When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake.22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘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.’ 24So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’40And they laughed at him. Then 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. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Translation: When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side again, a large crowd was gathered together upon him and he was alongside the sea. And one of the elders of the synagogue named Jairus came, and seeing him, fell to his feet, and beseeched him greatly, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death so that, coming, you might lay hands on her so that she might be saved and might live." And he went with him.
And a large crowd was following him, and they were pressing together on him. And there is a woman issuing blood for twelve years, and she suffered much from many physicians and she spent all she had, and was profited nothing but became much worse. She heard the things concerning Jesus (and) came up behind in the crowd (and) fastened to his garment. For she said, "If I might fasten even to his garment, I will be saved." And immediately, the fountain of her blood was made dry and she knew in body that she had been healed from plague. And immediately, Jesus knew fully in himself that out of him power had come. Turned about in the crowd, he was saying, "Who fastened onto my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing together on you and you say 'Who fastened onto me'?" And he was looking around to see the one who did this. But the woman was afraid and trembling, knowing what had come to be in her, she came and fell down before him and said to him all the truth. But he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go into peace, and you are healed from your plague."
Yet while he was speaking, they came from the presiding elder of the synagogue, saying, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher more?" But Jesus, overhearing the word that had been spoken, said to the presiding elder of the synagogue, "Do not fear. Only believe." And he allowed no one with him, except Peter and James and John, the brother of James. And they came into the house of the presiding elder of the synagogue, and he saw a commotion and weeping and much wailing. And coming in, he said to them, "Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but sleeping." And they were laughing at him. But throwing them all out, he took the father of the child, and the mother, and the ones with him and entered into where the child was. And taking the hand of the child, he said to her, "Talitha koum," which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, 'Rise up'". And immediately the girl got up and was walking about, for she was twelve years old, and they were immediately astonished a great ecstasy. And he commanded to them greatly that no one might know this, and he said, "Give her something to eat."
Background and situation: This section of Mark (4:1-5:41) sees Jesus operating around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had been on the gentile side of the Sea of Galilee, and has now returned to the Jewish side. (Matthew's version of this story is 9:18-26; the Lukan one is 8:40-56.)
Mark employs his "sandwich technique" in this lection. He begins one story, breaks in with another, and then completes the first. For other examples, see Mark 3:22-30; 6:6-30; 11:12-20; 14:1-11; 14:54-72. This technique not only heightens tension, but each aspect of the story helps to interpret the other.
Saved by faith: The friendly crowd is "gathered together upon him." Jairus meets Jesus and his party alongside the sea.
Jairus is one of the few named characters in Mark. He is eis tone arxisunagogone, which would probably indicate one of the lay elders of the synagogue. He is not a rabbi, and is probably not the presiding elder. In other words, he did not preach the sermon, or chair the council meeting, but if people wanted to gripe about the synagogue's hard seats or poor heating, they griped to Jairus.
Jairus was probably not rich, but had considerable status within the community. In a society heavily influenced by issues of honor and shame, Jairus held a highly honorable position.
Jairus sees Jesus, falls at his feet, and makes his request. It was customary for the male "head of the family" to make such requests, and Jairus follows the socially-approved procedure in doing so. He tells Jesus that his twelve year old daughter is sick, "at the point of death." and he implores Jesus to "lay hands on her."
As Jesus sets off to go with Jairus, the friendly crowd again pressing around him, he is interrupted by an incident involving a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. That the age of the girl is twelve years and the time of the older woman's "plague" is also twelve years establishes a link between the two while, at the same time, providing "signals" of the Jewishness of the territory. The number twelve, of course, is representative of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The issue between the two women is one of class. One is the daughter of an honored official. The other is a destitute "unclean" woman who had "suffered much under many physicians and had spent all she had." (Poor people of the time were quite often afflicted by "physicians" who offered ineffective care.)
Mark, usually spare with words, goes into some detail regarding the at-risk condition of the woman. Mark uses seven participles in a row to describe her, very unusual for Mark. The woman is sick, afflicted by physicians, destitute, and getting worse.
Mark's rich description invites sympathy for the woman. She needs the reader's positive disposition because her "offense" is actually quite serious. According to the "purity code," everyone she touches in that dense crowd is rendered "unclean" simply by brushing up against her. Technically speaking, the woman should not even be out in public. When she touches Jesus, she will pass her "uncleanness" on to him as well.
