Tuesday of Week 4 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Mark 5:21-43

Today’s passage illustrates a feature of Mark’s gospel – inclusion, where one passage is contained inside another. Today we have two miracles, with one of them narrated inside the other. Again we are told of large crowds gathering around Jesus on the shore as once again he crosses the lake.

A synagogue official, Jairus, approaches and begs Jesus to lay his healing hands on his daughter who is very ill. Jarius was a person responsible for conducting services at the synagogue and keeping order. Sometimes the position was honorary, without any administrative responsibility.

He asks Jesus to come and lay his healing hands on her, as he has done for so many others. As Jesus makes his way to the house followed by a large crowd, there is a woman who had been haemorrhaging for 12 years. She had tried every kind of medical treatment but in vain, but she was getting worse. Apart from the distress caused by the ailment, her bleeding rendered her ritually unclean. If the people around her knew of her condition she might have been attacked. Hence her great anxiety to approach Jesus without being identified or drawing attention.

She had this tremendous faith that, just by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. And she was – immediately. In both cases, there was a deep conviction that physical contact together with faith in Jesus’ power to heal would bring about a cure. It is important for us to recover the connection between physical touch and healing.

Jesus knew something had happened:

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my cloak?”

His disciples naturally wondered why he would say this when so many people were pressing in on him.

In fear and trembling, probably more afraid of the crowd than of Jesus, the woman identified herself. She then hears the beautiful words:

Daughter, your faith [i.e. your total trust in me] has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

Peace indeed. Not only was she physically cured, but she could now mix freely with people again. She was fully restored to society and her community, without the shame that a woman of that time would feel, and without having to hide.

After this, we resume the first story. Messengers come to say that Jairus’ daughter has died. There is no need to bother Jesus any more. Jesus urges Jairus to keep believing. As he approaches the house, he separates from the crowd and brings only Peter, James and John with him as witnesses to a very special event. The house is full of mourners, wailing and weeping in the customary way.

Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.

In so speaking, Jesus is not denying the child’s real death, but it is an assurance that she will be wakened from her sleep of death. Death in the Old Testament is often described as sleep. And we, too, read on gravestones that so-and-so “went to sleep in the Lord”.

The crowd, often portrayed as so supportive of Jesus, is here shown as incredulous. They laugh at him. So everyone is put out of the room except the child’s parents and Jesus’ his three companions. Then:

Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”

The words suggest resurrection to new life. Immediately the girl got up and began to walk around. She was just 12 years old.

Those present are “overcome with amazement” and are told not to say anything to anyone. They are also reminded to give the poor girl some food. This is another step in the unfolding of Jesus’ true identity, while at the same time, he does not want that identity to be made public at this stage. It is another indication of Jesus’ mission:

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
(John 10:10)

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