A Woman’s Reach (Mark 5:21-43)

MOTIVATE

What would you answer (in priority order) if simultaneously: phone rang / door knocked / oven timed / smoke detector sirened / child cried & called ?

We live in a world with multiple pressures, problems, and people calling for our attention. Sometimes we are able to act in accomplishing multiple tasks, and other times we will miss the mark entirely.  Today’s passage is about several people needing Jesus and how His response relates to meeting our greatest needs. img_4160

EXAMINE           Mark 5:21-43 (ESV)
Previously, Jesus was teaching and doing miracles. He was drawing great crowds in some places, while in other places people did not want to be disturbed. The same is true today where some are open to hearing more, while others are closed-minded. It is interesting that people who call Christians closed-minded are themselves pridefully resistant to reading the Bible or reflecting on the life of Jesus.

The Gospels tell us about the life of Jesus. Gospels are filled with true stories written down from eyewitness reports. The writers come from different backgrounds: Matthew (Jewish), Mark (from Peter), Luke (collected sources to Gentiles), and John (latest account with high Christology). In all, my point is that these authors weren’t compiled together in a room writing the same stories. Instead, these writers cross multiple years, geographic locations, and audiences in writing about the life of Jesus. Each story in their writing was captured from the crowds of people who could not stop talking about what they had seen and heard. When you meet Jesus, nothing is ever the same.

Our text today is Mark 5:21-43. This text has what commentators call a “sandwich structure,” beginning with the story of Jairus with a dying daughter (5:21-24), interrupted by the story of a suffering woman (5:24-34), and ending with Jairus again (5:35-43). The purpose is to compare and contrast with lessons learned.

There are 3 main characters in this passage: A girl resurrected, a woman healed, and a begging man. Through each of their encounters we learn at least 3 principles about faith.

Jesus rewards our faith.

Our faith matters for entrance to the next life, but it must be in the right object. We cannot just have a general faith – “I believe in God.” Which god? Do you have faith as fire insurance or is it really the foundation for your beliefs and behaviors? Faith is foundational for Christianity – for the life to come but also for the life that is.

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

In this passage, we see Jairus, a synagogue ruler, is kneeling at the feet of Jesus. Jairus’s posture indicates his desperation and his conviction that Jesus is his only hope.

It’s interesting that a synagogue ruler is kneeling toward Jesus. Reading the Gospels tells us the synagogue rulers were not very fond of Jesus, many hated him, which would manifest in their plot to murder him. For whatever reason, this synagogue ruler was willing to cast aside community politics, religious position, and personal pride in effort to see the true power of God.

The previous stories about Jesus have been spreading and people are asking:

  • Who is this man whom the wind and waves obey? (Mk 4:41)
  • Who is this amazing man whom can heal demon-possession (Mk 5:20)
  • – At this point, it is unknown that Jesus can raise the dead; so there was an urgency about this request.

In this case, Jairus’s only daughter is 12 years old and she is gravely sick (Luke 8:42). Jairus begs for Jesus to make her well. When a child has an unsolvable issue, a loving parent will move heaven and earth seeking answers.

Jesus’s response is favorable by traveling home with Jairus.

  • Jesus frequently said “ask whatever you wish according to God’s name & kingdom” (Mt 7:7; 21:21; Mk 11:24; Jn 14:14; 15:7)
  • 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”
  • Proverbs 15:29 “The Lord hears the prayers of the righteous”
  • Psalm 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call on him”
  • Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things.”
  • Hebrews 4:16 “Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need.”

 

  • Pray in emergencies but also pray for the everyday. We often have not because we ask not. I mentioned George Müller last week – his prayer life is inspiring bc he prays about everything; writes the prayer down and then often is able to identify when God answers.
  • Pray with submission.
    • Charles Barnes: God answers prayer 3 ways: Yes, No, You gotta be kidding. We must commit ourselves to the Lord’s will, even before it is evident.
    • When God says “no,” then we should resolve not to sulk & stew but serve where we know His will.
    • Waiting on God is not just about what we get but who we are becoming.
  • Another practical application is learning to ask others for help. Sometimes we wait until the snowball has become an avalanche before we make it known we have an issue. Other times we assume others are mind-readers and we bask in grumbling festivities. Too often we enjoy being short-tempered and sharp with others. We must learn asking for help is not a sign of frailty but of humanity.

