The people on the other side of the Sea of Galilee has asked Jesus to leave their region after casting out the great unclean spirit called Legion from a man who had been living in the tombs and cutting himself. Jesus and his disciples are crossing back over to Galilee where a large crowd gathers around him (Mark 5:21).
A Ruler’s Request and an Interruption (5:21-34)
One of the rulers of the synagogue comes and his name is Jairus. When he sees Jesus, he falls at his feet and earnestly begs Jesus concerning his daughter who is dying. He pleads with Jesus to come and lay his hands on her so that she can be made well and live. He puts aside his dignity and pride. He does not care about his position. His daughter is dying and all he can do is fall at the feet of Jesus and beg him to come to his house to heal him. Jairus shows faith, believing that if Jesus comes to his house and lays his hands on his daughter, she will be healed and will not die. Without argument or question, Jesus goes with Jairus and a great crowd followed along and thronged about him. Just imagine a crowd all pressing against Jesus and surrounding Jesus as he walks with Jairus to his house.
But we are told about someone who is in this crowd. There is a woman in this crowd who has had a discharge of blood for 12 years. This means, according to Leviticus 15:25-33 that she has been considered unclean for 12 years. She has suffered much by the hands of the doctors, spent all she had, and had only grown worse, not better. She is out of money. She has suffered much. She is only worse. People have tried to avoid touching her because she is unclean. She is in hopeless despair. No one can help her. No one can fix her condition.
But there is one thing she has according to verse 27. She had heard the reports about Jesus. What she thinks is that all she needs to do is touch Jesus’ clothes and will be made well. So she comes up behind Jesus and touched his clothes. Now think about her just reaching a hand in to touch Jesus while this crowd is thronging around and pressing into Jesus. She is simply trying to sneak in and sneak out without anyone noticing her. She touches his clothes and immediately the flow of blood dried up (5:29). She felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. But just as immediately as she felt her disease be healed, Jesus realized that power had gone out of him. Just as she is trying to sneak away, Jesus turns around in the crowd and asks, “Who touched me?” The whole movement of the story has suddenly stopped. But he has stunned his disciples. Look at what they say in verse 31. “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” Everyone is touching you! We are being mobbed at this moment!
One can imagine the fear this woman is experiencing. She was not supposed to touch the teacher because she is unclean and would have made him unclean. But that is not what happens at all. This is another instance where the purity of Jesus is greater than the impurity of the woman. Jesus has come to clean the defiled and the impure. So she came in fear and trembling, falling down before Jesus, and tells him the whole story. But listen to Jesus’ response: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Absolutely beautiful words from Jesus. Her faith has delivered her. To go in peace is not simply to not be afraid of what she has done but to go in the wholeness and completeness of life because you have been rescued by the Lord. She believed in the power of Jesus and acted on that faith in what Jesus could do for her.
The Daughter Is Dead (5:35-43)
But then something stunning happens. You may have forgotten about how this account began. Jairus has a dying daughter that Jesus is going to see. But the movement has stopped because this woman has touched Jesus for healing. While Jesus is talking to the woman who has been healed, people came from Jairus’ house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Can you imagine Jairus’ face? These are the worst words you can hear at this moment. These are the words you do not want to hear: “You are too late.” Imagine how his heart broke at the moment. Imagine the pain that is traveling through all of his senses. But Jesus turns to Jairus and tells him, “Do not fear. Only believe.” Do not be afraid. Just believe. I want us to hear what Jesus told this leader of the synagogue. Only believe. You just need to believe in me and that is all. Only have faith.
Now Jairus has a choice. Will he send Jesus away because he believes that it is too late or will he simply believe and continue to bring Jesus to his house? Then notice what else Jesus does. Jesus does not allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John (5:37). No more crowds are following and not even his own disciples are following at this moment. One can imagine the quiet walk that Jairus is taking with Jesus and three of his disciples. They arrive at Jairus’ house and there is a commotion which was common for death in this society. There is a crowd of people weeping and wailing loudly. The volume and intensity of the mourning was viewed as an indicator of the great love for the deceased. The Mishnah says, “Even the poorest in Israel do not hire less than two flute players and one wailing woman” (m. Ketub 4.4). So we need to visualize this mourning commotion when Jesus walks up and says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping” (5:39). The people just laugh Jesus to scorn.
