Jairus’ Daughter Healed
- Main text: Mark 5:21-43
- Accompanying text: Psalm 131
What this passage means to us
“Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus.” Even though Paul wrote these words in Romans 8:39, they could have been spoken by either Jairus or the haemorrhaging woman. As we read this narrative, Mark intentionally wants us to compare Jairus, the leader of the synagogue to the sick woman. Jairus would have been a wealthy and well respected member of society, while the woman we know was poor (she had spent all her money on doctors) and would have been an outcast. Levitical law declared her unclean, but, more than that, everything she touched also became unclean (Leviticus 15:19-31). To be even amongst the crowds of people would have been a risk for her if she had been recognised. Yet Mark draws this comparison to show “that neither being male, ritually pure, religiously well-regarded, nor having means provide any advantage in approaching Jesus. Being female, impure, dishonoured, and destitute do not present insurmountable barriers that prevent Jesus from helping” . There are no obstacles or barriers that can stand between us and Jesus. We too can come to Jesus to seek his help in our time of need and be assured that in him we will find compassion and unfailing love.
The brief interlude with the haemorrhaging woman seems to have terrible consequences though. Jairus’s daughter has died, and when they arrive at the house there are already mourners present (Matthew records the mourners as playing flutes which was a custom at the time). Yet Jesus response to Jairus is “do not fear, only believe.” There are time in our lives where it seems that God’s intervention has not come quick enough. Where we do not receive the healing we so desperately long for, or our loved ones perish – this seems to be one of these moments, yet astonishingly Jesus commands Jairus to have hope, to believe in him. This story gives us hope for our own situations where all may seem lost. When Jesus says that the girl is just sleeping, the people present respond with amazement and ridicule. For them there is no possibility of a good ending – all has been lost and to say otherwise is cruel. Yet Jesus doesn’t reply to those mocking him, instead he takes the mother and father and goes in to see their daughter. The words ‘Talitha cum’ are Aramaic – one of the very few times non-Greek words are used in the New Testament, but they capture Christ’s compassion in this moment – how seriously he takes the grief and suffering of the parents and his re-assuring command that she should arise. Once again we see that touch is involved, this time Jesus reaches out to the girl and takes her by the hand and she is alive. Not just alive, but up and walking and ready to eat. Mark includes both these stories in his narrative to tell us that there are no barriers or obstacles that can come between us and Jesus – not even death. The hope that Jesus gives Jairus is the hope that we also have. Even though those we love and care for may suffer and die, they are not beyond Jesus and we must not fear, only believe.
Storyline and Context
Mark places his stories intentionally in his gospel account, and his placement of this passage is not accidental. In the two previous narrative, Jesus has been touching upon the subject of death. It is death that the disciples fear when the storm hits and the waves begin to overwhelm the boats, and death also features prominently in Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene demoniac. Mark highlights that the man lived amongst the tomb and the one of the results of the encounter is the death of 2,000 pigs. In both of these stories, Mark is highlighting Jesus’s absolute authority. He has authority over the wind and the seas and even a ‘legion’ of demons are powerless to do anything other than obey his commands to come out of the possessed man. In this passage Mark makes clear that Jesus’ authority does not stop there and extends to even death itself. Though as readers we are very aware that the witnesses to these events did not fully understand their full significance at the time, we can see how Mark is preparing us to understand Christ’s death and resurrection.
The structure of this passage is often described as a “Markan sandwich”, where a story is inserted in the middle of another one to help make a point. “The effect on this narrative is to introduce an agonizing delay. Picture an ambulance driver on a 999 call, stopping off to make a lengthy phone call while the family of the heart attack victim are forced to wait in the back, and you get something of a feel for what it must have been like for Jairus to watch the protracted ‘who touched me?’ discussions” . But the inclusion of the haemorrhaging woman’s story also helps us to understand Jesus’ resurrection of the little girl.
“[Jesus] does not pray to God for the woman’s healing; Mark notes that power went “out from him” (5:30), revealing that he is the source, not a conduit, of the power” . This is repeated when Jesus brings the girl back to life – Christ is not a conduit or a medium in this miracle. NT Wright comments “he is not a magician, doing conjuring tricks by some secret power for an amazed but uninvolved audience. He is (though the onlookers don’t yet realize this) God’s son, the one through whom the living God is remaking Israel, humans, the world. And faith, however much fear and trembling may accompany it, is the first sign of that remaking, that renewal, that new life” . As we shall see, many rejected that Jesus could be anything more than a carpenter’s son…
- Matthew 9:18-26
- Luke 8:40-56
- Leviticus 15:19-31
- Numbers 19:11-19
Other GCI resources:
Footnotes and References
- David E. Garland, The Theology of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 125.
- Andrew Sach & Tim Hiorns, Dig Deeper into the Gospels: Coming Face to Face with Jesus in Mark, (Nottingham, UK: Inter-varsity Press, 2015). 64.
- Ben C. Blackwell et al, Reading Mark in Context: Jesus and Second Temple Judaism, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019). 89.
- Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone, (London, UK: SPCK, 2001). Digital edition.