 

Jesus relates to our suffering.

While on the way to the home of Jairus, there was a great crowd that followed Jesus. It is probable there was a company of people attending with Jairus. It is also likely the streets were crowded with travelers. Along the way Jesus encounters a woman. She is also noted to have a grave condition.

She was suffering physically. She has had a discharge of blood for 12 years. Scholars note that this unknown condition may have been some sort of tumors on her uterus causing physical pain and visible bleeding.

She was socially burdened. According to OT ceremonial laws, she was unclean (Lev 15:25; 15:19-27). And anything or anyone she touched was unclean, so no one would intentionally spend time around her. The Talmud listed no less than eleven cures for this sort of illness; some odd potions and other superstitious foolishness. It is very likely this woman had tried some of these remedies, along with many other physicians with whom she spent all her money, but no one could help her. Can you imagine the repeated disappointment for twelve years?

She was wholly desperate. Like Jairus, she had heard the reports about Jesus. She positioned herself in the path where Jesus was walking, and she reached out to touch the fringe of His garment. “For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ And immediately – she was healed” (5:28-29).

Is this an additional superstition or a kind of precursor to touching the clothing of 80’s rockband musicians? Actually, there is something very profound happening. In the Mosaic Law, God instructed Israelites to make tassels on the corners of garments. The prayer shawl garment has tassels/fringes, which the Jewish word (tzitzit) has a numerical value of 600. Each of the fringes contain 8 threads and 5 knots, making a total of 613; which corresponds to the number of commandments contained in the Torah.

Even further, in ancient times, the corner hem of a garment represented a person’s identity. This is seen a handful of times in the Bible:

  • When Ruth sought marriage to Boaz, asking him to spread the corner of his garment over her (Ruth 3:9).
  • When David cut off a corner of King Saul’s robe that identified Saul and his kingship (1Sam 24:5)
  • The Lord promised to spread His garment over Israel, as in a marriage covenant (Ezekiel 16:8)
  • Malachi prophecies of the Messiah having “healing in his wings/corners of a garment” (Mal 4:2).
  • Pharisees in Jesus’s day wore elaborate tassels on the garments to showcase their religiosity (Mat 23:5).

So, the woman’s reach for the fringe of Jesus’s garment was her faith in the identity of Jesus as the Messiah. She believed the presence of God rested with Jesus and the power of God could flow through Him. 12 years of physical pain and emotional suffering were all healed in a moment with Jesus.

Interestingly, Jesus perceived power (δύναμις) had exited his body. He questions: “Who touched me?” and the disciples look incredulously seeing the crowd of people (not social distancing) touching one another. The suffering woman falls at the feet of Jesus and confessed her faith and hope in Jesus, and He responds, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease” (Mk 5:34). His calling her daughter indicates a level of intimacy and special encounter between the woman and Jesus.

Some takeaways…

  • Jesus’s intensity to identify who touched Him rivals that of the woman’s aspiration for healing. Jesus was not content to simply dispense healing; He wanted to define discipleship. “He [kept] looking around to see who touched him” (5:32). The miracles of Jesus have meaning and discipleship with Jesus is not just about receiving healing but being known by Him and reassigned a new way of living. Jesus wanted to give her physical healing and spiritual wholeness.
    Our Christian faith is not just about receiving forgiveness of sin but being reassigned a mission for living out the way of Jesus in everything we do: integrity and influence for Jesus.
  • Suffering is an expected consequence of a fallen world, but it’s also mystery for why and how it occurs among individuals. When we see individuals suffering – especially unjustly – as Christians, we are called to speak up, saying, “I see your pain and I stand with you.”
    – Let me illustrate: Normally today ER doctors prioritize acute care life-threatening to non-critical pain managing or surgical repair. Chronic or complex pain, while important, are usually put off for acute care issues. However, in this text, Jesus works in the opposite fashion. He handles the lesser first.

