The Romans cremated their dead; the people of Israel buried their dead.The Romans erected monuments to memorialize the deceased; the Jews avoided such extravagant expenses, choosing to honor their dead through loud, public lamentation.Graves were only visited during the prescribed days of mourning, usually seven days (Gen. On the contrary, tombs were whitewashed during pilgrimage festivals in order to warn travelers not to come in contact with the dead, risking defilement (Matt. The dead even the greatest most devout men in Israel are not in any way adorned with a halo.
Nevertheless, Jesus consented to the unusual request and headed for the mans house.
But before He made it to the house of death, Jesus was apparently defiled by the touch of an unclean woman (Lev.
18), Jesus responded to the query of the Baptizers disciples, Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast? 14, NASB), with the declaration that the time for mourning and fasting was over (v. The advent of Jesus ministry called for something new (vv. The narrator informed the reader that while He was saying these things to them (v.
18, NASB) a desperate father made a novel request: raise my daughter from the dead by laying hands on her (v. Raising the dead was a rare miracle in the story of Israels salvation (see 1 Kings -24; 2 Kings -37).
23:2-3), with loud cries of anguish and weeping (Luke ). Sometimes the mourners would accentuate their disheveled appearance by refraining from washing, refusing to anoint their heads with oil (2 Sam. ), dirtying their feet by removing their sandals (Ezek. 1:8), or even by stripping off their outer garments and wallowing in the dust (Ezek. Dirty face, dirty feet, dirty hair, dirty clothes the Jewish mourner epitomized what was unholy and undesirable about death.
Usually, in a violent act of disrobing, the bereaved would immediately shed their clothes by tearing them from their body. Sackcloth, a coarse material, was worn as an undergarment around the waist (2 Kings ). The mourning-rites [sic] express the humiliation and pain at having got into close touch with death.
Usually, friends of the family formed two lines (not less than ten each) outside the door of the house and the family passed between the rows of people as they entered their home.
Jesus raising of the synagogue rulers daughter was part of a series of episodes that relate to mourning, death, and impurity (Matt. Before He was asked to raise the synagogue rulers dead daughter (v.
) an action on one would have known about if Jesus had not purposely made it public (Matt. The contact between Jesus and the unclean woman, however, had the opposite effect: the woman was made clean by touching Jesus (Matt. By the time Jesus, the disciples, and the father arrived, the professional mourners had already started the funeral.
Matthew characterized the sights and sounds of mourning as the noisy crowd (v. When Jesus suggested that their actions were premature the girl was not dead, only sleeping the professional scoffed at Him because they viewed His actions as pretense (v. That the narrator described the gathering as a rather large crowd of mourners accompanied by several flutists (vv.23,25) indicates that the synagogue ruler was no poor citizen of Israel.
Therefore, the way people mourn their dead reveals what they believe about God, life, death, evil, and the world.