Why are you sleeping?
Mark 5:21-43

In the movie “Finding Nemo” there’s a scene where Nemo, is in a fish tank with a group of friends in a dentist’s office.  He knows that the dentist’s niece Darla is about to come and take him as a pet.  At the start of the clip Nemo’s friends were trying to save him from being caught in the net, then when he was in the plastic bag, he tried to save himself.  When that doesn’t work he tries to fake his death by floating ‘belly up’. 

Then Nemo’s father arrives in the beak of a pelican and he tries to save him.  During all of this the young girl obviously doesn’t understand the concept of death and tries to shake him awake!  That’s where we hear the line “Fishy, wake up, why are you sleeping?”  She obviously has no concept of death, and thinks that a ‘belly up’ fish is just sleeping. 

Ultimately one of Nemo’s friends saves him, but in the unorthodox way of sending him down the drain and into the ocean.  When I was thinking about what Jesus said to the mourners at Jairus’ house, “The child is not dead but only sleeping”, the line from the girl Darla in the movie kept coming back to me, over and over again.  The overarching theme of Finding Nemo is that his Father comes to rescue him from the humans, and return him to his home in the sea.  He is saved.

The twelve year old daughter of Jairus is saved too, we don’t find out her name but we do see Jesus ‘save’ her from death.  Her father had been trying to save her too, but without success.  As a ruler of the synagogue you could imagine that he had tried everything in his power to bring her healing.  Yet here he was, coming to Jesus and asking that he might lay hands on his daughter so that she might be made well and live. 

Jesus had just returned from across the lake, where he had driven a legion of demons out of a man, surely this would have made Jesus ritually unclean?  Then a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years touches Jesus’ clothes, which would also have made him unclean, but he still goes to lay hands on the girl to heal her.

They are met by the crowd of mourners who tell Jesus he’s wasting his time, it’s too late.  The girl has already died.  But as we know Jesus isn’t fazed by this. He sent out the crowd and went in to the daughter’s room with the Father, Mother and Peter, James and John.  He simply took her by the hand and she stood up and walked and Jesus told her parents to give her something to eat.

She walked and she ate, she must surely be fully alive!

All of this happened in a faith community which did not believe in resurrection from the dead.  Jesus has shown in this case that he has power over death, that even though she was dead, with resurrection from the dead, death is like being asleep for a time.

There has been much argument throughout the centuries since this miracle occurred as to whether the girl was actually dead or simply in a deep sleep.  I take the line that if all of those mourners had gathered, and were weeping and wailing, they had made certain that she was not just sleeping.  They’d had time to gather and then go out to meet Jairus to tell him of the sad news about his daughter.  This was a victory over death itself.

Jesus came to win victory over sin, death and the devil.  In today’s reading we see that victory over death.  In the reading that precedes this one, he won victory over the devil as he cast that legion of demons out of a man.  In his crucifixion and resurrection he won victory for all of us over sin and in doing so won once and for all the victory over death.

Death is all around us, we can’t escape hearing about it.  Just in case by some miracle you hadn’t heard, Michael Jackson died on Friday.  He was a man who’d had it all and blown it all from an earthly perspective.  Yet he has been overcome by death, and Farah Fawcett went the same day.  The whole world is mourning their deaths.  Are they dead, or are they only sleeping?

To be truthful, we can’t be sure.  In my way of thinking, those who fall asleep in the Lord will one day waken in the day of his return and like Jairus’ daughter, will walk and talk and eat again.  Those who don’t know and believe in the Lord will fall asleep and never wake.

Is this why so many of us fear death, because we aren’t sure whether our faith is strong enough or that we’ve done enough in our lives to be raised again by Christ?  When you see the incredible faith of Jairus or the woman who touched Jesus’ clothes for healing, do you compare your own faith and think you fall short?

Don’t be afraid, just believe! 

Our Father in heaven sent his Son to seek out the lost, to come and find us.  He has found us and claimed us.  This should have taken away our doubts and fears, but from time to time the net of sin comes and tries to wrench us away from him.  For some people that trap is successful and they find themselves wrapped tightly in plastic, struggling to break free.

We might even be like Darla, shaking their plastic bag saying “Wake up, why are you sleeping?”  As they look like they are going to go belly up and be lost forever.  What if we aren’t there for them to give them a shake and speak the gospel to them again, or even for the first time?

Our mission is urgent, we are called to go with the help of the Father to seek out the lost, to take them by the hand and speak the good news of salvation into their lives, so that they too might rise from the dead and receive salvation.

Amen.