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Sunday, April 08, 2012

George MacDonald on a miracle of resurrection

But what did our Lord mean by those words--"The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth"? Not certainly that, as we regard the difference between death and sleep, his words were to be taken literally; not that she was only
in a state of coma or lethargy; not even that it was a case of suspended animation as in catalepsy; for the whole narrative evidently intends us to believe that she was dead after the fashion we call death. That this was not to be dead after the fashion our Lord called death, is a blessed and lovely fact.

Neither can it mean, that she was not dead as others, in that he was going to wake her so soon; for they did not know that, and therefore it could give no ground for the expostulation, "Why make ye this ado, and weep?"

Nor yet could it come only from the fact that to his eyes death and sleep were so alike, the one needing the power of God for awaking just as much as the other. True they must be more alike in his eyes than even in the eyes of the many poets who have written of "Death and his brother Sleep;" but he sees the differences none the less clearly, and how they look to us, and his knowledge could be no reason for reproaching our
ignorance. The explanation seems to me large and simple. These people professed to believe in the resurrection of the dead, and did believe after some feeble fashion. They were not Sadducees, for they were the friends of a ruler of the synagogue. Our Lord did not bring the news of resurrection to the world: that had been believed, in varying degrees, by all peoples and nations from the first: the resurrection he taught was a far deeper thing--the resurrection from dead works to serve the living and true God. But as with the greater number even of Christians, although it was part of their creed, and had some influence upon their moral and spiritual condition, their practical faith in the resurrection of the body was a poor affair. In the moment of loss and grief, they thought little about it. They lived then in the present almost alone; they were not saved by hope. The reproach therefore of our Lord was simply that they did not take from their own creed the consolation they ought. If the child was to be one day restored to them, then she was not dead as their tears and lamentations would imply. Any one of themselves who believed in God and the prophets, might have stood up and said--"Mourners, why make such ado? The maid is not dead, but sleepeth. You shall again clasp her to your bosom. Hope, and fear not--only believe." It was in this sense, I think, that our Lord spoke. - George MacDonald, Miracles of our Lord, public domain. MacDonald was commenting on Mathew 9:18-26.

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