Miracles seem common at this point. Half the pages of Mark’s Gospel we’ve read so far contain them. (Remember those few pages do cover a year or more.) In today’s section (5:21-43) Mark reports two more miracles. Let’s see a summary of the narrative. (It’s too long to quote here, but why not take a few minutes to read it?)Then we’ll note a few unusual twists.
Jesus has boated with his disciples from the country of the Gerasenes (5:1-20). Landing near Capernaum in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, he’s mobbed by another crowd. One man, Jairus, leader of the Capernaum synagogue, frantically pushes through, falls at Jesus’ feet and begs him to come heal his 12-year-old dying daughter. Jesus goes.
But not alone. The jostling mass follows. A woman is swept along, but not unwillingly. For 12 years she’s hemorrhaged. Although she’s spent everything on doctors, she’s grown worse. But, she tells herself, if I can even just touch Jesus’ clothes, I’ll be made well. Determined to reach him, she bumps between the pack and finally gets close. She thrusts her hand through and touches his tunic. Immediately the bleeding stops and she feels healed.
Jesus feels something too—“that power had gone out from him” (5:30). He stops. The crowd jostles to a halt. As Jesus’ eyes search the faces, the woman knows she’s been found out. She comes trembling to him and tells her story. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease” (5:34).
At that moment, a messenger arrives from Jairus’ home. His daughter has died; no need to trouble the Teacher now. Jesus assures him, “Do not fear; only believe” (5:36). With that, Jesus allows only Peter, James and John to go with him.
Jairus’ house is filled with wailing mourners—until Jesus puts them all out. Then he takes the girls’ parents and his three disciples to where the dead girl lay. Like a father lightly lifting his daughter’s hand, he says in Aramaic, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking around” (5:41,42).
Now for a few unusual twists. (As if those miracles aren’t unusual enough!)
Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet. The Gospel doesn’t tell us what this synagogue ruler thought of Jesus. But even if he thought Jesus to be a charlatan, the crisis of his daughter dying drove this ruler to publicly prostrate himself before Jesus and beg for him to heal her. How many today, I wonder, who never believed in Jesus, humbly beg him when in dire need? Note that Jesus doesn’t condemn or interrogate Jairus–he graciously goes with him right away.
Some in the crowd were just curious. I’m just guessing. I base my guess on a Billy Graham meeting in Tampa maybe 20 years ago. The football stadium was packed. Graham gave the invitation. I was among dozens of counselors on the field. More than once I approached someone for prayer and was told, “I’m just here to get close to Billy.” How sad that curiosity-seekers get so close, yet remain so far from Jesus!
Jesus was interrupted. I believe God is sovereign. Nevertheless, this interruption looks like sloppy scheduling. Can you imagine how Jairus felt? I doubt he cared about the woman. If it weren’t so serious, the scene would have been comedic: the anxious father wondering if he should tap Jesus on the shoulder and say, “Uh, Jesus, remember me?” How he must have grieved when the messenger arrived with the death- news! It’s a reminder that God’s time and ours aren’t always (often?) synchronized.
Jesus treated the woman with dignity. Society was patriarch. Shameful for a woman to touch a man in public like that. If women weren’t second class, they were at least of secondary importance. But Jesus cared about that unknown woman as much as he did the male synagogue ruler. Jesus dignified women as God’s image-bearers. No need to make God female or the Bible’s pronouns genderless to elevate women!
Power went out from Jesus. This doesn’t lead to fear relic-worship! If Jesus’ clothes had just been preserved . . . No, power went out from him. That means power to heal was in him.
Jesus raised the dead. By “sleeping” (5:39) Jesus probably meant her death was temporary. He didn’t come to wake her up, but to raise her up! Death, of course, marks the end of hope. Jairus needed Jesus before his daughter died. But Jesus’ power ruled over death. And still does today.
Jesus told them to feed the raised-up girl (5:43b). Was this a funny line for Jesus’ to make a suave exit? He probably said it with a smile, but only because he cared about this girl’s hunger (and her parents were stunned still).
Jesus encouraged and defined faith. That is, by his presence, his previous miracles, and his word, Jesus caused people to believe in him. Certainly that was true of the woman. And to Jairus, Jesus spoke faith-encouraging words. “Do not fear; only believe” (5:36). How did Jesus define faith? At least here, he implicitly defined it as trusting him. So called “faith-preachers” complicate faith, make it a code only they–and their true adherents–can know. But faith was no secret code for the woman. She simply trusted that touching Jesus would make her well. And when Jesus urged Jairus, ” . . . only believe”, he simply meant “trust me.”
* * * * *
Perhaps that’s what Jesus encourages us all to do through this portion of the Gospel. Trust him. He has power over all diseases and even death itself. When his timing seems “off”, he’s still got the power. And he cares about the world’s “little” people (the woman) and about a little girl’s simple hunger whose name we’re not even told.