Mark 5:21-6:6. Faith works. And not by magic.

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 implored him earnestly, 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. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge 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 will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out 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 happened 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.” 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 overhearing 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. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 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 began walking (for 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.

He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief”

 

Mark, from 4:35-5:43, records for us four more of the signs of the kingdom. At the inauguration of his reign, Jesus visibly brought the everlasting kingdom of God into this fallen world in a number of different ways. We’ve read in the first 3 chapters of Mark about how Jesus cast out many demons, healed many sick people, cleansed a leper, healed a paralytic, and restored a man’s hand. We have looked recently at the significance of the calming of the storm, when the chaotic waters are stilled. In God’s kingdom, ultimately, there is no sea- or the sea is like glass (Revelation 4:6; 15:2; 21:1). In God’s kingdom, there is no chaos, no danger, and no storms; and Jesus brought that kingdom to earth with him.

We looked at Jesus healing a demonised man, restoring him to proper control of himself, breaking the power of Satan which was working for destruction through the man. In God’s kingdom, Satan is cast out utterly, and people are restored to the way they ought to be, fully Christlike and bearing God’s image. God’s kingdom is here now. God has invaded the cursed earth in the person of the Son.

But we have seen also that people rejected this kingdom, and couldn’t understand it. We saw intensifying opposition to Jesus throughout the early chapters, until the Pharisees and Herodians were plotting together to kill him. In chapter 4, even the disciples were terrified rather than overjoyed when Jesus spoke to the wind and waves. And in Chapter 5, the Gadarenes rejected Jesus- they would rather have their pigs than the Son of God.

Now we come to these healing miracles, and to events in Nazareth, when Jesus returned to his home town.

 

A woman touches Jesus

1) How does this woman view Jesus? 

2) How did Jesus’ healing power work? He “perceived in himself that power had gone out of him”. Was he a kind of mechanical power source, like a battery, into which anybody could tap?

3) Why does Jesus stop and ask who has touched him? Why can’t he just move on?

 

Discussion 1-3)

Jesus and the disciples travel back across the Sea of Galilee, and doubtless the disciples remember how the waters had behaved the night before when Jesus had commanded them. When they arrive on the shore, they are swamped by a crowd of people. The crowds flock to Jesus, wanting his help. A man, Jairus, is among them. He comes to Jesus in desperation. He was the leader of the local synagogue, and so he would have known something about Jesus- it would be his business to know about the religious movements in Israel. And when his 12-year-old daughter fell seriously ill, he came to Jesus. He came in faith- believing that Jesus could and would help him. Jesus listened to his pleading, and followed him back to his home.

But on the way there, they were interrupted by someone else who needed help. This, incidentally, indicates the sort of pressure Jesus worked under. There were constant demands on him, people incessantly begging for aid from all directions. This woman has suffered from bleeding for many years. And she is a tragic figure. She’s thrown all her money at doctors, and they have been able to do nothing for her. She’s got nothing left, and she’s still sick. She is despairing, slowly dying- and worse than that, she is desperately unclean. Her blood flow caused uncleanness (Leviticus 15:4). Perhaps this is why she seems so very shy of appearing in public- and especially of allowing Jesus to know that she is there: She would be coming among the people while unclean, which would be about as socially acceptable as sneezing all over the faces of your co-passengers on a train, and she would be doing it in order to come before a religious leader, which may have served to heighten the taboo in her mind. She seems to have hoped to take advantage of the crowd by touching Jesus unnoticed, and slinking away again. How did she think this was going to work? Was she superstitious? Perhaps she was in some measure, but she had real faith, and Jesus responded to her faith.

The passage seems to present Jesus as having an innate supernatural healing quality, to be tapped into by touch, like power is drawn from a battery when a circuit is connected. And I think that this was exactly how the woman thought of it- if she thought of it at all- Jesus was like a charged battery, and she could drain some of his power by touching him. It is clear that Jesus knows that power has gone out of him. What does that actually mean? Healing people took effort- it cost Jesus. It was physically and emotionally draining, and so Jesus does know when he has healed someone, even apparently involuntarily- God the Father healing through him. The woman touches him, and Jesus knows that this touch is different from the jostling of the others in the crowd. He feels strength go out of him.

