Jesus Raises the Dead – Matthew 9:18-26

In Matthew 9:18-26 Jesus raises a young girl from the dead and heals a woman with a flow of blood. These miracle stories immediately follow Jesus’s response to the Pharisees and Disciples of John who question his practice of eating with “sinners” like the tax collector Matthew. In fact, these two miracles illustrate Jesus’s teaching that it is not the time for mourning, but celebrating.

Raising Jairus's Daughter (Ilya Repin; 1871)

As expected, Matthew greatly reduces Mark 5:21-43. Luke 8:40-56 is also shorter than Mark, but many of the details dropped in Matthew remain. The child is dying in Mark 5:23, but in Matthew 9:18 she has just died. Matthew drops the name of the man and simplifies his title. With respect to the woman, Matthew reduces the description by omitting what she had spent on doctors. She does not touch Jesus, he speaks to her when he sees her. This allows Matthew to omit the troubling line about Jesus feeling his power go out if him and the question “who touched me?” Since the daughter is already dead, no one tells the man his daughter just died, and mourners are reduced. He does not take Peter, James and John into the room with him, nor does he speak to the girl (the Aramaic words are dropped) and he does not give strict orders not to talk about the miracle or tell her parents to give her something to eat. Mark reports the girl is twelve years old; Luke includes this detail but moves it to the request for healing.

John Nolland thinks this is the first of three miracles illustrating the three metaphors in the previous section (Matthew, 394). Jesus does not mourn at funerals; he raises the dead (taking the two women in 9:18-26 as both dead women). The next two (healing the blind and casting out a demon) are less clearly connected to the patch and new wine metaphors.

Going back to 9:6, Jesus healed the paralyzed man so that the teachers of the Law would know he has authority to forgive sin. This is followed by calling Matthew as a disciple and sharing a meal in Matthew’s home. That meal generates two more reactions, first from the Pharisees and then from the disciples of John. To the Pharisees Jesus says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” and to the disciples of John he response with three metaphors (a bridegroom, patched clothing, and new wine in old wineskins).

In Matthew 9:18-19, A man asks Jesus to raise his daughter. The man is identified as a ruler (ἄρχων), in Mark 5:23 he is a synagogue ruler (ἀρχισυνάγωγος in Mark, ἄρχων τῆς συναγωγῆς in Luke). In Mark and Luke his name is given as Jarius.

A synagogue ruler is the person in charge of the daily operation of a synagogue. He is not a priest or a rabbi. In Matthew, Jesus has not left Capernaum (8:5 he enters Capernaum and in 8:14 he went to Peter’s house and he is in “the house” in 9:1 where he forgives the paralytic’s sin), so the man is in charge of the synagogue in Capernaum. Undoubtedly this leader knew Jesus and perhaps witnessed his healing of the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). He would certainly have known Jesus’s reputation as a healer and exercised.

In this case it is remarkable because the man is the leader of the synagogue, usually the religious establishment is somehow against Jesus. It is possible however the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum was not part of the religious aristocracy or a Pharisee. Think of him as a custodian of a small country church. It is unlikely denominational leaders will know hm at all. This may explain Matthew’s reduction of his title from synagogue leader to just a leader, with no reference to the synagogue. Although an archon could be a lord or prince, it can refer to anyone who has some administrative authority.

The man knelt before Jesus and says his daughter has just died. He expresses faith that if Jesus is able to lay his hand upon her, she will live. Kneeling (προσκυνέω) is often associated with worship. In Matthew the verb appears 13 times, three times in the story of the wise men, who worship Jesus as a child; twice in the temptation story. In 14:33 the disciples worship Jesus after he walks on water and calms the sea. The word appears twice in Matthew 28:9, 17 for people who realize Jesus has been raised from the dead and they worship him.  In every other case Matthew uses the word to describe someone who coming to Jesus with a special request (healing, in 9:2, 9:18; a servant in a parable, 18:26; James and John’s mother, 20:20).

The man expresses remarkable faith. In Matthew, the people who express faith in Jesus are usually outsiders (lepers, centurions, unclean women). This is another hint the man is not from a high social status.

By the time Jesus arrives at the ruler’s home, the professional mourners have already arrived: flute players and the crowd making a commotion (Matthew 9:23-26). The verb θορυβέω refers to making a fuss, shouting or other chaotic activity. The place is in an uproar!

As the leader of the synagogue, he would have been expected to hire several professional mourners to wail and sing appropriate laments. Matthew mentions flute players (αὐλητής), this refers to reed-flutes typically used for mourning the dead.

