Jairus, motivated by love for his daughter, earnestly implored Jesus to heal her. She was “at the point of death.” While she was still alive, Jairus believed Jesus could make her well. While on the way to Jairus’ house some family members stopped him and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Rabbi now? It’s too late.” While Jairus’ daughter was still alive, he believed. He had hope while she was still alive, even at the point of death. When Jairus’ daughter died, his belief died with her. Death was he dividing line between his belief and unbelief, between the possible and the impossible.
Jairus’ faith was quickly crushed by fear. Jesus felt Jairus’ fear and said, “Stop fearing, keep believing.” (The tense of the Greek verb means to stop an action in progress.) Jesus knew it was the Father’s will to make her well and to glorify the Son in front of the father and mother, and Peter, James and John (v.37). Jesus said, “The child is not dead but sleeping” and then held her hand and commanded her to arise.
Why did Jesus say, “She’s not dead but sleeping.” He’s not using sleep as a euphemism for death. He’s referring to an intermediate state between life and complete death. (Lazarus was dead four days. That’s complete death.) “Jesus’ statement means that in spite of the girl’s real death, she has not been delivered over to the realm of death with all of its consequences.” (NICNT, The Gospel of Mark, William Lane, p.197.) The girl’s spirit remained in the room. Luke confirmed this when he wrote (Luke 8:55), “And her spirit returned, and she got up at once.” Jesus had the faith and authority to call her spirit back into her body (according to the Father’s will).
While serving as a chaplain at Baptist Hospital my supervisor told me a true story. A patient had a heart attack in a trauma room. The heart monitor flatlined, but the EMTs and nurses attempted to restart his heart for almost 30 minutes – a longer than normal attempt. A new nurse was present in the room and this was her first experience with death. She was afraid and stood in a corner of the trauma room. She prayed for the patient. After 30 minutes the flatline jumped to a pulse and the dead patient suddenly came back to life. A day later the same nurse entered the patient’s room to do something. The patient said to her, “I know you. You’re the nurse who saved my life.” She was confused. The patient said, “I saw you in the corner praying for me. The Lord answered your prayer. Thank you.” The patient’s spirit was out of his body and remained in the trauma room. He was conscious and observed what was happening. He wasn’t completely dead, only sleeping. His spirit returned and his heart started beating.
The lesson: Keep trusting in Jesus Christ even when the situation looks impossible. It may not be completely dead, just sleeping, and waiting for Jesus to command, “Arise!”