Bible Passage: Mark 5:21-43
The Greatest News Ever for the Hopeless
Are you overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness? You’re not alone. Discover how Jesus brings hope in even the most desperate of circumstances. #HopeEmerges #daretoventure
Venture’s Weekly Worship Gathering for June 6, 2021
Every person who comes to faith in Christ has a unique story to tell about the circumstances and experiences that led them to faith. Some people have a story where they basically grew up with Jesus as another family member. They had parents who believed and talked about Jesus and whose lives were obviously affected every day by the presence and power of Jesus. These people can’t remember a time in life where they didn’t know who Jesus was, and it was a very natural, almost imperceptible thing to trust Jesus for themselves and commit to follow after him.
There are other stories that might read a lot more like an action/suspense movie. Their lives contain so much excitement/peril that you cannot predict what is going to happen next. The highs are really high and the lows are really low. Often when somebody with one of these stories comes to faith in Christ, we always wait to hear about the moment when they hit “rock bottom.” Rock bottom is that place where it’s hard to conceive of life getting any worse, but it’s so painful and so horrific that in the moment you can’t even imagine life getting any better.
In summary, “rock bottom” as a circumstance often leads to an internal spiritual state of hopelessness. Hopelessness manifests itself in many ways across our society. In working with the homeless/impoverished, people often remark that many are hopeless at seeing any purpose in doing the things that could lead them to get out of the patterns that led them to be homeless/poor. In working with drug addicts or alcoholics, people often remark that these conditions at their core are driven by despair and hopelessness. People have a feeling that a life free from the grip of addiction would be worse than the life they are in. Even some people dealing with mental illness are prevented from seeking help because there is a feeling of hopelessness that no help is available to be had.
Hopelessness is a real disease of the soul with real ailments that affect every area of life.
Mark 5:21-43 contains two stories that demonstrate the greatest news ever for hopeless people.
2 bold moves from 2 hopeless people.
Mark Chapter 5 is often called the chapter for the hopeless cause. Last week, Chris told an incredible story about the rescue of a man who everyone in society had given up hope that he could ever be freed from the clutch of demons. This week we are introduced to two people from completely different strata of society, but who meet Jesus at the same time, in the same place, and both are hopeless that anyone other than Jesus can help their cause.
A man in a high position with a desperate circumstance.
21 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.
22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet
23 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.”
24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
In Mark 5:21-24 we are introduced to a man who has a very high place in the local town, but all of his wealth and influence is of no value with the problem he faces.
Jesus is coming back from the Gentile area of the Decapolis to the area where he has made his home as an adult. Everybody in Capernaum and the surrounding regions are, no doubt, aware of Jesus and his power by now. Whenever he shows up and somebody has a problem, there is an expectation that Jesus can and will fix the problem.
But as you all know, the amount of importance that people place on having their problems fixed depends on the size and severity of the problem. Even if somebody’s life all-in-all is going OK, we all have a wish list or a bucket list of things we’d like to see happen. Maybe all my needs are taken care of, but I’d like a better job so I can do X, Y, or Z. Or maybe this person is causing me some stress at home. I’d like for them to get right with Jesus, but I can do some things to avoid the situation most days. These are the types of problems that we might bring up with God whenever it’s convenient for us, but they are not places of desperation.
Most of the crowds who met Jesus at the shore likely fell in this category. They’d love to see a miracle, or maybe have Jesus do something for them, but there was no pressing need in their minds that they would need a personal encounter with Jesus.
Contrast this with Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue. If you want to know Jairus’ position, imagine, for those of you who grew up in church, that there is one main church in your town where everybody goes. Jairus would likely be one of the two or three most influential elders or board members in that church. We are told Jairus’ name likely because everybody in Capernaum knew who Jairus was. Peter, who is telling this story through the pen of Mark, probably knew Jairus as an influential person long before this event happened.
But despite Jairus’ social standing and likely comfortable state of wealth, he is in the worst predicament that he could possibly imagine. It would be unbecoming for a man of Jairus’ social standing to bow down before someone in public unless 1) they clearly view this person as a rare superior or 2) they are in incredibly desperate circumstances. We are not sure what Jairus believes about the first statement, but the second statement is absolutely true.
