Sermon Commentary for Sunday, June 30, 2024

Mark 5:21-43 Commentary

We have another one of Mark’s story sandwiches, but in this one, the connections are quite obvious: healing that results in restoration, and faith.

The daughter of Jairus and the woman who had been hemorrhaging blood for so long represent two different kinds of backgrounds. One is part of a family, another is alone. One’s father is a synagogue leader while the other cannot step foot in any religious space because of her bleeding. The young girl very likely has more financial resources compared to the woman left destitute by her search for healing from doctors. The young girl is twelve years old, the same length of time the woman had been bleeding. The young girl has her father to intercede for her, but the unclean woman courageously approaches Jesus on her own behalf. The young girl’s healing comes as a result of her father’s faith while the woman’s own faith is what Jesus praises.

Both the young girl and the woman are restored to a place in their community by what Jesus does for them. This aspect of their healing cannot be overestimated. Now there will be a chance for life, and the fact that one of them is “old” and the other young underscores that with God it is never too late to seek life and healing.

But there is a lot that gets in the way of seeking that life and healing—crowds to push through, and “advice” to ignore. The bleeding woman has to make a whole lot of people “unclean” as she makes her way through the throngs of people to get to her intended target, the great Jesus. All of the people in the crowd would have been horrified if they knew her condition—any touch from her and they would need to go through ritual cleansing. Even touching something she had touched would make someone unclean.

We might be tempted to think that she is driven to take such risks because she is desperate, but the Scriptures depict her in another way: full of faith. She has heard about Jesus and believes in his healing power. “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well,” becomes the prayer she enacts by reaching out her hand to Jesus’s cloak. As she instantly knows she is healed, Jesus instantly knows as well.

It’s hard to imagine that Jesus doesn’t know who it was that shared in his power when he asks, “Who touched me?” Perhaps Jesus’s ignorance is purposeful, allowing this private healing moment to become public—both for the woman’s benefit and for the crowd’s. The woman comes forward and presents herself with that same awe that overcame the disciples after Jesus stilled the storm. She narrates her story of suffering until this moment’s healing, revealing the whole truth to those she has touched and made unclean.

And what does Jesus say? He is not angry, does not yell, “How dare you?!?” Nor does he make any sort of comment about being made unclean. Instead, he draws her even closer to himself, calling her daughter, praising her, acknowledging that her faith is faith, blessing her with peace, and promising her that she is fully healed. Everyone here knows it now, and why. Hopefully they will follow Jesus’s lead and see that worrying about their own status as unclean or clean pales in comparison to life-giving restoration.

Jairus, too, is called to be courageous in faith. For just as Jesus is blessing the woman, news comes to him from home that he’s too late. The healer Jesus is no longer needed because his daughter is dead. “Why trouble the teacher any further?” they advise him. Again, Jesus calls upon faith, telling Jairus that now is not the time to give up, but to keep on in faith.

In a reversal of the way the news about the healing of the bleeding woman played out, Jesus increases the level of privacy with the young girl, clearing the house of everyone but Peter, James, John, and Jairus and his wife. Using just his words he resurrects her from the dead, fully restored to the point of walking around and needing to eat some food.

But then Jesus orders them to secrecy—something he often does in the gospel of Mark. Turning down the opportunity to have Jairus, a synagogue leader, witness for him seems like a strategic blunder. But perhaps here too Jesus is thinking about the safety of those who have turned to him in faith. Siding openly with Jesus will become a dangerous position for any religious leader. And, it will raise more questions that will take Jairus away from living with the blessing that has been given back to him.

Or perhaps there is nothing at all to read into the call to secrecy except that it is another way that these two stories are juxtaposed. There is one more thing that stands out to me, however. By the very act of these healings, and every other that Jesus engages in throughout the gospels, Jesus embodies his teaching that it is not what goes into us (or what we come in contact with) that defiles us, but what comes out of us. Jesus does not consider himself unclean because he is touched by a bleeding woman, nor does he shy away from being in the presence of a dead body. Instead, his healing power goes out of him as a force for good and restoration.

Textual Point

William Placher’s Belief Series commentary alerted me to this connection. When Mark describes the woman suffering from hemorrhages as having endured much, he uses the word paschō, which is the same word Jesus uses when he talks about the suffering that the Son of Man will endure. In the gospel of Mark paschō is only used to describe this woman and Jesus.

Illustration Idea

This painting by Kimberly Stephens is based on the woman’s healing. As Victoria Jones writes in her reflection on the piece, it captures both the difficulty the woman had in making her way through the crowd as well as the blessing that waited her faith-filled, bonded closeness to Jesus as his power surrounds them both. Being welcome in God’s presence, she blooms.


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