him. He stopped the other disciples who He probably used as sort of a perimeter guard and He just took those three with Him because He knew the chaos would be there, He didn’t want to add more chaos. He didn’t want to drag the entire crowd into that environment. And He didn’t even want all the disciples going, not even all the twelve Apostles. But just three, and this is the first occasion when Jesus separated Peter, James and John out from the rest…first time. He does it in the future … because He can’t always work with that many and He always has to have an inner circle and it’s these three, Peter the leader, John the lover, and James who became the first martyr. He selected these three to be His most intimate. They were the ones who reported from the disciples and apostles their concerns to Jesus and they were the ones who went back to the disciples with Jesus’ concerns. Every leader has to have an intimate circle and it was these three that Jesus chose.

Jesus told the crowd to stop their mourning because the girl was ‘not dead but sleeping’ (verse 52). This is why many parents explain that a loved one who has died is ‘asleep’. It is also why we use the expression ‘rest in peace’. The body dies but the soul of the believer ascends to Heaven. On the Day of Judgment, body and soul will be reunited, made anew. Henry’s commentary says:

it is applicable to all that die in the Lord therefore we should not sorrow for them as those that have no hope, because death is but a sleep to them, not only as it is a rest from all the toils of the days of time, but as there will be a resurrection, a waking and rising again to all the glories of the days of eternity.

John MacArthur reviews other biblical references to sleep and death:

Even in the Old Testament it talks about those who have fallen asleep. You remember Paul’s sermon in Acts 13 … he’s talking about David who had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep. But he whom God raised did not undergo decay. He fell asleep. Why does he talk about David’s death, his body goes into the grave, he talks about his decay in the grave, that’s asleep? Sure because it’s temporary…it’s temporary. A good way to see this is in John chapter 11 at the death of Lazarus. You remember the story because it’s so familiar. And he comes, verse 11, our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, he says. “But I go that I may awaken him out of sleep.” Jesus redefines death as temporary. The disciples said to Him, “Lord, if he’s fallen asleep, he’ll wake up.” I mean, they’re used to the normal terminology. “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought He was speaking of literal sleep. So Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Lazarus is dead, but I’m glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there so that you may believe.'” Let’s go to him. I’m glad he died. I’m glad I didn’t get there when he was just sick, I’m glad he’s died because…He says in verse 25…”I am the resurrection and the life, who believes in Me shall live even if he dies,” and He shows it to be true. In verse 43 He says to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth. Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go.” It was…it was true to redefine death from a permanent situation to a temporary one because that’s reality. Death is just a form of sleep. In fact, it’s a brief sleep, very brief. The body may sleep a little while but the spirit doesn’t sleep at all. It goes into the next life, into the next world.

When Jesus told the mourners that the girl is only asleep, they mocked Him (verse 53). Henry has this analysis:

They were unworthy to be the witnesses of this work of wonder they who in the midst of their mourning were so merrily disposed as to laugh at him for what he said would, it may be, have found something to laugh at in what he did, and therefore are justly shut out.

Once inside the house, our Lord took the girl by the hand and told her to ‘arise’ (verse 54). Mark’s account says that He addressed her as talitha (Mark 5:41), an affectionate term which meant ‘lamb’ in Aramaic. This was the language of the region at that time.

Once again, we see not only Jesus’s healing power but also His gentleness. Remember that he addressed the woman with the blood loss as ‘daughter’ when He healed her on the way to Jairus’s home.

Luke tells us that, at Jesus’s touch and request to arise, the girl’s ‘spirit returned’ (verse 55). He healed her instantly, with no recovery time needed. Such was the nature of His creative miracles.

Ever the pragmatist, our Lord instructed her parents to get her something to eat. Jesus is mindful of human needs, nourishment being one of them.

Luke’s account tells us of her parents’ astonishment (verse 56), no doubt the same which the woman healed of her hemorrhage experienced. It was a profound joy mixed with fear and awe. They recognised that they were in the presence of Someone extraordinary. The Gerasenes also knew that, after Jesus drove the legion of demons out of the man and allowed them to enter into the swine who then ran down the bank to their death. However, instead of embracing Him, they asked Him to leave.

Our Lord’s instructions to people following these miracles would make a good study for anyone reading the New Testament. Luke 8 is a wonderful starting point. Jesus told the man healed of demons to go and tell others what happened to him. However, with regard to Jairus and his wife, He asked them to tell no one.

There are a number of reasons why, most of which I explored with Mark’s account. It could also be that our Lord was passing condemnation on the mourners who laughed at Him. That said, Matthew tells us that news of the miracle spread throughout the area.

John MacArthur adds another reason, a warm, affectionate one:

I think it was really designed for the moment. I think the Lord was saying, “Stay where you are. I’ve cleared the house. It’s just us. That’s the way it needs to be. Just enjoy the reunion. The imaginable…unimaginable thrill of resurrection, the restoration of love, the restoration of life. Don’t feel some obligation to satisfy the curious crowd … Just enjoy what has been done. Just enjoy the power of God, enjoy the life fo the girl, celebrate, worship, give thanks to God. And maybe Jesus had more to say to them about the gospel. There are lots of people who can spread the Word, the Word would get spread for sure. It did. But you have another priority, enjoy this gift. Enjoy My power, enjoy My goodness, enjoy My company, enjoy My grace, rejoice in the life I give and later on you’ll have plenty of opportunity to tell the story.”

Next time: Luke 9:1-6