“They were wailing for the little girl; but Jesus said, ‘Do not weep; she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing she was dead.” – Luke 8:52-53
Dead is dead. Everybody knows it. Even if you believe in life after death, dead is still dead now. To say otherwise is laughable. And so the people at the little girl’s sickbed laughed.
They laughed because Jairus wanted his daughter not to be dead so badly that he brought a quack to the house even after it was over. They laughed because the healer said maybe dead isn’t dead and imagined warmth returning to her skin. They laughed because they knew: Dead is dead.
Jesus told the girl to get up anyway, and she did. Then he gave to Jairus a resurrected child. Why he didn’t restore children to every grieving parent, we cannot know. But we may believe this much: In the beginning, God’s breath gave life to dust. Which is why, even if things look inert, we don’t rush to judgment.
Besides, there are things worse than dying. As another preacher once observed, you could choose to live in a flat, sad world where what you see is always what you get instead of a world where at any moment some long-silent thing can burst singing from a grave. You could drag around a life entrusted to nothing and no one instead of surrendering to things you can’t prove or defend against, like love, wonder, and joy. You could turn sickbeds into caskets and children into memories before their time. You could laugh your head off at faith, hope, and love, or, humbly believing, enjoy with them a last laugh in the end.
Give us hope and hope’s eternal laughter, Holy Spirit, Giver of Life. Amen.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.