So Jesus stops dead and demands to know who has touched him. His disciples think that the whole thing is ridiculous. “The crowd are pressing all around you, Jesus. We’re all being jostled constantly- yet you stop to ask who touched you? Well, who hasn’t touched you? Come on, we’ve got an emergency on our hands here. Jairus is waiting. We can’t hang around wasting time like this.” But Jesus stops walking, and looks around him. He does not want to let this go unresolved. He won’t let the woman sneak away, healed.

From the conversation which ensues, we can see Jesus’ reason for wanting to talk to the person who had touched his garments. The key thing is that Jesus made sure that there would be no remaining ground for superstition in the woman’s mind. He brought her into the open, showed love and care for her, and did not allow her healing to be a mechanical act. He wasn’t about to let her go away with her misunderstanding. He breaks off from his urgent mission to heal an ill girl, and searches for this woman, demanding to know who had touched him. The woman alone of all those in the crowd knew exactly what he meant. She had believed that Jesus garments could heal her- as if by magic- but Jesus makes it clear that it is he, not his clothes, which have the power. He suggests that he has responded to this woman’s grasping for healing- and it was vital for this woman to realise that it was because she had trusted him that he healed her.

The woman, trembling with fear- literally, you could see her shake- came out of the crowd and fell at Jesus’ feet. She told him her story, how she had desperately hoped to be cured, and desperately hoped that touching his garments would cure her. Jesus then blessed her and sent her on her way.

 

Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter

4) Mark deals with these two miracles in detail. Jesus must have done thousands of miracles, and Mark could afford to be highly selective with his material. Why does he choose these two to include in his Gospel?

5) The account of the bleeding woman is sandwiched between a two-part account of Jairus and his daughter. Mark structures his narrative in this way (when other Gospel writers do not) in order to point out the inter-relatedness of central meanings of events. What do these two accounts have in common?

6) How are these two miracles “signs of the kingdom” in a way which means that they are not just repeats of earlier signs? What would we lose if Mark had left them out?

 

Discussion 4-6)

All of the above questions have essentially the same answer. Mark has told us of many miracles that Jesus did, and all the miracles have been signs of the kingdom. We’ve thought a little about this- the casting out of demons and the healing of diseases reveal God’s kingdom in a way that flying about in the air would not, though both would be demonstrations of power. So far, Mark has arranged his accounts loosely into cycles of miracles and other pieces of narrative, each cycle with a different focus. In the first cycle, the point was simply to show what God’s kingdom is like. Under God’s reign, Satan’s power is broken and the curse is lifted. So Jesus casts out a demon, heals Peter’s mother and many sick people, and cleanses a leper. Under God’s reign, Jesus is the King. So Jesus commands some disciples to follow him, and teaches with authority in the synagogues. 

In the next cycle, a new element is introduced, namely that of opposition. God’s kingdom is not only a place of blessing, but also a place of conflict. There are those who harden their hearts and oppose the reign of King Jesus, despite its obvious goodness. So Mark tells us of how Jesus healed a paralysed man, and a man with a withered hand- but in these accounts, Mark’s focus is not so much on the miracles themselves, as the disputes which they occasioned. Mark wants to point out that the kingdom of God is essentially divisive. When it comes, it makes things much clearer, and the goats are plainly shown to be different from the sheep. And along with those miracles, Jesus calls Levi- and again the real focus is on the disputes which followed and on Jesus’ teaching about his kingdom being new and different from that which had gone before. And Mark records another dispute Jesus had with the religious leaders over the Sabbath, and also the occasion when the religious leaders accused Jesus of being under Satanic control, and the time when Jesus’ natural family said that he was a madman and tried to take him away until he got better. The disciples are marked out as Jesus’ true family, because they are in his kingdom.

