Matthew 9:18-26 (my translation follows)
18 While saying these things to them behold one ruler coming prostrated himself (as before your deity) saying that, “My daughter is coming to the end of her life immediately; but coming You must lay your hand upon her, and she will live.”
19 And standing up Jesus and His disciples followed behind (became a disciple of) him.
20 And behold a woman bleeding for 12 years approaching from behind held onto the tassel of His robe;
21 for she said in herself, “If I only hold the tassel of His robe I will be saved.
22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith [has] saved you. And the woman was saved from that hour.
23 And Jesus coming to the house of the ruler and seeing the flute players and the crowd making a commotion
24 He said, “Leave, for the girl is not dead but sleeping. And they mocked Him.
25 But when the crowd was thrown out (or exorcized) entering in He grabbed hold of her hand, and the girl arose.
26 And the report of this went out to the whole of that land.
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Death. It is everywhere. It hounds us. Our lives are lived in its shadow. We spend our days cowering, running from it, hiding from it, denying its existence but never able to forget that it is there. For it constantly rears its ugly head when we least expect it. War, famine, plague, natural disaster, disease. It robs us of young and old alike. We who live in the midst of death have made an uneasy truce, a sort of alliance with it to keep it at bay. Trying to claim it is natural. A part of the circle of LIFE. But from time to time it overwhelms us. Especially when too many whom we know and love are assaulted by cardiac arrest, Crohn's, cancer, Alzheimer's, dementia, or full on death. The hordes of death rob us of life, loved ones, and joy.
It’s too much and so we rail and cry out. “It’s not fair. What are you up to God!? Please release me from this nightmare.” It almost seems fair, acceptable, or noble when the deaths we mourn are those of the aged, the long suffering, or those who gave all fighting in a noble cause. But when a young person—your child, your niece, your loved one—dies before us, robbed of life and opportunity, death strikes especially hard. But I tell you the tragedy is not that someone dies young—for God knows the number of everyone of our days, in that sense, no one dies before their time. (Job 14:5; Ps. 139:16) The tragedy is not that a twelve year old girl should die (Matt. 9:18; Mk 5:23, 35, 42), but that she should not live!
For to live is Christ! (Phil. 1:21) Christ is life. (Gal. 2:20) To know His salvation is life. To “live” apart from Him is death. (Col. 1:13-14) To have His promise and seal of life on you in Holy Baptism is life eternal. (Col. 1:12) Feasting on earth without He who is life is empty. To eat the body of the living God who died for you is life to the full. Overcoming, victorious life. (John 10:10) Suffering and physical death do not steal anything from someone who has such life. For what can physical death do to one who is eternally alive in Christ? For to die in Christ is not to die, but merely to sleep. (Matt. 9:24) Laugh if you will. The professional mourners gathered in the house of that little girl mocked when Our Lord said she was not dead but merely sleeping. (Matt. 9:24)
These people knew death. It was their bread and butter. They ate it for breakfast. They got up looking for death. For that crowd in that house was not merely family and friends, but the professional mourners who wept and wailed on cue along with the forlorn flautists of death gathered like hyenas and vultures to a carcass. (Matt. 9:23) Sure they had their purpose of setting the mood, freeing the emotions, helping the bereaved grieve but most importantly, they were there to make a buck.
For too often to support life on this side of heaven means to profit from and abuse the dying so that you and yours might live. This is a dog eat dog world. Survival of the fittest. But don’t ever forget that the way of this world is the way of wickedness and evil and death. It is not good. Life here below is far from the very good universe (Gen. 1:31) the Word of God spoke into existence.
True life is Jesus. He comes in. He drives out the unbelieving profiteers. (Matt. 9:23) He grabs hold of the sleeping girl’s hand. (Matt. 9:25) Her spirit, her breath of life had left her body so His spirit of life, Christ Himself, entered into her and she rose up from the dead.
That is you, dear Christian. To live is Jesus. All who live here below are the walking dead. We walk around dead in sin, dead in apathy, dead seeking something to make us feel alive. But no one is able to find true life until Christ the Living One grabs hold of you imparting life to your dead bones. (Matt. 9:25; Ezek. 37:4-6) Eternal life. Never ending life. Life that does not end simply because your body stops breathing till He says on that glorious morning, “Rise and shine!”
To live is Christ. To live is to have His life, His Spirit in you. It began at Holy Baptism when He took hold of you and breathed His spirit into you and you rose to a new and eternal life. (Acts 2:38-39; Tit. 3:5) For some of you Holy Baptism was only a continuation and confirmation of the life His Spirit was already working in you. Those who come to faith later in life apart from Holy Baptism are like the woman who was slowly bleeding to death. (Matt. 9:20-21) She already believed. She’d heard of Him who is Life. That hearing gave her hope, faith, and trust in Him. It gave her life that caused her to seek Him out, to grab hold of Him, knowing that even the tassel, just the fringe of His garment on her would cleanse her of her death and give her life eternal. And so it is. She already had saving faith imparted by His living Word. His garment on her healed her. (Matt. 9:21-22) Just as His robe of Righteousness put on you in Holy Baptism (Gal. 3:27) heals—sometimes your physical ailments, but more importantly your spiritual ailments. It is true. Believe it. He is sufficient. (1 Cor. 12:9) He gives you this day a share in the lot of the saints in light! (Col. 1:12) He clothes you in His cleansing light.
Remember, He does it. Like that little girl, in your sin you are dead. You can’t clothe yourself. You can’t raise yourself. It is impossible. Everyone knows that a leopard’s spots don’t change and dead men don’t rise. But in Him, through Him, by Him you are no longer dead. No longer in your sin. You are alive. Truly alive. He is your life. You are different.
To be sure you are still in your dying flesh. You still have ailments, both physical and spiritual, thorns in your flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-8), crosses to bear (Matt. 16:24) given to you by your heavenly Father who knows just what you need. He is in charge of them. They are not random. If they are too much for you cry out to Him. He may indeed remove them. Especially those thorns which cause pain and suffering to His beloved children whom He has placed in your life and under your care to serve. But He may, like He did to St. Paul, tell you, “Believe on me. Trust in me. Cling to Me and Me alone. For My grace is sufficient for you. (2 Cor. 12:9) It is all sufficient for you, chief of sinners though you be.” (1 Tim. 1:15KJV) That’s what the crosses we bear teach us and give us: faith to cling to Him as our God and not to ourselves, not to our dead works, nor our deadly delusions.
He, our God, whom we bow before, He is our life. He is our righteousness. He is our covering when defiled by sin. Our cleansing when contaminated by the filth of death that others fling at us like a monkey flinging feces. Our shield and defender from the accuser.
He does not demand that you follow Him before He heals you. (Matt. 9:20-22) He turns to all in need. He becomes a disciple, a follower, of those whose hearts are breaking and broken by death and its robbery. (Matt. 9:18-19) He follows you to your house of gloom to turn your mourning into dancing. (Ps. 30:11) He casts out gloom and mourning. (Matt. 9:24-25) Like the king that He is He denies the dirge, and fires the forlorn flautists. (Matt. 9:24) For He rules over all spirits holy and wicked. He casts out the wicked spirits of gloom and imparts a spirit of joy in His presence. (Ps. 16:11)
“She is not dead but sleeping,” He says. (Matt. 9:24) And the same is true of all who are in Our Lord. We are not in Our Lord because of our efforts. He is in us because of His efforts in that age old battle against death on the cross. Thus, all who die in Him, merely sleep till He wakens them to His eternal kingdom which He has already declared you a member of today.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.