We all mourn differently. This is especially true across cultures. In our western culture we mourn very quietly, not so the Jew. The cacophony, commotion, and chaos of Jarius’ house were a common scene. Among this mournful crowd there would have been professional mourners hired by the family. One Jewish writing says that even the poorest of families was expected to hire not less than two pipers and one wailing woman. Biblically we can trace the custom as far back as Josiah at the latest. (2 Chronicles 25:35). Jeremiah uses this common imagery when He writes:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider, and call for the mourning women to come; send for the skillful women to come; let them make haste and raise a wailing over us, that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids flow with water. For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion: ‘How we are ruined! We are utterly shamed, because we have left the land, because they have cast down our dwellings.’” – Jeremiah 9:17-19
Jarius’ being a ruler, and thus no doubt a man of some means, would have been expected to have several professional mourners. Also a frenzy of activity would be taking place as the family scrambled to make all preparations to bury the body within twenty-four hours.
Jesus comes on the scene and dismisses the crowd. Remember His presence necessitates feasting not fasting (Matthew 9:14). The King is present, the kingdom is breaking in, away with such mourning, she is only sleeping. They laugh taking Jesus literally.
Sleep was a metaphor for death, but it is easy to see how the crowd misunderstood Jesus. If simply taken as a euphemism he would be in effect saying, “Go away, for the girl is not dead, but dead.” So Jesus isn’t simply using a euphemism for death, but He isn’t saying she is just snoozing either. Again, Jesus isn’t using a euphemism for death, He is euphemizing death. Jesus is saying is that because of Him, death is just a nap.
All this foretells a far greater awakening. Paul says we will not all sleep (1Corinthians 15:51), but be assured, all those who die in Christ are only sleeping; they will rise again with renewed, sinless, glorified bodies. All mourning will be eternally dismissed.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23