Authority Over Death

by Paul George

The good news is, Jesus has conquered death. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus came to destroy the one that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15). In other words, he says that men live their entire lives subject to the fear of death, but Jesus has come to deliver them from that fear. Yet, for most of the world does not know Jesus has conquered death, therefore they fear death.

Jesus’ power over death is an essential message, for we are living in a dying world where all of us face the inevitability of death. It never was God’s plan for sin to mar His creation. All things in the world were created for the good of man, but man sinned, allowing sin to enter creation and run its course. However, the prophets said a Messiah would come and would have the power to bring back wholeness to life. The miracles of Jesus verified His power to reverse the curse and establish the Kingdom. If He claimed to be the Son of man who would execute judgment upon all and raise the dead (John 5:25-29), then He would have to demonstrate that He had the power to do that.

Jesus’ power over death is clearly demonstrated in Matthew 9 with the raising of a girl who had died. However, prior to that miracle, He healed a woman with an issue of blood. That healing is really part of the resurrection miracle, for it provided the delay that was necessary for the death to occur.

The accounts of Mark and Luke fill in more details, telling us that when the ruler initially spoke to Jesus, his daughter was in the process of dying. However, Matthew condenses it all, reporting that she had died. Do you know why Jairus came to Jesus? He did not care about the social pressure of the religious establishment, his daughter was dead and there were no resources within his system to deal with that. He knew that when Jesus touched his daughter, she would live. He swallowed his pride, turned his back on social pressure, and said good-bye to the religious establishment, as he fell flat on his face before Jesus.

There are two reasons why the synagogue official fell flat on his face before Jesus.

First, from a deep need.

That is why people come to Christ. If you do not recognize your need for Him, you are not going to come. It is apparent that the man probably believed in the power of Jesus, but he probably was hesitant to express that belief. However, now that his daughter was dying, he came in desperation. Evidently, his motive was not very pure, he did not come because of his love for Jesus; he came because he was hurting deeply from emotional pain. His heart was crushed with grief. The people with a need come to Christ. That is why the poor, the sick, the weak, and the prisoners so often receive the gospel.

Second, from a determined faith

Even though his faith was inadequate and his motive was a little bit selfish, Jesus was still available to him. He really did believe that Jesus had the power to heal her and even raise her from the dead. That is a marvelous expression of faith rarely surpassed in the gospels.

The synagogue official’s faith compared to the centurion

The centurion had enough faith to believe that Jesus could heal his servant with a word. If that was the greatest example of faith that Jesus had seen in Israel, then what kind of faith was that which believed Jesus could raise a dead person to life? The faith of the synagogue official may have even surpassed that of the centurion.

Jesus’ response, He got up and began to follow Jairus.

By the time Jesus had arrived at the house, the girl was dead and a funeral service was in progress. The noisy racket was quite different from what we are used to in a funeral home within our culture. Three basic things went on at a Jewish funeral:

1. The Rending of Garments

Ripping one’s clothes was symbolic of one’s grief. The Talmud contained thirty-nine different rules and regulations on how to rip your clothes. For example, a person had to do it while he was standing up, and over or near his heart. The rip had to be big enough to stick a fist through, and it had to be left seven days. For the next thirty days, it could be loosely stitched and then afterwards, sewn permanently. In order that women not expose themselves in an indiscreet manner, they would rip their undergarment, wear it backwards, and then rip their outer garments in public.

2. The Wailing for the Dead

3. The Playing of Flutes

The third element in Jewish mourning was the use of musicians. The Talmud specifically called for flutes: “”The husband is bound to bury his dead wife and to make lamentations and mourning for her according to the custom of all countries. And also the very poorest among the Israelites will not allow her less than two flutes and one wailing woman; but, if he be rich, let all things be done according to his qualities.”

Jairus was probably well off and his house would be filled with flutes, people ripping their clothes, and mourners wailing incessantly.

Flute playing also accompanied mourning in the Roman world. Seneca wrote that there were so many flute players at the funeral of the Emperor Claudius that Claudius himself probably heard them.

When Jesus saw the musicians and heard the people making all that noise, He said, “Leave for the girl has not died, but is asleep” (Matthew 9:24). The implication was that Jesus would raise her from the dead, and that brought scornful laughter. Such abrupt laughter shows you that those wailing were paid mourners. They could cry for the child or laugh at Jesus in an instant. Their laughter was the hard laughter of mockery, as when a person laughs at someone they consider inferior. It is the kind of scornful laughter reserved for mocking a fool. In their eyes, only a fool would think he could raise her from the dead.

The Resurrection – But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up” (Matthew 9:25).

Luke tells us – “And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately; and He gave orders for something to be given her to eat” (Luke 8:55), proof that she was once dead and that Jesus had brought her back to life. Jesus did not have to touch the little girl with His hand. He could have just said a word to heal her, but it is the way of God to be tender and loving.

“This news spread throughout all that land” (Matthew 9:26).

“And the fame of this went abroad into all that land.”

You can imagine what people said about Him: “He has power over disease and sickness, and death.

The good news, Jesus Christ is the One who holds the keys of hell and death (Revelation 1:18). For that reason, we have no need to fear death. We should rejoice in death because Jesus has conquered it for us. He gives us hope. We should rejoice in death because Christ has conquered it for us.

Two things that will bring you to Jesus, one is a deep need, a sense of desperation over your condition; and the second is great faith. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you looked at your life and seen that it is less than what it ought to be? Is there a sense of desperation in your life because of a physical, emotional, or spiritual problem? If you have recognized your deep need, do you believe that Jesus Christ can meet it? Are you willing to fall into the loving arms of Jesus in spite of the often skeptical and ridiculing eyes of the world? If so, your faith will be rewarded, according to 1 Peter 5:6-7.

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