2018-9-02 Jesus’ Absolute Authority over Physical Death

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          September 2, 2018

“Jesus’ Absolute Authority over Physical Death”
Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

How good it is to know that, in a world of competing and shifting authorities, that Jesus has absolute authority over all things.  We have seen over the last few weeks that Jesus exercises absolute authority over human will, evil, sickness, and natural phenomena.  Today we see Jesus’ most decisive authority of all—His absolute authority over physical death.  Let us hear once again in this place this glorious Word of life from God’s good hand.


On the day prior to the events narrated in today’s text, Jesus taught at length by day (4:1-34) and stilled the storm by night (4:35-41).  Already on this day He has driven a legion of demons out of the man of the tombs (5:1-20).  Now a synagogue ruler, Jairus, implores Him to come to his house.  His twelve-year-old daughter is sick unto death, and He beseeches Jesus to come, so that He may touch her—in order that she may be healed (Greek sodzo [swzw], which also may be translated saved or rescued).  Jesus, upon hearing Jairus’ plea, departs with him for his home.

Yet there are hindrances—which Jesus, in His perfect wisdom, permits.  First, a crowd, pressing close, allows but slow forward movement.  Time appears to be of the essence for this ailing girl, but Jesus allows the crowd to impede His progress toward her.  Second, a woman with issue of blood touches His garment and is healed of her condition (25-34).  It takes more time for the woman to touch Him, for Jesus to inquire why virtue went out of Him, for the woman to explain, and for Jesus to affirm her healing.  At last, hindrance of movement appears to ease—but another hindrance, apparently without solution, now presents itself. The daughter has died.

Jairus’ informants apparently missed pastoral care class at seminary.  They declare starkly, “Your daughter died.  Why yet trouble you the Teacher?”  What horrible news, delivered in such callous fashion, reaches Jairus’ ears.  Yet Jesus, the incarnate God of all comfort (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3), speaks into Jairus’ soul, “Fear not; only believe.”  The throng formerly impeding Jesus now must cease impeding—for only Peter, James and John may accompany Jairus and Him to Jairus’ house.  Now, with human impediment now removed, the small company heads to the house of mourning.

The small company likely hears long before it sees.  The mourners mourn to the hilt—with clamor (or riot), weeping, and wailing (or loud crying).  In the culture of that time and place, some at Jairus’ house would perform and lead acts of mourning in a professional way—often with demonstrative flair.[1]  Others, doubtless such as Jairus’ wife—the dead girl’s mother—mourn sincerely.  Jesus, upon arrival, declares to them that the girl is not dead, but sleeps—but the mourning throng, upon hearing this, laugh Him to scorn.  At this Jesus casts out all save six: Jairus, his wife, Peter, James, John—and Jesus.  Now Jesus, in this case, goes to work on this miracle of resurrection.

They move to where the child lies.  Then Jesus speaks to the girl in Aramaic, a late Biblical Hebrew dialect and their heart language, “Talitha koum” (which, when translated, means something like, “[Little] Girl, I say to you, rise thou.”).  Then the glorious remarkable occurs.  She rises and walks.  She clearly is raised from death to life.  Moreover, she shows no ill effect either from her dire sickness or from her moments or hours of physical death.  This twelve-year-old girl moves about her room as if nothing adverse had ever happened.  The formerly scoffing crowds now stands with collective mouth agape—overwhelmed by their astonishment.  Jesus commands their silence (as if they could speak just now)—and, ever the kind pragmatist, He commands that the risen girl be given something to eat.

There can be no mistake; therefore, make no mistake: Jesus has absolute authority over physical death.  We see this today incontrovertibly, but this is no isolated case.  Luke, led by the Holy Spirit, raised the widow of Nain’s son as the pallbearers bore His body to the cemetery (Luke 7:11-19).  Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44) garnered the widest proclamation—and it moved the opposing religious elite to seek to remove Jesus by any means.  There is more along this line in Scripture, however.

Some in Scripture received power from God to raise the dead—yet all such power and authority comes ultimately from Him.  Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:18-25), while Elisha, his prophetic successor, raised the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37).  Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-42), and Paul did the same for Eutychus (Acts 20:7-10).  Above all of these, of course, is Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead.  He through whom death entered the world, the devil himself, is defeated utterly in the resurrection of Jesus—for His death atones for the sin of every elect soul, and His risen life is the guarantee of eternal life for every one appointed to it through faith in Him.

Just moments before Jesus raised Lazarus, He declared to a grieving Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life.  He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he life; and he that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.  Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).  Martha responded gloriously, even through grief, “Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Son of God, which was to come into the world” (John 11:27).  Jesus’ question to Martha hangs down through the ages to us, and each of us must address it as well: “Believest thou this?”

Let us believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior without delay, if we have not done so before now, or let us continue to believe on Him if we did so at some earlier time.  Then let us both praise His glorious Name and rest in this unshakable promise of resurrection and eternal life to those trusting in Him.  AMEN.

[1] For examples see Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883).