Mark therefore chose these two miracles out of the many which Jesus did in order to make a point. There is something about these miracles which means that they add something to the Gospel so far. They are not just repetition of truths Mark has already made plain. These miracles are certainly signs of the kingdom in the same way that other miracles were signs- we’ve already thought of that in previous passages. But Mark is a skilled author. His Gospel is an excellent literary composition, with no redundant material whatsoever. He has already made the point that Jesus healed as a sign of the kingdom with no disease or death. Here, he is making an additional point about the kingdom if God.  The blessings of the kingdom are grasped by faith. Both the woman and Jairus are commended for their faith.

Mark weaves the two stories together not only because that is how things happened, but also to highlight the basic elements in common, and the basic elements of difference. In both miracles, there is a focus on the faith of people involved. Jesus wants to make it clear to the woman that it is her faith that has made her well. Jesus says to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” The woman has a confused faith, full of misunderstanding, and Jesus encourages her and corrects her. Jairus has great faith. He is willing to risk the opprobrium of other religious leaders by seeking Jesus out. He is sure that Jesus can heal his daughter. And Jesus tests his faith to strengthen it.

Another point of similarity is the “twelves”. Mark considers it worth the space to record that Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old, and that the woman has been suffering for 12 years. Given the weighty Biblical freight attached to the number 12 (See the study on the calling of the Twelve in 3:14 for more detail), it seems that we are supposed to see these women as typical of God’s people. The woman and Jairus are representatives of the new Israel, gaining the blessings of the kingdom by faith.

When Jesus stopped to deal with the woman, Jairus (almost certainly) would have been impatient. This woman took Jesus’ attention away from him and his daughter. She was an unwelcome distraction at just the wrong time. The daughter’s situation was urgent- as we see when the servants arrive with news of her death- and Jairus will desperately want Jesus to hurry. The woman has been ill for 12 years already. What difference would another day make? But Jairus has to trust Jesus and leave things in his hands. The servants turn up and say, “Just come home. It’s too late now. Why bother the teacher- let him go his way, he can’t help us now. She’s dead.” And did Jairus’ hopes plummet? This was surely the end. To cure illness is one thing, but to raise the dead? Jesus though, tells Jairus to keep trusting, and they keep going to Jairus’ house. In effect, Jesus is telling Jairus that he has power over death, and is capable of raising the girl from the dead. And Jairus obviously believes him- he doesn’t say “Oh don’t be stupid. It’s too late now. Just let me go and bury my daughter.” Rather, he takes Jesus home.

When they arrived at the house, the elaborate ritual of Jewish mourning had already begun. This was something to be done with all speed in a hot middle-Eastern climate (Acts 5:5-7). The people mentioned as causing a commotion here were professional mourners. They would weep and wail for money- and this was the accepted cultural norm. A local bigwig like Jairus would be expected to give a good impressive funeral for one of his own family. But Jairus trusts Jesus enough to allow him to disrupt the mourning arrangements and ruin the funeral.

We’ll just digress for a moment and deal with Jesus’ brief debate with the mourners. These men had seen a lot of corpses in their time. They knew what death looks like. But Jesus waltzes in and tells them that the girl isn’t dead, she’s asleep! The mourners think that this guy must be a comedian. They laugh at him. Dead bodies are their business, and they know a stiff when they see one. Anti-supernaturalists jump at this as proof-positive that the early church invented all the miracles. “Aha, aha!” they say- most of them doubtless opening wide their mouths into the bargain[1]– “Jesus didn’t raise the girl from the dead. She was merely in a coma, and Jesus simply calmed everyone down and roused her. But then after Jesus had died, his disciples started telling lies about him, and invented a whole bunch of divine powers for him.”

But Jesus hadn’t even seen the child when he told the mourners that she was sleeping, and he wasn’t in the habit of giving snap medical diagnoses anyway. Rather, Jesus is making a veiled promise of his power. Jesus was saying that for this girl, her death now was not something final and irrevocable. The household did see death as final- “Don’t bother the teacher any more”. But Jesus intends to give this girl her life back- to put the ghost back into the machine. His usage of sleep terminology is like that of Paul in I Thessalonians 4.

“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. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Paul is talking about dead Christians. But he refers to them as “asleep” because he wants to make the point to the Thessalonians that death is now reversible. Jesus has risen from death, and so all those who died united to him cannot remain dead. They will wake up one day.

