Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Luke 8:52-56 the resurrection

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, April 20, 2018

52 All the people were weeping and mourning for her.  “Stop weeping,” he said. “She is not dead, but asleep.”

In ancient Israel, mourning for the dead was loud and public and very noisy. Matthew mentions flute players “and the noisy crowd” (Matthew 9:23). For poor families, this loud mourning was done by relatives or friends. Wealthy families might hire professional mourners, usually women who were widows, to provide some income for them. Hiring them was a kind of charity.

Jesus’ words are not angry; he does not disapprove of public displays of emotion. His words, “Stop weeping,” were spoken to prepare the people for the miracle that was about to happen.

When he says, “She is not dead,” he uses the aorist tense rather than the perfect tense as the messenger did in verse 49. The point of the aorist is that it presents a fact, usually from the past, but a fact. The fact here was they hadn’t lost her; she was going to live. Her death did in fact happen, but with Jesus all things are possible, even life from death.

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “Child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and right away she got up. He told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were amazed, but he told them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Luke has condensed the story a little. At least some of the laughing crowd was still inside, but Jesus sent them out (Mark 5:40). They were probably hired and not relations; Jairus was an influential man and was probably wealthy enough to afford a charitable act like hiring mourners. They certainly weren’t prepared for a divine miracle.

Now alone inside with his inner circle of disciples and the girl’s parents, Jesus touched her, taking her by the hand. As with the young man at Nain (Luke 7:14), the Lord was not defiled by death. Moses and the prophets said that touching the dead makes a man unclean (Numbers 5:2; Haggai 2:13), but Jesus is not made unclean by anything. Rather, Jesus drives away whatever might defile. Instead of Jesus being defiled by contact with death, death was undone through contact with Jesus. He said, “Child, get up!” Luke doesn’t record Jesus’ words in Aramaic as Mark does (Mark 5:41), but simply says what Theophilus would understand. Telling a dead person to rise would make as little sense to Theophilus as it did to the mourners. There is an old proverb (not a Biblical one), “Blind unbelief is sure to err” (Wenzel, p. 280). Jesus used the power of his almighty word, and she awoke and stood up “right away” (parachrema, παραχρῆμα, “immediately”).

I’m fond of the small detail of Jesus telling them to give her something to eat. Resurrection from the dead is not something we encounter every day; they didn’t realize that the one who rises will be hungry. Jesus knows all of our needs, and he provides for us: even the growling tummy of this twelve-year-old girl. She was dead, but now she was alive!

Jesus wanted them to keep this a secret. I’m sure they didn’t; too many people already knew about it. It was Jesus’ will to preach the gospel of the forgiveness of sins, not to start raising everyone in Israel from the dead. Could he have paraded over to the Cave at Machpelah and raised Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 25:9-10)? Certainly. Could he have walked down to the southern end of Jerusalem and raised David from his tomb there (1 Kings 2:9)? Of course. Could he have crossed the Jordan and found the secret tomb of Moses in the valley opposite Beth Peor (Deuteronomy 34:6), raising even Moses from the dead? Surely. But even if all the prophets and patriarchs had been raised to life by Jesus, they would only have been persecuted by Caiaphas the High Priest. If Jesus had raised Aaron himself as a testimony to his Messiahship, Caiaphas would only have put Aaron to death to keep the news a secret. “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

You and I are already convinced, and the good news is that you and I will rise from the dead, not just to finish out a lifetime like this little girl, but to immortality and everlasting life in heaven. The Bible tells me so.

This account brings an important day in Jesus’ ministry to an end in Luke’s Gospel. I’m not sure about the significance of this list yet, but I’ve been compiling it and thinking about it for a while. I call it “Twelve Important / Eventful Days in Jesus’ Ministry.” On each day, more than one (often more than three) events happen on the same day.

  1. A Day at Capernaum (Mark 1:21-34)
  2. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-8:4)
  3. Another Day at Capernaum (Matthew 8:23-9:35)
  4. Jesus at the Well of Samaria (John 4:1-42)
  5. The Bread of Life for 5,000 (John 6:1-71)
  6. The Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:14-10:21)
  7. A Day at Jericho (Luke 18:35-19:28)
  8. Palm Sunday (Luke 19:28-44)
  9. Busy Tuesday (Parable of the End: Matthew 21:18-26:5)
  10. Maundy Thursday (John 13:1-18:27; Matthew 22:7-65)
  11. Good Friday (John 18:28-19:42)
  12. Easter Sunday

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.