She reaches through the crowd to "fasten onto," or, more commonly, "touch" the garment of Jesus. (The word hapto is often used to denote kindling a fire, or applying one thing to another. It is used four times in verses 27-31.) Both the woman and Jesus feel the healing take place. The woman "knew" it in her body. Jesus "knew" that power--dunamis--had gone out from him.
The crowd again comes to the fore. Jesus is "turned about" by someone, presumably the crowd, which is again described, this time by the disciples, as "pressing together on" Jesus. Wes Howard-Brook argues that the "crowd," for Mark, "signifies the social location of the poor." Indeed, considering that at least 90% of the people in first century Israel were poor as dirt, this is not surprising.
The now-healed woman is described as afraid and trembling, yet also "knowing what had come to be"--gegonen, a word associated with being born--in her body. She fell down before him, as Jairus had done when pleading the case for his daughter, and told Jesus "all the truth." (Unlike the young girl, this poor woman had no male to make a case on her behalf.)
Jesus lets stand the implication that he's a source of spiritual and temporal power, but attributes the woman's healing not to his power, but to her faith. It's not touching the Transformer that matters so much, but rather the faith that precedes it.
Jesus responds by calling the woman "daughter," the only use of this word by Jesus in Mark's gospel. Jairus has his daughter, and now Jesus claims the poor destitute woman as his. The young girl has her advocate. The unclean woman now has hers. (Chalk up yet another example of "preferential option for the poor.")
In Mark's gospel, Jesus' own disciples are never said to have "faith." Yet, this anonymous, sick, destitute, unclean, "impure" woman does have faith.
Also interesting: Jairus follows the correct procedure for making a request. He speaks man-to-man with Jesus on behalf of his daughter. He bows correctly in making the request. The poor woman, on the other hand, follows a socially-inappropriate procedure for making her request, yet Jesus takes the time to honor it.
Saved by resurrection power: In the meantime, representatives of Jairus arrive, and their words are abrupt: The young girl is dead. This is the first time we are informed of the young woman's actual death. The stakes of this encounter are ratcheted another notch higher. Before, Jesus would have been dealing with a person who was seriously ill. Now, he's dealing with someone who has actually died.
Jesus counsels Jairus to have what the poor woman had, and the disciples never do, which is "faith." "Fear not. Only faith." (As is nearly always the case, the word the NRSV translates as "believe" is pisteuein, which really means "faith." Again, as is nearly always the case, it is "faith" used as a verb, which sounds funny in English so we mistakenly substitute "believe" instead.)
At this point, Jesus calls together the "inner circle of the inner circle," which is Peter, James, and John, and they go into the house. The "professional mourners" are already there, engaging in "commotion and wailing and much weeping." People in those days often hired professionals to help them mourn. These mourners are, you might say, "the death people."
Jesus asks about the commotion, and asserts that the child is "not dead, but sleeping." This prompts derisive laughter from "the death people." The NRSV says that he "put them out." This is much too tame. Mark actually says that Jesus threw them out--ekbalone. He flat pitched them out the door! Jesus never cared much for either demons or "death people."
Mark does not explicitly mention violations of the "purity code," but there are two of them in this reading. First, the woman with the hemorrhage touched Jesus, rending him unclean. Second, Jesus touched the dead young woman, which also would have rendered him unclean.
That Mark does not mention this, even though it would have been obvious to a first century audience, is a way of saying that Jesus took no notice of these purity violations. For Jesus, human need always trumps technical rules.
He took the young woman's hand and said, in Aramaic, "Talitha koum." This is the first of only four instances of the use of Aramaic in Mark's gospel.
The next use of Aramaic is ephphatha, which means "be opened," and is used in the context of healing a blind man in 7:34. ("Be opened" also relates thematically to what happens following the healing.) Abba, the Aramaic word for "father", is used in Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene in 14:36, expressing the intimacy of Jesus' relationship with his Father, and, finally, Jesus' "cry of dereliction" from the cross (15:34) is spoken in Aramaic as well: Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani.
Talitha koum means "little girl, rise up," which is a word of resurrection, whereupon follows Jesus' greatest miracle in Mark's gospel, the raising of a dead person to life. The little girl got up, walked around, and the people were astonished and in "great ecstasy"--ekstasis. The only other time the word ekstasis is used in Mark's gospel is at the resurrection of Jesus (16:8).
Incidentally, Peter, James, and John have no excuse for not having faith in the rest of Mark's gospel. They witness Jesus' greatest miracle, and still, they don't get it.
Image: Raising Jairus' Daughter, Dinah Roe Kendall