But Jesus is making a point about who he is and what he is able to do. Jesus can do something that no one else is able to do. So Jesus sends out all the mourners and brings in the girl’s parents along with Peter, James, and John. Jesus takes the girl by the hand and says to her, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Friends, Jesus is talking to a dead body. The girl is dead. We do not know how long she has been dead. But she has been dead long enough to send a messenger to Jairus to tell him that she is dead and still travel back to his house. Jesus says words to a dead body. But let us see the power of Jesus. Immediately the girl gets up and walks around, amazing everyone. Touching a dead body would make a person unclean according to the Law. But yet again we see that Jesus is not defiled but reverses the action. Jesus, rather than being defiled, brings restoration and healing to the afflicted.
And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made. Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” (Isaiah 57:14–19 ESV)
Jesus has come to reverse the curse. Jesus has come to bring cleansing to the unclean. Jesus has come to bring life to the dead. Jesus has come to give hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless.
So what is needed for us to experience this reversal? What is asked of us so that we can enjoy cleansing and life? What did the woman with the flow of blood need? She only needed faith in the power of Jesus. What did Jairus need? He only needed faith in the power of Jesus. In fact, this is exactly what Jesus tells the woman. Look again at verse 34: “Your faith has made you well.” Look at what Jesus tells Jairus in verse 36: “Only believe.” If you will believe you can be made well. If you will only have faith you can be healed. If you will believe, life will be given to the dead. What we see in this passage is what was only needed was faith. Jesus does not determine how righteous these two people are. He does not measure out how good they are or if they are deserving of his time or his healing. Jesus’ challenge to all to simply have great faith in who he is. Have faith that by just touching his clothes you can be healed and have faith that it is never too late for Jesus to heal, even if it means raising a person from the dead. We are reading about simple, great faith from this woman and from this synagogue ruler.
Faith excels when we realize that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. To express this idea with greater precision, faith becomes what it needs to be when we recognize that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Only then will we express our full dependence on God’s saving power. We see this in the woman and the synagogue ruler. They are both out of options and they understand this. We need to hit this desperation regarding sin and our condition. We are unclean and lost. We are hopeless and helpless and there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. We need to see that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain like the woman and like Jairus. Neither of these people worried about the opinions of others but came in faith to Jesus. When our desperation increases, then our faith can step up. This is the important gateway to faith. This is why Jesus says that the blessed are those who are poor in spirit and the blessed are those who mourn for their sins. Faith is born when we see that there is nothing that we can do for ourselves. Faith is born when our desperation concerning our condition before God is recognized and fully grasped. If we are not desperate because of our sins, then we are not going to have the faith that Jesus is calling for.
This is the struggle we have today because we are so prosperous. We do not feel this desperation. We have money to solve our problems. We have jobs. We have careers. We have possessions. We have comfort and ease. We have these idols that we depend on to save us from our troubles so that we may never approach the desperation that Jesus wants us to feel. Idols trick us to depend on them rather than the Lord. Recently there were some boys from a soccer team trapped in water filled caves in Thailand. There were all kinds of obstacles and dangers in trying to rescue these boys and the coach. Why were the risks taken? The risks were taken because the situation was dire. Everyone was desperate for rescue. We have to be desperate for rescue by seeing that our condition is dire. We are unclean and cannot help ourselves. We are dead and cannot give ourselves life. Only Jesus can make us clean and give us life again. Nothing in this life will heal your wounds and give you true life but Jesus.
This leads us to our final point. Please notice that faith is not some inner sense of certainty. Faith is not about blotting out all your doubts and increasing the intensity of our conviction. Biblical faith is acting according to God’s word even when we are afraid. Faith is not a lack of fear but acting through the fear. Think about every declaration of faithful people in the scriptures. You will notice the repetition that the person by faith acted. Because of faith, Abraham acted in Romans 4. In Hebrews 11 we read that because these people had faith they acted. We have faith when we act. This is what we see with the woman and with Jairus. We gain the courage to act in faith in the face of fear by remembering that God is for us and with us. Faith is not fearlessness. Faith is acting despite one’s fear. But when we are desperate for God and his rescue, we will act despite our fear.
The Gospel of Mark is giving us what the perspective of life for a disciple must be. We will come to Jesus with only our faith in our hands and nothing else because we know we have nothing else to give him. All we can do is trust the Lord to rescue us. We act not because we are trying to merit Jesus’ love or try to move him to act. We act because all we have is the faith for him to save us. So we follow his directions for rescue because I have nothing except trust in him to make me clean and raise me from the dead in the last day. Please throw away your self-righteousness and self-reliance, see your dire condition, and be desperate for Jesus so that you will act on your faith in him.