New Testament Gospel of Mark Helpless but not Hopeless

Helpless but not Hopeless

Mark 5:21-43

Mark chapter five shows Christ’s power and authority over all things. In the first half of Mark chapter 5, we saw that Jesus’ power and authority was over the strongman of this world. We saw Jesus show his earthy ministry was not just for those who physically descended from Abraham. Jesus went over the other side of the sea of Galilee to cast out the unclean spirit of the man living in the cemetery. He becomes the first gospel preacher in the gospel of Mark. We also need to remember that Mark is most likely written to those in Rome, those outside of the nation of Israel, and reading and hearing about Christ going to other nations shows that Christ came to save his elect people, not everyone from Abrahamic descent. In today’s passage, we see two accounts of Christ’s power and authority over the fallen world. The passage also reinforces Christ’s ministry is not to a particular group or class of people but to the people in high positions in society and those on the outskirts. Mark uses his ‘sandwich’ technique to understand these two stories are to be read together.

I. Desperate father (21-24)

Some things in our life cross many cultures. The sacrifices of parents to care for their children is one of these cross-cultural truths. Jesus explains this truth with the illustration of giving gifts, “which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” (Matt 7:9-10). A parent seeks to provide the needed care for their child within their means. In this passage in Mark, Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue, a position of authority and status in the community, comes to Jesus. Jesus’ reputation continues to spread, and crowds gather around him. Jairus is a layman responsible for the local synagogue, including building maintenance, keeping the scrolls, and planning the worship services. Most likely, Jesus is back in Capernaum, and in a town like Capernaum, everyone would have known who Jairus is. Jairus comes to Jesus, just as the demonic man came to Jesus, bowing down and imploring him. Although Jairus was not a pharisee or rabbi, he would have been in those social circles. Jairus comes not as a man in a position of power but as a beggar, subject to Christ and his authority. He comes as a desperate dad seeking help for his daughter. No check he could cash could help his daughter. No favor he could ask of all his friends in high places. He comes to Christ helpless and hopeful.

Luke explains that this Jairus’ only daughter (Luke 8:42). Jairus comes to Jesus and begs him earnestly, explaining his situation of helplessness. His daughter is minutes from death. Not only is she sick, but there is nothing they can do. She continues to breathe, but each could be her last. A man of this prominence and position has nothing he can do. We do not know what the sickness is that his daughter is facing, is it a disease she has had for some time, or something that has come about suddenly. Jairus was helpless but had one last desperate plea. He was hopeful that Jesus would come and lay hands on her then she would not only be made well but live. His only hope was to beg Jesus to come and heal his daughter. Everyone sought to see this miracle as the crowd continued to follow Jesus and Jairus.

As they leave and head towards Jairus’s house, there is an intrusion in the narrative. An abrupt change as Jesus makes his way through the crowd. This urgent mission comes to a halt as Jesus stops in his tracks and asks the question, “who touched my garments?” The crowd is ‘thronging’ around him, like a person swimming in the water. The pressure of the water pushes against their body from all sides. The crowd, with no sense of social distancing or personal space, is pressing against Jesus. Jesus asks the question, “who touched my garments?” This strange scene for Jairus, whose daughter is in her last fleeting moments of life, and Jesus is concerned about who touched his garment.

II. Despondent woman (25-34)

We, as readers and hearers, are given more information about the situation. Mark records this woman who has been suffering from a menstrual hemorrhage. Mark explains this woman’s case, we usually might get a small piece of information, blind from birth, or he had paraplegia. However, Mark explains four things about this woman’s condition. Firstly, she has been dealing with this for twelve long years. Leviticus 15 addresses the law of uncleanliness due to discharge from the body. Men and women are both addressed in Leviticus 15, and the basic principle is that unclean discharge comes from a person. If you touch the person, you are unclean. If they sleep or sit on something, it is unclean. The process is that after seven days, you bathe and make a sin offering and become clean. This woman had lived a life of uncleanliness for twelve years because of her medical condition. Twelve years of not sharing the same bed with her husband if she was married. Twelve years of living in quarantine.

The second point that Mark explains is that she had gone to see many physicians to help her. The words Mark uses are ‘suffered much under many physicians.’ The word suffer is not the word you want to be associated with any medical visit. You would not step foot in a doctor’s office which had the motto, ‘Making you suffer since 1985.’ Thirdly, she had used all of her resources. She had spent all that she had. The condition cost her everything, this was not something she could merely just live with or put up with, but she spends her last penny to see if she would be rid of this condition. Lastly, the doctors were unable to help or heal her, but they made the condition worse. The doctors ultimately would have been better to do nothing than to try and help her. The doctor’s Hippocratic oath, ‘do no harm’ or as worded in the 19th century, “Practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help or do not harm the patient.” Either help or do no harm. Yet these doctors, which Mark explains were many, did harm, making it worse. Like the end of a commercial for any medicine, it may cause you to go blind or lose limbs, but at least you won’t have a runny nose.

