August 2, 2005

Mark 5:21-43 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

Mark 5:21-43
(July 17, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Throughout Mark, Jesus has been calling people. But now we learn that, in order for anyone to respond, Jesus must raise him from the dead Jesus must cleanse people from death for them to draw near to God. This passage is the climax to the first section of Mark’s Gospel, the climax to a long series of cleansings and healings.

Mark sandwiches these stories together so that the flavour of the one permeates the other. Both women are “daughters,” both are associated with the number twelve, both represent Israel, and both are in some sense dead when they meet Jesus. In this story, then, Jesus raises two dead daughters to new life.


Jesus has returned to Galilee again. Once more He is teaching by the seashore and while He is doing that, a man named Jairus approaches. But the most important thing about this man is that he is one of “the rulers of the synagogue,” as Mark tells us repeatedly.

The synagogues have been attacking Jesus, but now this ruler of the synagogue comes to Jesus in faith because his daughter is dying. There is rich symbolism here. The ruler of the synagogue represents the synagogue as a whole, while the little girl represents “Daughter Israel.” The synagogue cannot save Israel but must turn to Jesus for help.

Jairus begs Jesus to lay hands on his daughter (the posture of blessing) so that she may be “saved,” that is, rescued from death. After all, Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves.” And Jesus grants his request.


On the way to Jairus’s house, however, there is an interruption. Jesus has already dealt with a leper (Mark 1:40-45; cf. Lev. 13-14); now He encounters a woman with a flow of blood (cf. Lev. 15). This wasn’t simply a medical problem; it was a form of symbolical death. The Torah barred her from drawing near to God and taking part in the Old Covenant sacramental meals.

She had been that way for twelve years. That number is significant. As we’ve already seen, when Jesus chose twelve disciples, He was drawing on that number symbolism. The twelve disciples are the foundation for a new Israel. And this woman’s twelve years of suffering and alienation from God make her a symbol of the old Israel, who is unclean and whose righteousness is like “a garment of menstruation” (Isa. 64:6). Israel is unclean and needs to be cleansed — resurrected — if she’s going to inherit God’s kingdom and take part in God’s feasts.

This woman has no right to be in the crowd, touching people, but in faith she draws near to touch Jesus’ garment. In the Torah, uncleanness spreads even when it touches holy things (Hag. 2). In Haggai’s terms, Jesus is the holy meat inside a garment. But when Jesus touches unclean things, He doesn’t become unclean; they become clean. He is greater than the Old Covenant and He does what it couldn’t do.

The woman touches Jesus and is immediately cleansed. Her action doesn’t interrupt Jesus’ journey. But Jesus Himself does. He wants people to know what has happened. He finds the woman, in spite of His disciples’ mockery, calls her “daughter” (significantly!), and tells her that her faith has “saved” her. Faith saves, the Bible tells us, because faith, though powerless in itself, is the channel through which you experience Jesus’ saving power.


The cleansing of this woman is good news for the crowd, but it’s especially good news for Jairus. While Jesus is cleansing this woman, Jairus receives news that his daughter is dead. But Jesus calls him to a new level of faith in light, not only of that news, but also of the cleansing (i.e., the symbolic raising) of this unclean (i.e., symbolically dead) woman.

Jesus takes the three key disciples, Peter, James, and John, but He leaves the crowd behind. More than that, the crowd inside the house also end up outside. Jesus confronts them about their grieving: it is inappropriate (cf. 1 Thess 4:13), given that (as they know) Jairus has called upon Jesus to save his daughter. Because of Jesus, death is not ultimate. It is only sleep, from which you can again be awakened. (Interestingly, Jairus’s name means “Yahweh awakens.”)

First, Jesus “casts out” the mockers in the synagogue ruler’s house, just as he “cast out” the demon in Capernaum’s synagogue earlier. Then He takes the girl’s parents and His three witnesses and enters the room where the girl is lying. He takes her by the hand and says, “Talitha, cumi!” which Mark renders “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (the Aramaic is literally “Little lamb, arise!”: Jesus is the shepherd-king who leads this girl through the valley of the shadow of death to new life).

As Mark tells the story, he includes elements from all the previous exorcisms, cleansings, and healings: amazement (the exorcism in Capernaum’s synagogue: 1:22), taking by the hand (Simon’s mother-in-law: 1:31), touching someone unclean (the leper: 1:41), rising and walking in response to Jesus’ command (the paralysed man: 2:9-12), arising in respond to Jesus’ command (the man with the withered hand: 3:3), rescue from death and burial (the man with a Legion living in the tombs: 5:1-20), a daughter associated with twelve years (the woman with the flow of blood: 5:25-34).

All those other cleansings and healings are pointers to resurrection. There were seven leading up to this story, and the raising of this girl is the eighth. The eighth is the beginning of a new creation. It’s the day of circumcision, the day also when a person who has been unclean and outside the camp for a week may be washed and restored. Jesus brings about a new creation, a new beginning, life beyond death. And the raising of this little girl (even though she later died again) points forward to Jesus’ own eighth day resurrection.

The little girl rises and walks around. But Jesus tells the people present not to let anyone know. They will know the girl was dead until Jesus arrived, but they won’t know exactly what happened. To them, all things happen in parables. But in the end, when Jesus rises, there will be no command to keep silent.

Finally, Jesus tells them to give the girl something to eat. Already in Mark’s Gospel, we’ve seen meals (Simon’s mother-in-law served Jesus: 1:31; Jesus feasted with Levi when He “raised” and “healed” him: 2:13-17). Jesus is restoring people to table fellowship. The woman with the twelve-year flow of blood was excluded from the feasts until Jesus cleansed her. Now she can eat and drink in God’s presence again. This little girl was dead, but now she’s alive and Jesus makes sure she has something to eat.

Resurrection is followed by feasting, as it will be when Jesus rises and as it is for us in Him. Leprosy and a flow of blood are cleansed with water (Lev 13-15): those who are symbolically dead and cut off from the feasts are “raised” again to new life through a “baptism” (Heb. 9:10) and so are restored to the feasts. We have been baptized into Christ’s death so that we might now walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), and that involves feasting with Christ. Your new life began with Christ; it continues because Jesus commands that all who have been baptized into His death and resurrection be given something to eat.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:52 pm | Discuss (0)

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