Jairus and the Woman
Mark 5: 21 — 43
This reading brings us a very moving account of our Lord's dealings with three people, and how he strengthened the faith of two of them. We will consider the text in three parts corresponding to how each of these three people come into focus:
Our text follows an interesting incident we may find helpful to remember. Jesus had been ministering in the country of the Gadarenes, or Gerasenes as some would know it. There, a number of demons had begged Jesus to allow them to enter a herd of 2000 pigs rather than have to face him. Jesus approved and the herd ran violently down a steep hill into the lake and drowned. This rather frightening event led the locals to press Jesus to leave town immediately. Jesus seemed very willing to oblige and stepped into a boat without being given any chance to explain. A man whom he had delivered from the demons mentioned above wanted to depart with him but our Lord asked him to remain:
"Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you." The man did exactly as Jesus ordered, "and all marvelled". (There must be a lesson for us in that.)
This story, with the lack of interest in the people to listen to Jesus explain himself, and the overflowing enthusiasm of the man healed, has some bearing on our text under study.
Some Notes On the Text
Part 1. Verses 21 — 24a
Jesus set out across the lake and came back to Capernaum (Capharnum). There the people crowd round him, giving him a warm welcome in contrast to the stand-offish, cool reception of the Gadarenes.
A prominent senior administrator of the synagogue named Jairus arrives on the scene and, seeing Jesus, falls at his feet and pleads earnestly with him:
So our Lord does as he is asked immediately and goes with the man to his home.
Part 2. Verses 24b — 34
A large crowd followed Jesus as he walked with Jairus. In the eagerness of many of the crowd to meet him and ask him questions, there was a lot of pushing and shoving: such was their interest and enthusiasm. Our Lord, of course, is delighted and is encouraged by their friendliness and acceptance of him. He is completely at home.
Amongst the crowd jostling for positions near Jesus, there is a woman who has been troubled with a distressing haemorrhage, on and off for twelve years. She had consulted every physician available and tried all their potions and cures. In fact she spent everything she had on professional treatment, and instead of getting better she grew worse than ever!
Listening to the crowd talk about the things Jesus has done for other people, she hatches a little scheme in her mind. Realising she is ritually unclean, and therefore by law (Leviticus 15: 25 — 30) unable to touch Jesus, she positions herself so that the fringe of his cloak brushes over her, believing that this will heal her. As soon as she is touched by our Lord's clothing she can feel that the problem has gone. She is healed.
What she didn't bargain on was the response of Jesus. As soon as his clothes touch her he feels power go out from him, and he turns round and asks the crowd "Who touched my clothes?" Everyone goes silent and looks at one another as Jesus looks at them. His closest disciples are quick to reply:
"What do you mean, 'Who touched me?'! Everybody has touched you, with all the pushing and manoeuvring that's been going on!" But Jesus takes no notice and continues to wait for someone to own up. Finally, realising there was no escape; the woman walks up to Jesus and falls at his feet. Our Lord, says nothing and just waits for her, when she is ready, to give her explanation. Patiently he remains silent and draws out her story of intense embarrassment and hardship. When she comes to the end, Jesus simply tells her that it was her faith that healed her, not the touch of his robe. "Go now in peace and suffer no more from that problem".
Part 3 Verses 35 — 43
All this while, poor Jairus has had to wait patiently for our Lord to do what, after all, he came there to do. We would hardly consider him unreasonable if he thought to himself, "If the woman has had this ailment for twelve years, surely another twenty minutes wouldn't matter when my child is dying!" During this time Jairus said nothing.
While our Lord is speaking to the woman he has just healed, some men come from the house of Jairus nearby and announce bluntly "Your daughter is dead. What's the point of troubling the Rabbi any further?" Still Jairus remains silent. Not even a response such as, "I knew this would happen." Jesus, however, is aware that Jairus, naturally, is finding it all too much to cope with.
It is interesting to observe our Lord closely at this point. He pays no attention to these men. Instead, while they are still talking, he interrupts them and speaks to Jairus. Actually he commands Jairus, saying literally, "Do not be unbelieving. Instead, keep your heart focussed and very firm. Don't let anything tempt you to doubt!" He is very aware of the emotional pressure on Jairus and speaks to him in a way which empowers him to keep on believing.
Jesus then forbids anyone to accompany Jairus and himself to the house except Peter, James and his brother John. The three apostles chosen to witness the miracle which followed were probably more fitted to understand and keep silent. They are the inner circle, who will be privileged to see the Lord in his Transfiguration and his Agony. Peter will, no doubt, remember this scene when he confesses our Lord's divinity six or seven months later. (Cox)
When they arrive at the home of Jairus, the ceremony of mourning had already commenced. With the greatest of respect Jesus goes inside and says, "Why all this commotion and wailing. The child is not dead but asleep." That is not well received and the mourners all laugh at him. Without comment Jesus ushers them all out of the house. Then he takes both the child's parents and the three disciples to where the twelve-year-old child was lying.
In a simple but gracious gesture, Jesus takes the girl by the hand and in Aramaic, says to her, "Talitha cumi!" "My dear child, I want you now to get up!" Immediately she stood up and walked around the room. All present are totally amazed. Jesus commands them emphatically not to talk about the incident and then, characteristically, (and just as emphatically) tells them to give her something to eat. This relieves a tense situation, and brings the transfixed parents back to normal. It is a picturesque touch, showing his personal interest in the young girl; for him, people, not miracles, are the important thing! (Cox)
The case of the woman who was cured demonstrates an important truth to us. While multitudes may throng Jesus, it is only the few who touch him. It is as true today for us as it was then. We don't have to gatecrash in on God. We don't have to impress with any showy performance. A humble approach in sincerity is what catches the attention of Jesus.
Jairus was incredible! Our Lord demanded him to be more than merely patient. His position was something like: "You have asked me to come and cure your daughter. I have made it plain I intend to do exactly that. Leave the rest to me!" Jesus appeared to be sidetracked but of course, wasn't. It was Jairus who faced the great danger of having his faith hijacked. Today, it is no different. To have faith on the Lord Jesus is to hand over all control of what we hope for; it is to let him mastermind the whole plan and to want simply to co-operate as best we can.
Both people in this account had their faith strengthened beyond what seemed possible. To the woman, Jesus hardly said a thing: she did most of the talking and he, most of the listening. Her story was important for her to tell and for him to hear. He had identified her need to realise there was nothing magic in the touch of the holy Rabbi's fringe. He approved her touching, but only because deep in her heart she believed he could cure her. That beautiful spark of faith needed to be nurtured further so that it could grow to fulfilment. It was something Jesus wanted his chosen apostles to witness, and for Jairus to experience.
Most of us will at some time be faced with a test of faith similar to what Jairus confronted. We will ask for help from the Lord and as we wait in hope, we will wonder if our plea has fallen on deaf ears. There is only one remedy, if we find ourselves in the situation, and that is to go back over the Gospels, reflecting on the loving and merciful actions of our Lord. Then we will be reminded that it is we who have been blind and deaf. The Lord will always take action as God's love demands. Sometimes that will be hard to believe in, but his warning to us is the same as to Jairus: "Make your requests known and leave the rest to me. Do not allow any doubt to take even the slightest hold within you!"
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