Remember the religious establishment is vehemently opposed to Jesus and everything that he’s doing. We don’t know if Jairus is one of the ringleaders of this opposition, but for him to bow before Jesus would definitely put him out of step and subject to ridicule by most of his friends.
His daughter is sick and facing death. Any parent should be able to empathize with the fear and hopelessness of Jairus’ situation. He obviously loves his daughter, probably more than anything else on the earth. Even though we find out she is 12 years old- the age of adulthood- he calls her his little daughter as a sign of affection. In our vernacular, you can hear a proud and masculine father crying in desperation “Daddy’s little girl is sick, and I’m afraid she might not make it. Can you please come and do whatever you can? You’re the only person I know who can heal her.
What other people think about Jairus or even what Jairus himself thinks about Jesus matters far less than the fact that he is in desperate need of help and only Jesus can offer it.
All of the crowd either knew Jairus personally or knew who he was. This would be interesting to see how Jesus responds. The great crowd thronging around Jairus and Jesus matters mostly because of what happens next.
A Jewish woman who risks public humiliation to seek Jesus.
25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years,
26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.
28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m one of those people who loves real, actual country music. I’m not talking about the fake stuff they play on the radio. I love songs sung by people who have had hard lives where basically everything goes wrong and they need to tell you about why they’ve turned to drinking and given up hope.
Verses 25 and 26 basically read like a first century country song, only this is a real-life woman where the events over twelve years absolutely turned her life upside down. We are told a rapid succession of facts about this poor woman.
- She had a disease that had lasted over twelve years
- She had suffered under the care of people who she had hoped would help her
- She was financially destitute from trying to get well
- The disease had only gotten worse with the passage of time
A disease of the discharge of blood would be devasting for any woman in any culture, but it was especially so for a Jewish woman in the first century. Besides the financial hardship she was experiencing, the Levitical law had almost certainly made this woman a total outcast from Jewish society.
25 “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean.
26 Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her menstrual impurity.
27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.”
The Levitical laws of uncleanness took many things that are ordinary normal biological functions and said they caused people to be unclean. The point of these laws was to remind people that the curse of sin extends to every person and to every corner of the earth. So, every month when a woman goes through her time, she has to set herself apart from the rest of the community as a reminder that the effects of sin have permeated something even so natural as being able to bear children. The discharge of blood in Leviticus is a reminder that death is in the world and we can’t escape it.
So where does that leave this poor woman? We are told that she has had a discharge of blood for 12 years. She is probably anemic, in pain, lacking energy, and physically can’t do the things most people do just to take care of herself.
This poor woman lives with the daily reality of Biblical uncleanness. But what Biblical uncleanness does psychologically is something that many of us today can relate to….. she is constantly told that she does not measure up to the standard and is not good enough.
Think about where this leaves her place in society.
- She can’t publicly be around “clean” people if they know about her disease.
- She can’t have a husband with normal relations. We are not told any of this, but it’s highly possible that she had a husband and was divorced because of her disease. That would have been the culturally normal thing to do.
- She can’t have children, so every day she sees all the other women her age with their kids and is reminded that she cannot have any.
- She can’t work to support herself. She has spent all she has trying to get well, so she is destitute.
- She would be viewed by everyone in town as someone who was cursed by God.
Needless to say, this woman was taking a big risk by being in the crowd this day. She wasn’t supposed to be there. She probably kept herself covered and hidden on the hopes that nobody would recognize her. The last thing that she would want is to be publicly humiliated.
Because of her social status and uncleanness, this woman could never walk up to Jesus and ask for healing. The commotion around Jairus and Jesus presented an opportunity for this woman to just be part of the crowd and remain away from the focus of attention.
We have been talking a lot in Mark about Jesus’ identity as the messiah and the Son of God. This woman apparently knew little about all of that. All she knew was that Jesus had a unique and special power to heal. In her view of the way healing works, she thought if she could only get close enough to touch something that belongs to Jesus, his power could magically heal her. It was all she knew to do. Her only shot at a normal life.
Miraculous results that the Master of Hope brings.
Faith, not magic, is the mechanism of Jesus’ healing.
29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”
31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'”
32 And he looked around to see who had done it.
33 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.
34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Amazingly! The woman’s plan works! She immediately feels the healing effects that Jesus has miraculously accomplished. I’m sure this woman’s plan is to anonymously leave and find a way to rebuild her life as a normal person.