    • Jesus values the woman and relates to her suffering.
    • Every issue raised is important to Jesus.
    • God’s delay is not for lack of care or competency, but constructive toward His greater purposes. Jesus’s delays are often for deeper and more distinguished work. Who can raise the dead? Only God.
  • If we want the blessing, we must stop driving down dead-end roads or walking a different path than Jesus. Like the woman, we must desperately and devotedly walk in the path of Jesus and seek to be as near Him as possible. There is healing under His wings, but there is danger away from His covering. What area of life are you veering off course from God’s intention for you?
    • Surplus/down-time spent doing… trivial actions rather than beneficial for personal & spiritual growth.
    • Students considering future college & career decisions… have you factored in God’s call?
    • Singles & Singles again who missionary date.
    • Parents who choose to avoid conflict when they know a future crisis looms; needing to put Christ at the forefront of the family rather than compartmentalized in circumstances.
    • Wherever the Spirit speaks…

Jesus reverses our hopelessness.

At this point, Jairus is thinking… “Ahem! What about my daughter?!?” While Jesus speaks with the woman (“she told him the whole truth”), people from the house of Jairus came with news that the daughter was dead and there was no need for Jesus to come. They viewed the request as a bother to Jesus, but Jesus viewed the request as a crisis of belief. Jesus responds: “Do not fear, only believe” (5:36).

Hopelessness abounds in circumstances with a dead daughter and abounds in critics, but Jesus is unfazed. Jesus overhearing/ignoring [παρακούσας] the reports. Jesus doesn’t focus on the problem but the solution.
– – – Too many times we amplify the problem rather than illuminate explanations and spotlight solutions.

Jesus ignores the commotion, taking Peter, James, and John with Jairus & wife to be with the child. In a very personal and compassionate way, Jesus takes the child’s hand and speaks: “Talitha cumi,” which means “Little girl, I say to you arise” (5:42).

Similar to the woman had 12-years of suffering, Jairus had a delay in daughter’s healing from sickness unto death. Yet, based on their willingness to persevere in following Jesus, there came healing. Can you imagine if Jairus listened to the critical commentary and not persevered with Jesus? He would have had to plan a funeral rather than throw a party (with food, “give her something to eat!”) with the smiles and celebration of their daughter.

  • Where are you tempted to give up and listen to the critics, but Jesus is calling you to persevere? In life and faith, we will endure those who laugh and mock us. But followers of Jesus will be the last ones smiling –
    I don’t say that condescendingly, but in effort to bring contentment to those facing current hardships.

Why does Jesus instruct the family to not testify of this resurrection miracle? Jesus has been attracting great crowds with physical healings and helpful teachings, and now raising the dead will undoubtedly prematurely incite mass misunderstanding of His Messianic ministry. Jesus was not coming to replace Roman political power, He was coming to rescue us from pride, self-sufficiency, and the deathly consequences of sin. Jesus wanted people’s faith to understand following Christ involved cross-bearing. God’s kingdom was not just about the seat of earthly power but the grace to sacrifice and the glory of humility. The people would have to give up more than expected, but true followers would also gain more than we expected. Jesus said it like this, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul?” (Mk 8:35-36)

Hopelessness is from selfishness. If we want hope, then follow Jesus.

 

APPLY/THINK

  • The consequences of a fallen world are for the rich and poor; religious and irreligious; the just and unjust. An unclean woman suffered and so did a synagogue ruler. And God’s grace meets both, with the least being first. There is no person who lacks importance and value in God’s eyes.
    • Especially you Mom – who often gives so much without recognition, but God sees. May God’s love strengthen you today.
  • Don’t be afraid, be believing.

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