This woman, like Jairus, has no other hope. She hears of what Jesus has done and explains to herself, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” Like Jairus, who believed that the touch of Jesus would heal his daughter. Even touching the garment of Jesus would rid her of this condition. She makes her way through the crowd, and she pushes enough people to touch his garment finally. Jairus comes before Jesus and bows, and the woman comes behind Jesus to lay her hand on his garment. Mark explains, immediately the flow of blood dried up. We read over verses like this, but we should stop and consider the great joy at this moment. Twelve years of waiting in for the doctor to see her. Twelve years of not being able to touch the ones you love. 12 Years is isolation and shame—12 years of praying, hoping, and longing. But in a moment, all of this is not something in the past, no more tests, doctors, isolation, or pain. What she had spent the last twelve years of her life seeking, she had finally found.

Back to this question, “who touched my garment?” The disciples point to everyone around Jesus and explain, everyone is touching you. However, the woman knew exactly what that question meant. She comes to Jesus with fear and trembling and falls before him. Jesus’ power and authority over all things make people respond in fear, the disciples on the boat, the men who saw the demon-possessed man. This woman bowed before Christ with fear and trembling. Maybe another word could be fear and awe. She was unclean and had touched Jesus’ garment, which should have made him unclean. However, the woman is made clean by Jesus. Her response is not only fear and trembling and worship but also the truth. She told him the whole truth. There is no need to hide anything from God.

Jesus responds to the woman, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” The healing power of Christ is not a magical phrase that needs to be uttered or a mysterious cloth that needs to be touched, as both Jarius and the woman thought, but one of faith. Jesus’ response is not that because you pushed through the crowd, broke out of your comfort zone, or touched my garment, you are well but by one of faith. He then tells her to go in peace. Paul will later write to the Church in Ephesus, “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Eph 2:17). Mark does not explain if this woman is not only healed of her disease and saved from her sin. Yet Christ commands her to go in peace.

III. Dying daughter (35-43)

Just as Christ calls this woman “daughter,” one of Jairus’s servants comes and explains that Jairus’s daughter is dead. The height of seeing Jesus stop and heal a woman, but at that great height comes to a burdensome weight for Jairus. His daughter is dead. Few words could bring so much sorrow to a parent’s ears. The heavy heart sinking further into the dark despair. The questions that arise couldn’t, Jesus, wait to heal this woman? I wasn’t even there when she breathed her last breath. Why couldn’t it be me? At this time in Jairus, he realizes that money cannot fix all things. Power in society is nothing when dealing with the frail human body. Jairus is now helpful and hopeless, yet Jesus, right at that moment, speaks. The somber news of the death of his daughter comes, but so does the hope of the words of Jesus Christ. He turns to Jairus and says, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jairus came to Jesus for his power over sickness, but Jesus is more powerful than Jairus could think. He thought Jesus had to touch his sick daughter to make her well. Jesus reminds Jairus of the woman who was just before them, what he just witnessed. Jesus’ words come up in verses 33 and 34, she comes in fear and trembling, and her faith made her well. The English language has many complexities. Although translated correctly, verse 36 would be better understood if it was translated, “do not fear, only faith.” This is not correct English, but the same word is used in verses 34 and 36. The words spoken by Jesus do not fix the problem but point Jairus to hope.

They come to the house, which has become a place of mourning. When we walk into a funeral home for visitation, it is one measured in silence. The somber silence shows the weight and seriousness of this occasion. There might be some weeping, but often this is quiet and done by a few. Yet, in this culture, weeping and mourning happened over an extended period, and in some cases hired mourners, including flute players. The modern-day equivalent might be Arabic nations with their chants. Jesus sees this and again asks a simple question, “why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” Previously when asked a question, the disciples responded with another question pointing out the silliness of the question.

However, in this case, they just turn and laugh, not even dignifying his question with a response. Jesus enters the room of the young girl. He then takes her by the hand and says, “Talitha cumi.” These would be the exact words from Jesus’ mouth, spoken in Aramaic. Mark does this four times in his gospel, keeping the original Aramaic, showing that Peter gives his firsthand account of these events. The woman who was hemorrhaging immediately was healed, so the little girl was brought back to life. She was not only given life back to her sick body but was healed of her disease. To Christ, there is no difference between waking someone up from sleeping and bringing someone up from the dead. Christ does not need a beating heart to have life or the brain’s neurological function to understand cognitive language.

Christ has power over the natural realm, the demonic realm, the physically sick, and even death. There are many miracles in the Bible. This is one of the greatest miracles. Anyone with a child in their teenage years knows that raising them from their bed takes a miracle. Christ’s words to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” John records Jesus’ words to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:26). Jesus’ ministry on earth was an appetizer of things to come. Death is no more; disease is no more. John again writes in Revelation, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). It will be the death of death. It will be the funeral of funerals; we will say goodbye to saying goodbye.


John Flavel explains that death is a dragon and the grave its den. This dark den is a place of terror and dread. Flavel explains, “But Christ goes into its den, there grapples with it and forever overcomes it, disarms it of all its terror.” This passage shows the hope found in heaven. We still face pain, sorrow, desolation, depression, and death. The words of Jesus still ring true, “do not fear, only believe.” The truth remains the same. The time in the middle is only lingering. We still have funerals, yet Christ has not come to say arise. Both Jairus and the unnamed woman come to Jesus knowing their need for him, and they are desperate. They have tried all other avenues. They come to Jesus for they know they are weak and helpless but not hopeless. They both heard of what Jesus could do for them, and they came to him. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” In a Hymn written by Thomas Moore named “Come, Ye Disconsolate,” he poetically explains, “earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.”

Come, you disconsolate, where’er you languish;
come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.

Where to find us


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