When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
When John Fogerty wrote and sang Commotion for Creedence Clearwater Revival back in 1969, he was describing a "noisy, restless" world, "full of chaos and damage," seeing "confusion, reckless energy, random movement and unhappiness" everywhere. And there was no one, including politicians or the church, providing "leadership or direction.”
Does any of that sound at all familiar? Commotion certainly is a word that describes our times. Our culture. Our lives. If you Google commotion, you’ll get more than 20 million hits. The dictionary defines commotion as a state of confused and noisy disturbance. Think back over your life this past week. Was there any confusion? Any noisy disturbances?
Commotion always, always, always comes with death. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known that it was coming. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve planned. When death comes, commotion comes with it.
When my mom died at 96, after a long, slow deterioration, it was no surprise. The same was true when my dad died at 101. We had planned well. We had all the paperwork in place. Everyone knew that it was coming. And yet, there was lots of commotion, disconnects, and tears.
Commotion is also what Jairus found when he arrived at home. The once peaceful, quiet house was filled with friends, neighbors, and complete strangers who were mourning the death of his daughter. There were also people who were there because that was their job. They were paid to mourn, so they had their wailing and grieving down to a science.
Jesus also found commotion when he arrived. People crying and loud howling. Their emotions and actions were out of control. The air was filled with shrieks of hysteria. The whole house was filled with deafening wailing and a panic that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
When Jesus’ sees and hears all this commotion, he responds. But he doesn’t respond like my family would. We’d yell and scream at one another. Never listening to anything that anyone said. You won in my house not by the wisdom or smarts of the argument, but the deafening screeching and selective use of certain words with sharp barks to inflict pain on everyone else.
No, Jesus starts with a question. And then he moves onto a statement of fact. He wants an explanation for all their over-the-top emotional crying. He explains that the child is not dead, she’s only asleep.
Now these people come right back at Jesus. They don’t mince their words; they verbally go right for his throat. They quickly shift gears from crying out loud with grief for the girl and her family, to laughing at and ridiculing Jesus.
After all, what did this Jesus know? He just walked in the door. How could he know anything about this girl? He didn’t see chocking, gasping her last breath. He didn’t see the color fade from her face. He didn’t feel her body start to cool down.
And this Jesus, this stranger, comes in, telling us what’s true and what’s not. Just who does he think he is? What right does he have to say these things when the family needs to grieve? What’s wrong with him, giving the family hope in a hopeless situation?
Have you ever been in a totally hopeless situation? Have the professionals told you that all is lost? Have the doctors told you that there is no hope? Have the financial advisors told you that your nest egg is gone? Have the computer geeks told you that your accounts have been hacked?
It’s hard enough to face the absolute end of the road. When the stabbing knives of hopelessness plunge into you again and again. But there is a deeper pain; getting laughed at when you respond in faith and hope.
Jesus faces the pain of death, not with logic or denial, but with himself and hope. He has always claimed to be God, and now he’s putting it all on the line. He’s telling the professional mourners that there’s nothing to mourn about. She’s not dead at all, only asleep.
All their crying, wailing, and screaming can’t wake her up. She can’t hear what their saying. But Jesus claims that he has the power to wake her up, that she’ll listen to him.
There will be times when your life is nothing but a commotion. When there seems to be nothing but confusion, frustration, and anger. This is the time that we’re out of options.
This is the time for Jesus. And only Jesus.