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In Mark 5, Jesus is recorded doing two miracles that stand out as some of the most memorable in his entire ministry. Throughout the early chapters of Mark, Jesus is seen casting out demons, healing sick people, opening the eyes of the blind, etc. Here, Jesus goes a step further and brings someone back from the dead--the first of a number of people whom Jesus would resurrect during his ministry. We will explore verses 22-43, aided by the commentary of Rev. Lane Townsend. His statements on this passage were first presented in a sermon at Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Kosciusko, Mississippi on May 21, 2006.
I. The Plea from Jairus
Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him.
First of all, Townsend said it's important to see that Jairus came pleading; he is in a state of desperation as he's watching his 12-year-old daughter die. "Speaking from personal experience, when your child gets sick, it devastates you in a way that nothing else can," he said. "It’s probably the worse feeling you can have. I can remember when my son was very young and had breathing problems. One time he woke me up in the night and wasn’t able to get air. His voice was squeaking because he wasn’t getting oxygen to his lungs. I drove about 80 miles an hour the whole way to the hospital, which was about 15 miles away."
Keeping in mind the first century context, we remember that medicine wasn't available in the way that it is today. Jairus need Jesus immediately, Townsend said, not in a few hours. There was no other option.
II. The Desperation of the Woman
As Jesus makes his way to Jairus's house, Mark brings another person into the story:
"And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse."
This woman, Townsend said, was in a situation modern Americans may find it hard to relate to. There was no government funded healthcare. "Back then, if you were sick, you either paid for treatment or didn’t get treated," he said.
III. The Decision of the Woman
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
"We see that this sickness has affected not only her body, but also her spirit and her self-esteem. She did not feel worthy to seek an audience with Jesus," Townsend said. "She just wanted to touch his garment without telling anyone. As sick and as broke as she was, she had faith that if she could just touch his garment she would be well."
It would've been no easy task to muster up faith at this point, Townsend said, considering how many doctors had left her disappointed. "She’d been to doctor after doctor, probably all of which had good intentions, but none of which could do anything for her," he said. "People have good intentions, but often can’t help us; intentions are just intentions. Now she has no money to offer Jesus as she had with her other physicians."
Something that's easily overlooked is how difficult it must've been for the woman to get to Jesus in the first place. "She was sick, so I am sure she was weak and tired," Townsend said. "Blood loss makes you tired and lethargic. She barely felt like walking probably, much less like fighting through a crowd."
IV. The Results
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' " But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.
The woman's lack of self-esteem is again evident as she's reluctant to even make herself known. Jesus' words to her are extremely comforting: He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
What do we learn from this? "Jesus, in spite of his busy schedule, has time for this woman," Townsend said. "This synagogue ruler, Jairus, was important, a man who could get an audience with Jesus. But this woman, who seemed so insignificant, is just as important to Jesus. He had time for a woman who was sick and broke."
It is significant, Townsend said, that Jesus dismissed her in peace: "She probably hadn’t had a moment’s peace in 12 years. She’s been worrying about surviving, about paying her bills, etc…Jesus gave her peace of body and peace of mind."
What do we learn about Jesus in this passage? Townsend said, "Doctors will give you a time they can meet you and set up appointments, but with Jesus you don’t need an appointment. You have an audience with Jesus. We, as Paul says in Romans 5, have access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We can take our needs to Jesus... Isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus’ diagnosis is perfect? He sees inside, every cell of our body. His x-ray machine isn’t faulty. Not only our body, but he looks into our spirit and sees everything."
V. Jairus’ Daughter
While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?" Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe." He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.
"Over the years, I’ve done a lot of funerals," Townsend said. "One viewing sticks out to me the most, and this wasn’t even a funeral I was doing or a family that I knew very well. A few years ago there was accident in town and an 18-month old baby and her grandmother were killed. When we got to the funeral home, we saw the little baby casket and it devastated me. What could be worse? As tragic as the grandmother’s death was, she had lived a full life. But this was just a child."
After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
"With the woman, we saw Jesus had power over sickness," Townsend said. "Here, we see Jesus has power over death itself. Modern medicine can help with sickness, but there’s no cure for death. We’ve explored the ocean, the moon, sent manless space crafts to explore the outermost parts of our solar system. But we can’t conquer death."
What do we learn from Jesus in this story? Townsend said: "Jesus has power over everything. He can do what no one else can do. He conquered death ultimately when he took a criminal’s death in our behalf on a cruel cross and rose from the dead. We can say now: 'Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?' The terrible sting is gone. As a believer, death is not something you do alone. When a believer dies, Jesus comes to receive that person. The greatest enemy we face, he has conquered."