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In which Jesus is interrupted by a healing on his way to performing a miracle.

Luke 8:52-56
52 And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
54 And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.
56 And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done. KJV

This scene is almost comical. Jairus came to Jesus in desperation. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Him to heal his daughter. She was his only child and she was on her death bed. The Master agreed to go with him to his house, but along the way, a woman grabbed the corner of His garment. This pulls Jesus up short. “Who touched me,” He asks. The comedy has begun. They are being thronged and pressed by the crowd and Jesus wants to know who touched Him. “Easier to say who didn’t touch You, Lord,” His disciples seem to reply.

I think we lose sight of how wonderfully odd Jesus must have seemed to His companions. We are too used to being in on the joke. We get to see the story from the outside. We know the woman with the issue of blood touched Him. When Peter says, “Master, the multitudes throng and press you, and you say, ‘Who touched me?’”[1] we wonder why he doesn’t get it. “Come on, Peter,” we want to say, “get with the program. You’re walking with Jesus, remember?”

To get a fuller impact of the narrative, I think we should take a little of our own advice and take a walk with Jesus. We need to get on the dusty ground with the rest of the disciples and envision the scene as they saw it. I think when we do, we will begin to understand why Jesus so amazed and confounded His contemporaries (something He continues to do). Absent a wider perspective, many of His actions and pronouncements seem not just odd, but even bizarre at times.

A miracle has happened. A woman who has been sick for many years is healed by simply grabbing a hold of the Master’s clothes.[2]  In the middle of all this commotion, a messenger reaches Jairus and tells him not to bother with the Master any longer. It is too late. The child is dead. But Jesus does not allow the message go unanswered. “Fear not,” He says, “Believe only and she shall be made whole.” What went through the synagogue ruler’s mind at that moment? “I know you healed the woman, but she’s alive. How can you make my dead daughter whole?” Perhaps, maybe—whatever he was thinking, Scripture is silent. But he did take Jesus to his house.

And it’s pandemonium. People are wailing and crying. Minstrels are playing mournful tunes. “She’s gone … she’s dead … she’s passed … she has forsaken us … she was so young … she’s dead … she’s dead … she’s dead!”

“QUITE! Stop crying and get away from her bed,” Jesus says, “That child’s not dead. She’s asleep!” And they laughed Him to scorn.

Of course, if you are on the ground right there in the mix of the action, you can appreciate why. This is like His question “Who touched me?” in the middle of the thronging crowd. The mourners were making nearly enough noise to wake the dead. No way could she have slept through that! So Jesus does the only logical thing he can. He puts them all out of the room, and then He wakes the girl up. “Little girl,” He says, “get up.” And she does. She was asleep after all. Jesus proved it by waking her.

The Lord doesn’t use language haphazardly. As odd or bizarre as His statements may seem, they are true statements. When He says that a dead person is sleeping, He is not denying the reality of the corpse. He is simply defining the state of its dormancy. And He is using a very profound analogy. But before we look at that, we need to discuss the concept of soul sleep.

Soul Sleep and Time Skipping

Soul sleep is a doctrine regarding the state of the dead that has been around for much of the history of the Christian Church. In its nearly two thousand years, the greater portion of Christendom has not held this doctrine in high regard. It is even possible that the reader has never heard of it until now. But I am compelled to deal with it because there are denominations that hold to it and I personally was indoctrinated into this belief during a formidable part of my Christian life.

What is soul sleep? It is the belief that when a person dies physically, consciousness ceases to exist. For the person who has died, their next conscious experience is the Resurrection. Because there has been no consciousness in the grave, for the departed saint there is no knowledge or sensation of the passage of time. For the saint, the time of death is the time of the resurrection, for their soul has been asleep.

There are several problems with this doctrine, not the least of which is that of turning a beautiful Scriptural symbol on its head. “Just as in sleep there is no consciousness,” runs the dogma, “so in death there is no thought.” Such a statement can be proven false by simple experience. Have you ever had a dream? Would you consider that experience as having contained no thought or sensation of the passage of time? Of course not. It is precisely because we have consciousness in sleep that the Lord used it as a metaphor for death.

Another problem with this doctrine (and its cousin, which I call time skipping) is its inherent idea that the physical brain is what is actually (or at least primarily) responsible for thought. This is nothing more than a mechanistic and materialistic philosophy with regard to personal identity rearing its ugly head. In essence, it says thoughts cease once the brain stops functioning. The question that needs to be asked is whether the brain gives birth to thoughts or are thoughts borne (as in brought) to the brain by something higher? Is it the brain, or is it the mind? If I say that I can have no consciousness aside from having a brain, I am at least in part saying that the brain is responsible for my thoughts. And that is in part to deny the function of the spirit of man or his soul.

I call time skipping a cousin of soul sleep because on this side of the veil, it leaves the departed saint in the same condition: unaware and waiting. The experience of the saint in time skipping is exactly the same as that of the saint in soul sleep: they die and are immediately resurrected.

What do I mean by time skipping? This is the idea that time and eternity are two entirely different things and that never the twain shall meet. In this paradigm, eternity is completely outside of time and indeed has no time signature within it. Its proponents[3] speculate that the moment one dies, one passes into eternity. Since there is no time in eternity (eternity being outside time and higher than it), everybody gets there at once.

This position assumes that eternity is a fully comprehensive “Now” that obliterates the typically held past, present, and future of chronological order. Even if we dispense with time in that classic sense, we still see in Scripture a sequential order of events within the eternal framework that seems to militate against everything happening at once.[4]

Revelation 6:9-10
9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

The souls under the altar are dead. They were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. Here we have a clear case of disembodied souls who are not resurrected and who are experiencing some form of sequential awareness for they say, “How long, O Lord?”

One does not jump into eternity upon death. One enters eternity on the day of one’s conception!

[1] Luke 8:45, NKJV.
[2] See also Mark 6:56 and Mal. 4:2.
[3] Proponents of this theory do not refer to it as time skipping. The term is one I coined to give the idea a handle.
[4] We looked at this in the post “Timeless Eternity, Where Everything Happens at Once.”