Jeremiah 48:36 describes the mournful sound of flutes played for the dead. Josephus mentions professional mourners with flutes or pipes: “a great many hired mourners, with their pipes, who should begin the melancholy ditties for them” (JW 3.437). Rabbi Judah said, “Even the poorest man in Israel should not hire fewer than two flutes and one professional wailing woman” (m.Ketuboth 4:4).

The mourners mock Jesus when he tells them she is not dead, but only sleeping (v. 24). These mourners know their business, and the girl is clearly dead. When Jesus declares that she is not dead but rather only sleeping these mourners laugh at Jesus!  Jesus is telling them their behavior is not appropriate because she is not dead (like a mourner at a wedding in 9:15).

The resurrection is simple: Jesus takes the girl’s hand and she got up (v. 25). Mark includes the Aramaic phrase Talitha cumi, meaning “little girl, rise up.” Since the Pharisees suspect Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the Devil (Matt 9:34), the Aramaic could have been dropped so that Jesus does not appear to be using a “magic word.”

As with other miracles in Matthew 8-9, it is impossible to keep this quiet. News spread throughout the region that Jesus had raised a girl form the dead.

6 thoughts on “Jesus Raises the Dead – Matthew 9:18-26

  1. I like Jesus’ humor in this passage. He tells them, “Why are you mourners all here? She is just sleeping!” In response they laugh at him. I can only imagine the embarrassment or amazement they felt once they saw the girl was alive. On the way to raise this young girl from the dead, Jesus heals a woman who grabs his garment as He passes by. While this is only mentioned in a few verses I think it adds more significance to the passage. Even though Jesus has a mission, He does not turn this woman away. He takes the time, even though it was quick, and heals her. He tells her in Matthew 9:22, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” Jesus took the time to acknowledge her. Ultimately it was her faith in Him and his healing abilities that had healed her. This blog post mentions how the dying girl’s father is a leader of the synagogue and how usually they are against Jesus. Therefore, asking Jesus for healing must have taken a lot of courage if he knew his fellow leaders would disapprove of this. Perhaps he himself was even warry of asking for help which is why his daughter was dying when he found Jesus. However, this man did have faith that Jesus would be able to heal her. Perhaps this event changed other leaders perspectives of Jesus as well.

  2. I think that the point that the religious leader and normally religious leaders are against Jesus is great. He took that step of faith aside from his colleagues likely beliefs. I think it is humorous that Jesus simply was telling the people that she was just sleeping. I find it admirable and encouraging for myself that I need to be more like them and show such strong faith. I sometimes lack showing strong faith and am more hiding with it because I do not feel that I have enough knowledge or am afraid of the outcomes. Which is not what we as believers are called to do at all. I think Matthew 9:22 says a lot more than the literal, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” Her faith alone made her well. This in my opinion has a relation to Romans 5:1 which states, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” These both are relating because of faith alone justified/healing them. It is one of the if not the most important part of our faith to really have the faith to take the steps necessary and go up to Him as the father did with his daughter and ask to be healed. We daily are given the chance to go to Him and ask daily for forgiveness or “healing.”

  3. There is a common theme when it comes to Jesus’ miracles and it is also shown in this miracle. It doesn’t matter the miracle people hardly ever believe that Jesus is. “When Jesus declares that she is not dead but rather only sleeping these mourners laugh at Jesus! Jesus is telling them their behavior is not appropriate because she is not dead.” (Long) This goes to show the disbelief the people had that it was even possible. I think it is interesting that Jesus responded in a way that he was using humor in the way he said why are you mourning she is just sleeping because Jesus knew that she would be alive again because he was going to heal her. I think this miracle is just another way for Jesus to show people who He is and that He is the son of God.

  4. I really liked this blog post especially because of the professional mourners who mocked Jesus and did not have faith in His ability to raise the little girl from the dead. “When Jesus declares that she is not dead but rather only sleeping, these mourners laugh at Jesus! Jesus is telling them their behavior is not appropriate because she is not dead” (P.Long). I really feel bad for those who do not have faith in Jesus, even after hearing all of the miracles that He has already done and after hearing about all the people He has saved no matter if they were unaware of who Jesus was or if they were already against His practices. This blog post is very powerful also because if Jesus sees that one truly has faith in His abilities and when He sees that one truly needs Him, He will perform great miracles and will always deliver. One statement that P.Long mentions throughout this blog post is how kneeling is a huge characteristic of faith and that is exactly what the Synagogue leader did when he informed Jesus of his dead daughter. “The man expresses remarkable faith. In Matthew, the people who express faith in Jesus are usually outsiders (lepers, centurions, unclean women). This is another hint the man is not from a high social status” (P.Long). This stuck out to me a lot because when one is kneeling before something they are either in deep sorrow that literally brought them to their knees, or they are worshiping something; and for the man to have that much faith in Jesus is extremely moving and important to understand.

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