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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Child is Asleep

(Update on 4/1/12: an “April Fool’s” and Holy Week variation of some of these ideas has been blogged today, April Fool’s and Palm Sunday, at the Christian Mystics site )

The Child is Asleep

And one of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up,
and upon seeing Him, fell at His feet,
and entreated Him earnestly, saying,
“My little daughter is at the point of death;
please come and lay Your hands on her,
that she may live”
(Mark 5:22-23)

            The symbolism may have been too obvious and far too controversial in the wake of the destruction of the Temple had the gospel writer chosen a Temple official for the worried father of the sick daughter in Mark 5.  Hence, a synagogue official provided a nice substitute.  Perhaps this following interpretation is already well-understood by the mystics, but I have never before heard it, so bear with my own discovery of the synagogue official as potentially representing the Jewish religion, and his “daughter,” who was “at the point of death” (Mk 5:23) as representing the Temple.  True to form, the “daughter” apparently dies, but Jesus tells the father, “Be not afraid, only believe” (vs. 36).  When Jesus finds the people in “commotion,” “weeping” and “wailing,” he asks why they are making such a raucous and says, “The child has not died, but is asleep” (vs. 39).  In secret, he then raises the child to life and she begins to walk (vss. 41-42).  The few witnesses of the event (the parents and three disciples) “were completely astounded” (v. 42). 

Perhaps even more astounding is what he tells them: “He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this” (vs. 43).  Generally, we read this verse to mean that “no one should know” that the little girl was not yet dead.  What if, instead, we read it that “no one should know” she was raised to life?  In other words, according to the weeping and wailing people outside, she was still dead!  In this mystic reading, the weeping masses never discover that she had been raised.

            Even today, the commotion surrounding this daughter, the Temple, continues with very literal “wailing” at the “Wailing Wall.”  By contrast, even orthodox Christians have adopted the mystical interpretation of the Temple as “raised” within us, the followers of Christ.

            Meanwhile, Jesus foresaw a time of “sleep” for the new Temple he was raising among his own followers.  In the parable of the ten virgins, in fact, “all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Matt 25:5; emphasis added) – even, then, the “wise” ones.

            While the destruction of the literal Temple in Jerusalem was a great blow to the Jewish religion, Christianity is beginning to suffer its own blows.  When ancient texts, such as the Nag Hammadi scriptures and the Dead Sea Scrolls, are propping up and providing a counter-narrative to our Christian history, the orthodox feel an earthquake.  And when an age arises when such texts are readily available to the world for free, the orthodox feel aftershocks.  And when ordinary Christians come together to discuss mystical interpretations, the orthodox feel even more aftershocks.  The fallen bricks from the earthquakes are mounting.

            Perhaps the Temple of Christianity will one day fall under the weight of these heavy bricks.  Perhaps it will appear to those who have yet to open their eyes that the Temple has been destroyed, that the Child is dead.  But those with ears to hear and eyes to see will witness that the “child has not died, but is asleep.”  And perhaps they will be sufficiently blessed to see her rise from her sleep and “begin to walk.”


  1. Thank you for giving me something to think about. I found that some of my interpretations of this scripture follow what you propose, instead of the general assumptions that you mention believers tend to have. I have long wondered exactly what Christ meant when he repeatedly told people to keep his miracles quiet. I have come to conclude that his commands to the people were in keeping with his humility and his observation of mankind. Who can keep quiet when his/her daughter has been raised from the dead? Who can refrain from dancing in the streets after being healed from paralysis? I know I couldn't keep those things to myself. Thanks again, Karen.

  2. Thanks, Steph!

    I've spent quite a bit of time pondering your question too. I call it the "bizarre PR campaign of Shhh! Don't tell!" I posted about it in my very first post. I love your image of dancing in the streets. Dance away, Girl! :)


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