SCRIPTURE: Mark 5:21-43
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VERSES 21-43: A STORY WITHIN A STORY
This is a story within a story –– the story of the woman with the hemorrhage set within the story of Jairus and his daughter. The stories belong together. Mark creates dramatic tension by telling the two stories together. Each story finds enhanced interest and power through its juxtaposition with the other.
• The stories show Jesus dealing with people of vastly different standing. Jairus is well-to-do and influential, while the woman with the hemorrhage is financially impoverished and socially outcast. Jesus does not favor one over the other.
• The interruption of Jesus' journey to Jairus' house heightens the drama. Just imagine Jairus' impatience as Jesus talks with the woman.
• In both stories, competent authorities have proven that no remedy is possible.
• Both stories involve issues of ritual uncleanness. The woman is unclean because of her hemorrhage (Leviticus 15:25-30). The child is unclean because she is dead (Numbers 19:11-20).
• In the miracle stories in this Gospel, only Jairus and blind Bartimaeus (10:46) are named.
• The woman has been afflicted for twelve years and the little girl is twelve years old.
• Both the little girl and the woman are called "daughter" (vv. 22, 34).
• In both stories, the Greek word sozo is important. Jairus begs that Jesus might come and sothe his daughter. Jesus says to the woman, "Daughter, your faith has sesoken you." Sozo has various shades of meanings, but in this context it means "saves" or "saved."
• Both Jairus and the woman demonstrate considerable faith in Jesus.
VERSES 21-24a: MY LITTLE DAUGHTER IS AT THE POINT OF DEATH
21When Jesus had crossed back over in the boat to the other side, a great multitude was gathered to him; and he was by the sea. 22Behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, came; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, 23and begged him much, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Please come and lay your hands on her, that she may be made healthy (Greek: sothe –– healed or saved), and live." 24aHe went with him,
"When Jesus had crossed back over in the boat to the other side" (v. 21a). The Sea of Galilee has a Gentile eastern shore and a Jewish western shore. Jesus is now returning to the Jewish side.
"Behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, came; and seeing him, he fell at his feet" (v. 22). Jairus is clearly an "insider" –– a person who counts –– a person who belongs.
Jairus "fell at his (Jesus') feet, and begged him much" (vv. 22b-23a). In one sense, this is remarkable. Jairus would be accustomed to other people begging him for favors, and would himself stoop to begging only in a terrible situation. But a parent of a dying child will do nearly anything to save the child.
"My little daughter is at the point of death. Please come and lay your hands on her, that she may be made healthy (sothe –– healed or saved), and live" (v. 23b). Jairus' invitation to come contrasts with the Geresenes' request that Jesus go away (v. 17). Where the Geresenes responded to Jesus' miracles with fear, Jairus responds with faith.
"He went with him" (v. 24a). "In that simple statement, ...Mark testifies to Jesus' commitment to minister to human need and to the inestimable worth of the human individual for Jesus" (Edwards, 162).
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VERSES 24b-34: DAUGHTER, YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL
24band a great multitude followed him, and they pressed upon him on all sides. 25A certain woman, who had an issue of blood for twelve years, 26and had suffered many things by many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better, but rather grew worse, 27having heard the things concerning Jesus, came up behind him in the crowd, and touched his clothes. 28For she said, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be made well." 29Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30Immediately Jesus, perceiving in himself that the power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd, and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" 31His disciples said to him, "You see the multitude pressing against you, and you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done to her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. 34He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well (Greek: sesoken –– healed or saved you). Go in peace, and be cured (Greek: hugies –– healed or healthy) of your disease."
"A certain woman, who had an issue of blood for twelve years" (v. 25). Thus begins a story set within another story –– the story of the woman with the hemorrhage (vv. 25-34) set inside the story of Jairus and his daughter (vv. 21-24; 35-41). Jairus must be beside himself as Jesus delays on his journey to Jairus' daughter, who is at the point of death (v. 23) to help this woman whose condition is serious but not life-threatening. However, her condition renders her unclean and thus isolates her from contact with other people.
"and had suffered many things, by many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better, but rather grew worse" (v. 26). The real purpose behind this verse is to set up a contrast between the physicians, who did not help the woman, and Jesus, who does.
"having heard the things concerning Jesus, came up behind him in the crowd, and touched his clothes" (v. 27). Jairus approached Jesus directly, face to face, but this woman approaches Jesus from behind, cloaked in the anonymity of the crowd. Having avoided touching other people for so many years, it must require a great effort to reach out and touch even Jesus' cloak.