The miracle is simply described. Jesus does not recite a magic formula, but simply commands the dead girl to rise, as he also commanded the sea and the demons.

As with previous miracles, Jesus is clear that nobody should be told about this. He had already ensured that only minimal witnesses would be present, leaving the crowd with the disciples, and taking only his inner circle of three into the house. Those outside the room could only speculate about what had happened- until the silence was broken by the apostles when they began to speak publicly of these things.

Why should this be? We’ve noted this secrecy theme before, and will do so again. But for now, briefly, the Jews expected a great Messiah; a king, a ruler, a man to command their armies, drive out their enemies, and rule in peace and prosperity. Jesus would do all of these things, but not in the way they expected. He came to do them fully and perfectly, where many of the Jews in Jesus’ day wanted only a partial and imperfect Messiah. They wanted someone to give the Romans a good kicking. Jesus came to defeat the great enemy, Satan. They wanted someone to establish an earthly throne. Jesus came to establish an everlasting kingdom. They wanted safety from human attackers, and plenty to eat and drink. Jesus came to bring in a kingdom of real and lasting joy, freedom from all sorrow. And to do those things, he would have to deal with the curse; to deliver those who he chose to be in his kingdom from the curse. So his Messiahship could only be properly understood when it was understood that he had come to die, despised and rejected, and to be raised to life on the 3rd day. In Gentile Gadara, there would be no such misunderstanding, so the healed demoniac is free to tell everyone he knows about what Jesus has done for him. In Israel, these things must be kept quiet.

This point is underlined by Luke in Acts 9, where we find a big contrast with this episode. After the resurrection of Jesus; Peter raised a woman from the dead, saying words strangely similar to those of Jesus…

 “Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room… All the widows stood beside him… But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”

Peter said “Tabitha kumi” where Jesus said “Talitha kumi”. Luke, I am sure, is well aware of this. The striking difference is that where Jesus kept things hidden, Peter called everybody into the room to see what had been done. After the cross and the tomb and the ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ power should be made plain- and many in Joppa believed.

 

Jesus in Nazareth

7) Why is it that Jesus can do no mighty work (except a few healings) in Nazareth?

Eight, which appears as a smiley if I type the number) How does faith operate? What is it about faith that means God either cannot or will not work without it? Is it basically a sort of magic?

9) What is it about the content of all three sections of the narrative from 5:21-6:6 that bind them all together as parts of a larger unit, and how does this develop the central themes of Mark’s Gospel so far?

10) What is the most important thing we should take from this passage?

 

Discussion 7-10)

Jesus went to his hometown, Nazareth, and began to teach in the synagogue there on the Sabbath. But those who heard him “took offence at him”. They resented him. These are people who know Jesus well. Some of them will be friends of his mother, and will have seen him grow from a child into a young man. Some of them will have shared jokes and meals with Jesus and his family. They identify Jesus as their carpenter- it seems that Jesus must have worked as the village carpenter for some time. Many of them will regularly sit on chairs made by Jesus, eat at tables which he made, use ploughs and sickles which have passed through his hands. They know his brothers. His sisters still live in the village. And that is how they relate to him. Everywhere else in the land, Jesus is the hot new phenomenon, followed by crowds all the day long. In Nazareth, he is not a celebrity, but is a village lad, the carpenter. People are used to walking into his shop and ordering a couple of yokes for their new oxen, not walking into the synagogue and hearing him speak authoritative wisdom.

