Dead people don’t eat

Mark 5:25-43 tells the story of how Jesus healed the daughter of the leader of the synagogue, a man named Jairus.  The people had already pronounced her dead by the time Jesus arrived, but that did not stop the Lord.  He told her to rise up, and she did.  The text describes the people as being “completely astonished” — a reaction that astonishes none of us.  We would be astonished as well.

The healing itself is remarkable on its own, of course.  However, I have always found it interesting that Jesus asked specifically that she be given something to eat immediately afterward.  Luke 8:55 records it as well.  I have always assumed it was basically medicinal — that is, being healed did not assure the girl of health; she likely had been some time without food, and she needed to replenish her body’s supply of nutrients.  I still think that.

But maybe there is something else.  I thought about it when I read the account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples in Luke 24:36-43.  They initially thought He was “a spirit,” but He showed them His hands and feet (and presumably the scars on them, as emphasized in John 20:25).  Truly, this was the Lord in the flesh.  Immediately afterward, though, He asked for and received a bit of food to eat in their presence.  The implication is that this is another sign of life.  Dead people don’t eat.

Perhaps giving food to Jairus’ daughter was also a way of encouraging her parents, who had given up hope of ever seeing their daughter alive again.  Showing that she was able and willing to eat testified that their daughter truly had been restored to them.  Her regular course of life would resume — including eating.

When I think of food in a New Testament context, I cannot help but think of Jesus as “the bread of life” (John 6:35).  We give thanks to God that He came into our lives and brought us back from the dead.  No matter how bleak our state may have been, the power in His word (Romans 1:16) is sufficient to forgive us of our sins and put us in a state of grace with our heavenly Father.

But afterward, we still need food.  Living people do eat.

It is news to no one that we have been emphasizing Bible reading this year — emphasizing it even more than usual, I mean.  We eat to live — but more than that, we eat because we are alive.  Our calling requires activity from us.  We will be asked to exert ourselves, sometimes beyond what we are comfortable with.  Our spirit needs fuel for such occasions, just like our body does.  So we consume the word of God.  We consume it in earnest.  Old Testament, New Testament, poetry, history, prophecy — we take freely of all of it.  You never know what the next day may bring, and we need to be prepared for it.

On the other hand, I have found it to be a universal truth that people with “dead” faith don’t read their Bibles regularly.  In fact, generally they do not read them at all.  And it’s tragic, as we serve the Master who has control over life and death.  A dead or dying soul need not be so.  The dead are raised in Jesus.  But it doesn’t happen by accident.  It only happens when someone deliberately partakes of Jesus, internalizing His words and incorporating them entirely; much as the soil receives the seed, so we “receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).  And it need not be a commitment of hours upon hours, either; the nutritional content of a physical meal has very little to do with the amount of time spent at the table.  True, someone could simply glance at the page for five seconds and “call it a day” — we wouldn’t want that sort of “Bible reading” to suffice.  But five minutes a day digging into a short psalm or a chapter of text can make all the difference; so can 15 or 20 minutes in traffic listening to the Bible being read or hearing a sermon or Bible-themed podcast.

If we could be convinced that eating kale every day would absolutely prevent cancer, we would all eat kale.  We might even come to enjoy it.  Well, reading the Bible every day will not, unfortunately, absolutely guarantee a heavenly home.  But there’s no way it won’t help.  

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