Mostly dead is slightly alive

Miracle Max (speaking over the dead body of Wesley): He probably owes you money huh? I’ll ask him.

Inigo Montoya: He’s dead. He can’t talk.

Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s only one thing you can do.

Inigo Montoya: What’s that?

Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

Conversation in Miracle Max’s house in the film The Princess Bride

When Inigo Montoya and Fezzik discover that the evil Count Rugen has murdered Westley, the hero of The Princess Bride, they are heartsick and desperate. But despite the obvious, they carry their friend’s body to a local miracle worker hoping he can help. Whatever they expected Miracle Max to be able do, bringing Westley back to life again was not on the list. Such things happen in children’s stories, but not so much in real life. Except…

One day, as Jesus and his disciples were out walking through the Galilean countryside, they came to the city of Nain, just south of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. As they approached the entrance to the city they were held up by a funeral procession. Wailing mourners carried a bier holding the body of a young man, his mother’s only son. The Gospel writer Luke tells us that she was a widow. In those times, her son would have been her only means of support. With his death, there was a good chance she would end up penniless and homeless.

Even apart from such terrible circumstances, the death of a loved one is awful. A death raises unanswerable questions and forces us to face up to our own mortality, something we usually take great pains not to think about very hard.

Gravestone with inscription

The first funeral I ever attended was for the mother of a junior high school friend. The family had been traveling on a vacation, they lost control of their car in a rain storm, and in the resultant accident the mom had been killed. The family was shown great compassion by strangers in a nearby town, but their kindness couldn’t soften that terrible blow. It seemed unfair to me that she should be taken from them. Her death changed their family forever.

Jesus didn’t know the grieving woman in Nain, but he had certainly seen many funerals. Disease was unchecked, famines were not uncommon, lifespans were short, life under the sometimes violent Roman occupiers could be turned upside down in a moment. People were always dying and there was nothing that could be done. Except…

When the Lord saw [the grieving mother], his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said.

Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.”

Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” —Luke 7:13-16 (NLT)

Luke says that great fear and praise swept through the crowd. I guess so! But what about today? What about us? Who has the power to raise our loved ones from the dead in the 21st century?

The Apostle John writes about Jesus bringing his friend Lazarus back from the dead. Just before he does, he makes this bold claim to Martha, Lazarus’ sister:

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” —John 11:25-26 (NLT)

Even after dying, Christians are only mostly dead. Through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, who himself was raised from the dead by God the Father, we believe God will raise us up to a new life, an eternal life, in Heaven.

In Christ, mostly dead is eternally alive. We will lose many loved ones to death and we will one day die ourselves. And yet, by faith in Jesus Christ, we are promised something miraculous: we will be raised.

Photo credit: Mark Ritter,

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