The bleeding woman and Jairus had their requests granted because of their faith. They came to Jesus because they believed that he could help them, and so he did. We see the opposite here in Nazareth. Jesus’ own townsfolk have the opposite of faith. They seem to sneer at Jesus. “We know this guy. He’s just the carpenter’s boy. Who does he think he is, going around like a teacher? Where did he learn all this stuff anyway? He never went to any fancy school. He’s gotten too big for his boots. Someone needs to take him down a peg or three.” They are amazed at his wisdom, and can’t understand how he is so learned- but they won’t trust him. They refuse to believe that he is anything but a carpenter, the son of Mary. The latter phrase is possibly an offensive slur on Jesus’ parentage- it would be very odd in Jewish circles to refer to a man’s parentage through the maternal line rather than the paternal, even if the father was deceased. Sometimes there was a good reason for it (sons of the same man distinguished by their mothers, for example), but not in this case. And those in Nazareth would be aware that there was something a little unusual surrounding Jesus’ birth. If so, then Mark displays his nice sense of irony here- the townsfolk are looking down their noses at Jesus for being a bastard, as they see it. But Mark and his readers can see that Jesus’ lack of an earthly biological father is proof that he is indeed the Son of God.

The fact that Jesus can do no mighty work in Nazareth (oh, except for the minor matter of healing a few sick people[2]) seems to be linked to the lack of faith among the people there- and this theme of faith (or lack thereof) is what links this passage to the end of chapter 5. Jairus and the woman had it. The Nazareth-ites didn’t.

With regard to the question about what faith is, and how it works; to use theological jargon, the word “faith is used in two ways. It either means something which somebody exercises and which is the instrument of their being saved- the “faith” by which one is “justified” (Romans 5:1). Or else it means the body of doctrine which constitutes the Christian beliefs- the “faith” that was “delivered once for all to the saints” (Jude 1:3). It is the Romans-type of faith in view here, and to keep using theological jargon, it has three components, which are assensus (assent), notitia (knowledge), and fiducia (trust).

I would think that a fairly close synonym for “faith” generally is “trust”. With that in mind, it becomes clear why Jesus “could do no mighty work” in Nazareth. People took offence at him, and so they refused to come to him for healing. So he didn’t heal them.

The point of the question (no. 8 above) was to deflate the (I think pretty foolish) idea that faith is a sort of magic. I’ve heard readings of the passage that seem to think of Jesus as a mystical wizard, and “faith” as the mysterious well of power on which he draws. Under this view, Jesus actually becomes stronger when lots of people really believe in him, and actually becomes weaker when they don’t. Which is nonsense, and if it were worked out into systematic coherent doctrine would be serious heresy, making the creator’s power dependent upon his creation.

A more present danger of that view is that it often mutates into thinking “if I believe it really really hard, it will come true”. This is dangerous because it divorces the content of the belief from the content of God’s promises. We have no warrant for faith in anything which we are not promised. We can trust in Jesus Christ for salvation because he has promised that all who come to him seeking forgiveness, will be forgiven. And if we trust him even weakly, he will save us. Weak faith; strong saviour.

If I throw a coin on the floor and ask you firstly whether or not you think I can levitate it by miraculous powers, and secondly whether or not your beliefs about my ability would actually change the ability itself, what would you reckon? The correct answer is that if I throw a coin on the floor, then a combination of physical realities means that it stays on the floor unless someone touches it. I do not have the power to flout gravity with my mind, not even if I really really believe that I do. And most people who really really have faith that they can ignore gravity end up really really dead really really soon, because their faith by itself does not alter reality. What their faith might alter is their own behaviour. Specifically it gives them a tendency to walk out of the windows on the 20th floor saying, “Look at me, I can fly”. It does not alter the reality outside themselves, and so they end up half an inch tall and twenty feet wide.

I don’t have the power to levitate coins no matter how many people believe I do. If a million people believed it, they’d all be wrong. And likewise with Jesus. He had the power to do miracles. And that power was his regardless of what anyone else thought. If all the world had doubted him, his power would not have altered one iota. Mark is simply saying that if nobody will come to Jesus looking to be healed, then nobody will be healed.

Beliefs have consequences. Faith and works cannot be separated. If Jairus trusts that Jesus can raise his daughter to life, then that faith will show itself in Jairus’ actions. He will seek Jesus out, he will not rest until Jesus is going to see the girl, he will allow Jesus to disrupt the funeral… And on the flip side, if none in Nazareth believe that Jesus can help them, then they won’t seek him out for help. And if none come to him, Jesus won’t heal them. Faith and works can be distinguished, but cannot be separated. I can distinguish between my body and my spirit. But I cannot separate them unless I want to inconvenience the ambulance service and put further strain on the NHS. Like faith without works; the body without the spirit is dead. If there are no works, then any faith is not real faith at all. It is dead.