However, "Instead of uncleanness passing from the woman to Jesus, healing power flows from Jesus to the woman" (Davies and Allison, quoted in Marcus, 367).
Note that, when she touched his cloak, she was healed of her disease. However, only after she presents herself to Jesus does he say, "Daughter, your faith has made you well" (sesoken –– healed or saved you)–– has saved you (Williamson, 110).
VERSES 35-43: GIRL, I TELL YOU, GET UP!
35While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue ruler's house saying, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?" 36But Jesus, when he heard the message spoken, immediately said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Don't be afraid, only believe." 37He allowed no one to follow him, except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38He came to the synagogue ruler's house, and he saw an uproar, weeping, and great wailing. 39When he had entered in, he said to them, "Why do you make an uproar and weep? The child is not dead, but is asleep." 40They ridiculed him. But he, having put them all out, took the father of the child, her mother, and those who were with him, and went in where the child was lying. 41Taking the child by the hand, he said to her, "Talitha cumi!" which means, being interpreted, "Girl, I tell you, get up!" 42Immediately the girl rose up and walked, for she was twelve years old. They were amazed with great amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and commanded that something should be given to her to eat.
"Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?" (v. 35b). This story is reminiscent of Lazarus' resurrection in John 11. If Jesus had come earlier, he could have prevented Lazarus' death. Once Lazarus died, Martha and Mary lost hope in Jesus' power to help. Mark does not tell us Jairus' reaction when he sees the mourners, but we can imagine his desolation when he sees that rites for the dead have begun.
"He allowed no one to follow him, except Peter, James, and John the brother of James" (v. 37). These three men constitute Jesus' inner circle, and will be invited to accompany Jesus at the Transfiguration (9:29) and at Gethsemane (14:33).
Jesus "saw an uproar, weeping, and great wailing" (v. 38b). Mourning includes professional mourners, whose actions signify grief and alert the community to the death.
The crowd greets Jairus, saying "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?" (v. 35). Jesus tells Jairus, "Don't be afraid, only believe" (v. 36). He allows no one to follow as they go to see the little girl (v. 37) –– mourners are inappropriate for a girl who will soon be walking and eating.
To the crowd, Jesus says, "Why do you make an uproar? The child is not dead, but is asleep" (v. 39). Sleep is a temporary condition and death is permanent. This girl will soon be "up and running," so Jesus considers her condition temporary.
"They ridiculed him" (v. 40a). The crowd has no doubt regarding the little girl's death. Their comment prepares us for the difficulty of the miracle that Jesus will work.
"Taking the child by the hand, he said to her, 'Talitha cumi!' which means, being interpreted, 'Girl, I tell you, get up!'" (v. 41). "Talitha cum" is Aramaic, a Semitic language related to Hebrew. Mark translates "Talitha cum" into Greek for Gentile Christians of the early church who might not know Aramaic.
"Taking the child by the hand" (v. 41a). Touching this girl violates Torah law (Leviticus 11:39; Numbers 5:2-3; 19:11).
"Immediately the girl rose up and walked, for she was twelve years old" (v. 42a). Immediately is one of Mark's favorite words. The little girl is 12 years old, which corresponds to the 12 years that the woman suffered with a hemorrhage (v. 25).
"He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and commanded that something should be given to her to eat" (v. 43). This seems odd, because there was no way that the crowd would not learn of the girl's healing/resurrection, and there was no way that the crowd would keep the news quiet.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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Brooks, James A, The New American Commentary: Mark (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991)
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Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holladay, Carl R.; Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year, B (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1993)
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Edwards, James R., The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002)
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Grant, Frederick C. and Luccock, Halford E., The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 7 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1951)
Guelich, Robert A., Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 1 - 8:26 (Dallas: Word Books, 1989)
Hare, Douglas R. A., Westminster Bible Companion: Mark (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996)
Hooker, Morna D., The Gospel According to Saint Mark (Hendrickson Publishers, 1991)
Jensen, Richard A., Preaching Mark's Gospel (Lima, OH: C.S.S. Publishing Co., 1996)
Lane, William L., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974)
Marcus, Joel, The Anchor Bible: Mark 1-8 (New York: Doubleday, 1999)
Perkins, Pheme, The New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VIII (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995)
Thayer, Joseph Henry, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (NY: American Book Company, 1889)
Williamson, Lamar Jr., Interpretation: Mark (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1983)
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