She is not Dead, but Sleepeth
Once, a ruler of a synagogue named Jairus (Luke 8:41) came wanting Jesus to heal his twelve-year-old daughter because she was sick to the point of death. Along the way, people surrounded Jesus, including a woman who touched His garment to be healed of an issue of blood. While Jesus was talking with her, a messenger came and told Jairus that his daughter had died and that there was no reason to bother Jesus any further (Mark 5:35). Jesus, knowing what was taking place, encouraged the man’s faith and went to his house with Peter, James and John. Minstrels playing and people making much noise filled the house (Matt. 9:23). Then, Jesus said, “Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth” (Luke 8:52). When the crowd ridiculed Him with laughter, He put them out, went into the room where the girl was lying (Mark 5:40), and said in the Palestinian language, “Maid, arise” (Luke 8:54). Through inspiration, Luke records that “her spirit came again, and she arose straightway” (Luke 8:55).
As much as we do not like to think about it, we are all going to die (unless Jesus returns first). Solomon said, “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death” (Eccles. 8:8). Death is passed to all (Rom. 5:12), and each of us has an appointment with it (Heb. 9:27).
What is death? James lets us know: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (2:26). When the body dies, the spirit goes back to God (Eccles. 12:7). Therefore, Jairus’ daughter was dead.
Jesus returned her spirit to her, so she came back to life. Yet, He said that she was not dead, but sleeping. In other words, Jesus was saying she was not to be regarded as dead, but as if she was sleeping. He said the same thing about Lazarus (John 11:11-14), trying to explain death to His disciples.
Many passages call death a sleep. The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (Deut. 31:16). Job said, “…for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be” (Job 7:21). Paul said to the Corinthian brethren that “some are fallen asleep” who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6). He even comforted the Thessalonians by writing,
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13)
What the household of Jairus and others could not understand is that death is as sleep since Jesus is the conqueror of death. Prophets foretold it (Isa. 25:8; Ps. 16:10). He submitted to death for our sakes (1 Cor. 15:4), yet conquered it through His resurrection (Rom. 1:4). He possesses the keys of death (Rev. 1:18), and will destroy it in the end (1 Cor. 15:25-26).
Because of these things, the righteous especially has no need to fear of death (Ps. 23:4), being as sleep. The death of the righteous is precious (Ps. 116:15). “[The] righteous hath hope in his death” (Prov. 14:32). Through inspiration, Balaam said to Balak, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like this!” (Num. 23:10). It is one of triumph (Luke 16:22), great gain (Phil. 1:21), and a blessing (Rev. 14:13) brightened by faith (Heb. 11:13). Death is as sleep, but comes soundly to the souls of the Lord’s righteous ones.