Of course Jesus would have had the power to heal the sick of Nazareth anyway, regardless of what they wanted. But in terms of “signs of the kingdom”, physical healing of stubborn Christ-haters would have been a sign that pointed the wrong way. If people reject the kingdom of God, then ultimately they don’t get to share in its blessings.

 The kingdom is entered into by faith. People come to Jesus- and they come trusting, believing, that he can help them. If they had no faith, then they wouldn’t come. They came believing that Jesus could do for them what they desperately needed. And he did.

And he still does. In Acts, people came believing that Jesus can forgive their sins. They saw him revealed as the Messiah who died and rose again, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom of joy and peace. And they trusted him to forgive their sins and bring them into his kingdom. And through their faith, they were forgiven. Not through any intrinsic power in their faith, but rather through the intrinsic power of the saviour to whom faith sent them.

 


 [1] Psalm 35

[2] Mark’s “except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them” seems to be almost amusing to us. It dismisses as insignificant something which we in our day would regard as highly significant. “A handful of people were healed- so what? Big deal” Mark seems to be saying. Whereas if a guy walked into your local hospital, laid his hands on 5 folk with their legs in traction, and had them leaping and dancing and praising God, it would make the news headlines. But in his day, Mark was dead right. A handful of healings were small beer. The kingdom had finally come, and signs of it were abundant everywhere. In other towns, Jesus was up half the night healing all who came to him, so big were the crowds. A few healings gets a mention only because it is an abnormally poor show.

 

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3 Comments on “Mark 5:21-6:6. Faith works. And not by magic.”

  1. C Gribben Says:

    But where is Jairus commended for his faith?

    • allanhim Says:

      Hi Crawford, Thanks for commenting, and sorry for the long delay in replying- I read your comment ages ago, but when I’ve had time to spare for Mark lately, I’ve been trying to put together studies on Chaper 13.

      You’re right that Jairus isn’t explicitly told that his faith has made his daughter well, but Jesus does explicitly encourage him to “not fear, only believe” (v36).
      I think that Jairus’ faith supplies a large part of the drama of the story, especially the way his faith overcomes his fears and frustrations. He already has faith when we meet him- he has sought Jesus out. He may be risking his position as synagogue leader by doing so- the Jews are already becoming hostile to Jesus- although we don’t know what the situation was like in this particular town. He’s certainly losing his dignity in what he does; he is a prominent citizen, but he falls at Jesus’ feet and begs him. He plainly believes that Jesus is able to heal his daughter.
      Then that faith has been sorely tested- they’ve hurried off to Jairus’ house and there has been this delay. Jairus’ daughter is in a critical state, about to die. If I had a critically ill daughter, and was rushing her to hospital- every second might mean the difference between life and death- then I would probably selfishly disregard the speed limits and go as fast as I dared. And if I got stuck behind somebody doing 35 in a 40 zone, then the imprecatory psalms would possibly appear restrained and polite in comparison to the thoughts going through my head concerning the other driver. Jairus has earnestly implored Jesus to come and see his daughter. He is now in a desperate hurry to get Jesus back to the house. Perhaps he is as desperate as he has ever been in his life. But Jesus delays- he stops in the middle of the crowd and demands to know who has touched him. Even Jesus’ own disciples think that this is a silly question and can’t see the point of it. For Jairus, it must be bringing him near to tears of frustration. Wouldn’t anyone human be thinking- “Come ON- let’s MOVE”. But he doesn’t throw his hands in the air and storm off. He doesn’t give up and go to spend a precious fifteen minutes with his daughter before she dies. He trusts Jesus enough that he keeps a lid on his frustrations and stays with him.
      And then the messenger arrives to tell them it’s too late… And Jesus says “don’t be afraid- just trust me.” I think that qualifies as encouragement to have faith, and maybe even as commendation for keeping faith as well.

      What do you reckon?

  2. C Gribben Says:

    Another fine study, Allan Him!


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