Mark 5:39

“Why this confusion and weeping?” he said on entering. “The little child is not dead; she is asleep.”


viewing circumstances differently
from those on the scene
seems strange to those on either side
how is it such contrary analyses
take root in lives
ignorance can be blamed
stupidity accounts for some
habits and practice enter in
hopes fears assumptions ever present

raising questions about other’s responses
raises hackles and defenses
already heightened emotional states
are inflamed by appeals to alternatives
sleep as death or death as sleep
works well in Metaphorland
when their Venn diagram comes apart
all the king’s men fail again
ever present relational fractures raise fists


Angels would fear to tread on the open wounds of the mourners. Yet, here is a bald statement of an alternative perspective: “Not dead; sleeping.”

From a reader’s position we can’t know whether Mark was asserting some special knowl­edge Jesus would have that she was not dead or theological claim that death does not have final dominion over her/our life. καθεύδει translates as “sleep”, no matter what sense Jesus meant.

Matthew (9:18) and Luke (8:53, 55) both indicate clearly that death has occurred. Mark is much more ambiguous.

Whether we are talking literal death or coma-like sleep, at issue is the good news measuring rod of being awake. This has overtone of Jewish prophets confronting rulers and societies. It also sounds a lot like further East traditions such as Buddhism where meditation and mindfulness are rigorous lest our monkey-minds blur our awareness and we sink into dozing and snoring.

To claim we are dealing with sleep masquerading as death is a minority report as “dead is dead” is familiar to us, no matter how we attempt to put it off through one technological trick or another. Even if we die while appearing healthy by all standard markers, we still are dead.

It may be that a part of becoming familiar with wilderness space is simply being able to ask, “What is all my internal commotion about? Will awakening to commotion’s presence assist in seeing through it? Does a reframing bring freedom or delusion?”

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