Raising the Dead

“Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking” Mark 5:41                                                                        

The Scriptures are saturated with accounts wherein God performs miracles through His Word.  That miracle-making Word can usually be recognized as a word of promise or a word of command.  Sometimes we observe a miracle that apparently has neither promise nor command, but such a miracle is at times linked directly to Christ Jesus, who is the Word made flesh.    

In Sunday’s Gospel there are at least two miracles created by God’s Word.  First, when the woman with the issue of blood was healed by touching the garment of Jesus, this miracle occurred because, as just stated, Jesus is God’s Word in the flesh. The miracle flowed from God’s Word. The second account of God’s miracle-making Word occurred when Jesus commanded Jairus’ dead daughter to rise to life, and the twelve year old dead girl miraculously obeyed!  Let us concentrate on this second miracle.

In the other two accounts wherein Jesus raised the dead, one observes the consistent employment of God’s miracle-making word—particularly a word of command.  To the dead youth at Nain Jesus commanded, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak [Lu 7:14-15].  To the dead and entombed Lazarus, who had been dead four days, Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out… [Jn 11:43-44]. Additionally when the Lord Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, He will raise the dead by commanding them to live: … an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his [the Son of Man’s] voice and come out [Jn 5:28f].  Those whose literal tombs we have lost because they are now but dust and ashes, those who were entombed as martyrs in the stomachs of vicious beasts, those martyrs rendered to ashes and thus entombed at the stake where they burned, indeed all the dead from Abel onward will be raised by the command of Jesus.

If we seek further explanation (though none is needed) as to how this miracle transpires, realize that the Holy Spirit—rightly confessed to be the Lord and Giver of life—uses the Word as His vehicle.  Jesus explained: It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life [Jn 6:63]. Thus when our Lord commands the dead to live, the Holy Spirit, as Lord and Giver of life, brings the dead to life.  Further elucidating this thought the Apostle Paul explains, If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you [Rom 8:11-12].  In Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones, observe again the dead rising to life by the Spirit-empowered Word of God.  So, as commanded by God, Ezekiel spoke (prophesied) to the dry bones: So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army… And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live [Ez 37:10, 13]. 

The same miracle has already happened to every Christian! We each were conceived and born spiritually dead.  Saint Paul explains, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walkedBut God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ [Ep 2:1-2, 4-5]. Once again the Holy Spirit working through the Word of Christ gives life to the dead.  Thus Baptism—explained to be the washing of water with the Word [Ep 5:26]—is that miracle-making Word by which the Holy Spirit makes us alive in Christ. Through this Sacrament people are reborn, made alive together with Christ. Ultimately all miraculous “resurrections” flow from the loftiest such miracle—the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is the life-giving message supporting all of God’s Word.