Monday, August 9, 2010

Matthew 9:18-26 - "While he was saying these things to him, behold, there came a synagogue official..."

A synagogue official with tremendous faith approaches Jesus and asks him to do a miracle that until now is unheard of. He requests that Jesus raise his daughter from the dead. Jesus doesn't protest, he follows the man as if this is just a normal request. But on the way he encounters a woman who has, in some ways, greater faith than the synagogue official.

You might remember from a previous passage the centurion whose faith Jesus commended because he said, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed" (8:5-13). He didn't need Jesus to come to his house and lay hands on the servant. He knew Jesus' word would be enough. Well, here we have a woman who doesn't even ask Jesus to look at her, speak to her, or acknowledge her in any way. Incredibly, she believes that if she only touches the fringe of his cloak, she will be healed of an illness she has suffered with for twelve long years.

You have to wonder why the woman was fearful of drawing attention to herself. Jesus obviously senses her fear because he assures her with the words, "Daughter, take courage." Maybe she heard that Jesus is on his way to attend to a little girl, and she doesn't think her problem is important enough to bother him with. She could be thinking, "I've been suffering with this bleeding for years. I won't hold the teacher up. The little girl's death is more urgent." In other words the woman is looking for a drive-by healing and, incredibly, she believes it would work. It does. What she doesn't bargain for is Jesus turning around and addressing her. "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." Jesus is not satisfied to let her slip away, as if the amount of time he ought to give her depends upon the urgency of her situation--kind of like the way you're treated at the emergency room. He doesn't just want to do something for her; he wants to establish a relationship with her. He calls her his "daughter."

Now if Jesus calls this woman his daughter, he has certainly laid the same fatherly claim upon the synagogue official's daughter. He hasn't forgotten about her. When he gets to the house, hired musicians and mourners have already overrun the place. Whoever was left in charge of the household apparently didn't have the same faith as the synagogue official. They were already moving ahead with funeral plans. Jesus doesn't like to do miracles in the presence of unbelief so he asks the crowd to leave so he could tend to the girl. They laugh.

They laugh because he tells them "the girl has not died but is asleep." They think he's being ridiculous but what Jesus means is the miracle has already been accomplished. He has already saved her. Oh, the girl is dead all right, but she's not dead in her sins. Her father's faith has saved her and so now, though she is physically dead, she is spiritually alive. Her death is merely the sleep of someone who is waiting to be awakened at Jesus' resurrection call.

When Jesus takes her by the hand and raises her up as if from sleep, that is exactly how it will be on the day of our resurrection. We'll be asleep, as it were, in our graves, waiting for Jesus to waken us. And when we do awake it will be just like getting up in the morning from a good night's sleep, except we will feel more refreshed and alive than we have ever felt before. We open our eyes to a new life. We will rise up with glorified bodies that will never require sleep again.

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