The Sick Woman & the Dead Girl (Mark 5:21-43)

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"Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood" (ca. 1565) by Paolo Veronese

This is a series about the Trinity. It explores this doctrine by brief expositions of different passages from throughout the Gospel of Mark, showing how the Trinity is the explicit and implicit teaching and assumption of Scripture.

I’m a regulatory fraud investigator for a state agency. Before that, I was a criminal investigator with the U.S. Naval Security Forces. I carry credentials which tell people who I am. Jesus had credentials, too. They proved who He is and where He comes from.

My credentials are a piece of state-issued plastic. Jesus’ credentials are His miracles. They show He is co-equal with God, “for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him,” (John 3:2). And, as I forge ahead in my series on Jesus and the Trinity, the two miracles in our passage help establish this.

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, and besought him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” And he went with him (Mark 5:21-24a).

After Jesus and the disciples left the man across the lake, we’re not sure where they went. It’s clearly on the Sea of Galilee, and the crowds have come to hear Jesus teach. A leader from the local synagogue is among them, and He has a problem.

We cannot assume this man was a hardened legalist, like so many of His brethren in Judah. After all, this is Galilee, not Jerusalem. Jairus is clearly desperate; he falls at Jesus’ feet, not to worship, but to beg. The text could be emphasizing intensity or repetition; here it is likely intensity (“he begged Him fervently”).

Heartbroken, Jairus pleads for Jesus to heal his “little daughter.” The man knows she is at the threshold of death, and believes Jesus has power to miraculously heal her. This isn’t quite a confession that Jesus is Messiah, but it is an admission that He can perform miracles. Jesus saw His miracles as His credentials, the “sign” and “proof” that He indeed was the promised Messiah (cf. Lk 7:18-23; cp. Isa 29:18ff) – the One who had power over sickness and death, who would gather all Israel and lead them to worship Yahweh in spirit and truth.

So, Jesus went.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (Mark 5:24b-29).

The woman has been ceremonially unclean for 12 years. If she was an observant Jew, this meant she’d been cut off from family, friends, society and (to some extent) God Himself all that time. She’d tried to find medical help, but it solved nothing. She could have been bitter, angry and full of hate. She could have taken another woman’s advice, cursed God and begged for death. She didn’t do that.

What, exactly, had she heard about Jesus? Had she heard Him preach about the Kingdom and the Gospel? Or, was her information all second-hand? Instead of “Jesus the Messiah,” had she merely heard of “Jesus the Healer?” Was there flesh on the bones of Jesus’ exploits?

Why did she go to Him? Did she go, acknowledging He was the Messiah and anxious to be healed and be ceremonially clean again? Or, was her faith much more simple and pragmatic?

We do know she believed He could heal her disease. Despite her ritual uncleanness, she breaks the letter of the Old Covenant law and plunges into the tumult of the crowd. She won’t be stopped. We do know He healed her disease. We do know it was a miracle – the ailment which had tormented her for 12 long years vanished “immediately;” gone forever.  

And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 

And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease,” (Mark 5:30-34).

Jesus knows what happened. His feigned ignorance is a prompt to draw the woman forward, so the entire crowd can see what has happened here. In the awful silence and suspense, as Christ gazes on the crowd, the woman falls to her feet and explains everything.

What is the content of her “faith?” Is she “well” physically, spiritually, or both? She obviously trusted, gave allegiance and expressed faith in something. Mark is deliberately ambiguous. The word which English Bibles often translate here as “made you well” can also carry the sense of salvation. The fact that Jesus told her to “go in peace” suggests she believed He was, indeed, the promised Messiah. We don’t know if she believed all this before her miraculous healing. But, she surely believed it immediately afterward!1

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 

And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James (Mark 5:35-37).

As Jairus takes in this awful news, Jesus does something extraordinary. He tells him to have faith in His ability to heal his daughter, and Jesus says this with absolute conviction and certainty. There is no appeal to God’s will. There is only the promise that, if Jairus will have faith in Him, his daughter will be well.

When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him (Mark 5:38-40a).

The crowd laughs, but doesn’t realize He who has power over death is with them in the house. Jesus, the author of life, has power to grant it and take it away. These are the words of God, not a mere prophet.

But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 

And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat (Mark 5:40b – 43).

Jesus didn’t do what Old Covenant prophets did. He did not pray to God, or seem to exert any effort whatsoever. He simply took her lifeless hand, and spoke a command to her. He ignored the Old Covenant law about contracted uncleanness from a corpse. Jesus is the giver of life, and He doesn’t consider her to be “dead” in a real sense, at all. Immediately, life returned to her, she rose to her feet and walked about.

It is likely Jesus simply asked Jairus and his wife to withhold the details of how the girl was made well. Clearly, she was now alive, and this could not be hid. But, the facts about how she became well could be glossed over for a time.

Conclusion

In this passage, Mark gives us two miraculous events of divine healing. An ailing woman, likely on death’s doorstep, is healed from her terrible illness, and a young girl is raised from death to life. Jesus does both of these.

There are two great mistakes that cults make about Christ. They either downplay the distinction between Father, Son and Spirit in favor of a unitarian God (e.g. modalists), or they demote Jesus and make Him a creation of God, rather than the co-equal and co-eternal Son (e.g. Arians). A full analysis of all the biblical evidence shows both approaches to be damnable half-truths.

The Gospel of Mark shows us the full Jesus, human and divine, and helps us understand the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine tells us that, “within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three co-equal and co-eternal persons; namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”2

This passage shows us Jesus as God, co-equal and co-eternal. Just as the prophet Isaiah promised,

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me (Luke 7:22-23).

Notes

1 John Calvin’s remarks here are especially interesting. “It is even possible that there was a mixture of sin and error in the woman’s faith, which Christ graciously bears and forgives. Certainly, when she afterwards thinks that she has done wrong, and fears and trembles, there is no apology for that kind of doubt: for it is opposed to faith. Why did she not rather go straight to Christ? If her reverence for him prevented, from what other source than from his mercy did she expect aid? How comes it, then, that she is afraid of offending him, if she was convinced of his favourable regard?

Yet Christ bestows high commendation on her faith. This agrees with what I have lately noticed, that God deals kindly and gently with his people,—accepts their faith, though imperfect and weak,—and does not lay to their charge the faults and imperfections with which it is connected. It was by the guidance of faith, therefore, that the woman approached to Christ,” (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010], 411–412).

2 James White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1998), 26.  

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...well said, and one thing I like most is where you note "we cannot assume".  I am so happy that God left some mysteries in there for us to ponder.


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