So declares the Lord Jesus regarding the little girl. He was not really denying that she was dead. But He was denying that death was the end. He was denying that the little girl was gone, never to return. She is asleep. Her Lord will wake her.
Mortal man wants to deny or mock these words of Christ. Mortal man wants to say to Jesus, "No, she is not asleep. She is dead."
The foolishness of human wisdom cannot see the greater truth of God. Man's foolishness calls the words of Christ "lies," and calls His work "myths." Human reason cannot accept that what we call death is really a slumber, and that the sleeper is easily awakened by Christ. Human reason is offended at Him.
But do not forget. Human reason is our reason as well - flawed and sinful and foolish. If we know any better, it is only because God has revealed something that our reason could never have reached. Even now, our sinful reason still resists the knowledge of God.
Human reason stands outside like those funeral mourners - playing dirges on their musical instruments, and weeping and wailing. To human reason, death is the end, and we say farewell to loved ones, once and for all. Christ has to push through human reason, saying, "Stand aside! Make room for Me!" He must break through against our human foolishness that resists Him in order to raise the corpse within.
Christ has also said, "Blessed is he who is not offended in Me." May our human reason never rise up to jeer at the true faith. May our foolishness never mock the Lord who promises life out of death.
"She sleeps," declares the Lord. He could as well have been speaking of the maiden who is the Church, the little girl who falls asleep in Him. The Church only slumbers for a little while in death, since her Lord will wake her.
The Church sleeps for the same reason that we sleep. The earthly sleep that we experience at night comes because of our weakness. The hard work of the day wearies us.
So the hard work of this life also tires us and drains us. We must eventually fall asleep in the slumber of death because of the weakness of our flesh. Our sin-filled lives cannot endure forever. Even redeemed by Christ, we must rest eventually.
If we were not redeemed by Christ and His Blood, then it would not be rest and slumber. Instead, it would be an eternity of suffering and death.
But Christ has conquered death for us and changed its effect for us. He has shattered the grave with His mighty work of Resurrection.
For Christ has not only redeemed the spirit, but also the body. The entire man has been saved in Christ, since Christ became fully human in both body and soul. So our bodies cannot remain in the earth forever, but must awaken.
How could we stay in the ground forever when we are united with Christ? He is our Head, and we are the members of His body. How could a head remain alive but the rest of the body be dead? That would be a strange, deformed body. But the Body of Christ is perfect in Him. Since the Head has escaped death on Easter, so shall we.
Likewise, the Holy Spirit has made us His temple. The Spirit will not allow His holy temple to lie ruined in ashes. No, He will rebuild you, His Temple, more magnificently than before, with light and glory unending.
Look also here at the altar. Here, Christians eat and drink the food of immortality. If we have eaten the life-giving Body of Christ with our physical mouths, then we cannot remain in the grave forever. Earthly food gives earthly strength and overcomes earthly weakness. But the food Christians eat gives eternal life and overcomes the weakness of sin and death. So those who eat faithfully this Body and Blood shall also be raised to live forever.
But as long as we sleep, we will rest in a peaceful state, free from all cares, difficulties, and misfortunes. That is what earthly sleep does for us. How much more the blessed rest of the saints! In the presence of Christ and the saints in heaven, we are free from the afflictions of this sin-filled world. We will be far from tribulations and the harsh pangs of this valley of the shadow of death. We will rest secure in Christ, as if we were in the most blissful slumber imaginable.
And as sleep refreshes the tired limbs, so that afterwards we return more gladly to work, so our sleep in death will refresh us. For our bodies shall wake from the grave, fresh and beautiful and full of strength and grace.
All this is the effect of the Cross. Christ crucified your flesh with all its sins and corruption. That old Adam shall be left behind, because the new Adam, your Savior Jesus, has triumphed on Calvary. You are cleansed in the bloody stream that flowed from His side.
No sin you could ever commit is too serious to be forgiven by the crimson flood. No crime can make you guilty when Christ and His Blood declare you innocent. Since you are declared not guilty, then no death sentence can fall upon you.
None of this is to deny that Death is indeed an evil, horrible ogre. Death itself is not good. But the Cross has turned the end result of death into good for you. Instead of torment, you will have peaceful slumber. Instead of unending death, you will receive life upon life.
So the Church waits for the day when her Husband Christ shall come to her side and awaken her with His kind, gentle Word. He shall call to her and say, "Awake, my beloved Bride." Then your body shall awaken from the slumber of death, no longer as a little girl in your infancy, but a glorious Bride on the day of her wedding. For that is the great Day when He shall take you by the hand and lead you into the eternal kingdom He has purchased with His Blood.
In His Name alone, with the Father and the Spirit, one God forever. Amen.
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