But Jesus has other plans.
Not only did the woman feel the effects of her healing, but Jesus did as well. You can imagine him stopping in his tracks, taking time away from this life or death mission to heal Jairus’ daughter. Looking around to see who had touched him, I’m sure the crowd is thinking “it could have been any one of us.” In Luke’s telling of this story, Peter even corrects Jesus saying “people are crowding and jostling around, of course someone touched you.” But the meaning of this event for Jesus was totally different from anyone else’s meaning, including the woman herself.
There had to have been some kind of great pause and suspense. The last thing this woman wanted was to be made public, but here Jesus had stopped everything and was demanding that she come forward. Now there is some debate among theologians as to whether Jesus already knew the woman and anything about what has just happened to her. Either way, whether Jesus is asking because he wants to know who this woman is or because he wants her story to be made public to everyone else, the effect is that she comes forward courageously AND with fear to tell what had happened.
What Jesus says to her next might be even more astounding than the fact that she was healed. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”
Austin has already discussed that healing and miracles were already known to people in the first century. This is why this woman, who knew very little about Jesus and nothing about his teaching on faith, truly believed that she could be healed by touching the hem of his garment. There was some sort of magical power, she believed, that would lead to her healing.
But Jesus takes this opportunity in front of the crowd to teach that the mechanism that he uses is not magic, or touch, or spiritual osmosis. The mechanism that Jesus uses to heal…and to save.. is faith. “It is by grace, through faith, that you are saved.”
So what is Jesus talking about when he tells this woman that she has faith. First of all, faith is NOT having all of the right answers. This woman clearly did not fully apprehend who Jesus was and what he was capable of if she thought that touching him would lead to her healing. But this woman’s lack of understanding was not an obstacle to her faith. Faith is NOT a status that we attain under the law. You could make a case that because Jairus was a good and important guy that Jesus might heal his daughter because of who he was. But this woman had NO STATUS under the law. She was an outcast, a nobody. In fact, the very presence of this woman near Jesus was breaking the law. But we know already that Jesus is not concerned with law. Jesus is concerned about souls. She knew that Jesus was unique in his power, she knew that he was good, and she acted according to the information that she had about Jesus.
Jesus recognizes faith because he is the author of it. This woman’s faith was not perfect or well-informed yet, but it was faith. And faith made this woman well, not just in her body, but in her relationships with others and her relationship with God.
This is why Jesus can say “go in peace.” Peace is not simply an absence of war. It is the Biblical concept that all is right and well and in perfect harmony between God and man. In other words, Jesus has given salvation to this woman.
Now the story shifts back to Jairus.
The will of Christ, not the presence of Christ, is responsible for healing.
35 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?”
36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.
38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
40 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.
41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.
43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
We are not told how long the interruption from the woman with blood took from Jesus’ journey to Jairus house. Going anywhere with a big group of people surrounding you is definitely a hindrance to getting there quickly. While Jesus is taking his time to teach about faith, some people come from Jairus’ house with terrible news. The beloved daughter is now dead. If there was ever a moment to give up hope, this would be that moment. Physicians and healers can heal, but no human can cross the divide between death and life.
But Jesus’ response if far from hopeless. In fact, for many, his response invites ridicule. Jesus resolves to continue to Jairus’ house just as he had before. It’s almost as if Jesus is ignoring the news that the girl is dead. He no longer is followed by a crowd, but only invites his closest disciples and the girl’s parents to come with him all the way.
When Jesus arrives at the house, the mourning has already begun. In some cultures today, just as then, the amount of audible mourning was a signifier of how important the person who died would have been. A man like Jairus would have expected and would have actually paid people to wail and mourn at his house upon the death of a beloved family member. This has already begun.
Jesus is ridiculed by some of these professional mourners when he says “the child is not dead, but is asleep.” They know what death looks like. Some part of their livelihood depends on it. They are not expecting a miracle, so they openly laugh at Jesus.
Side note: Anytime in the Bible that people laugh at God, they are about to be proven wrong. You may remember in the story of Abraham where Sarai laughs when God tells her that she will give birth to a son in her old age. She soon gives birth to Isaac, who name means laughter…a reminder not to laugh at a promise of God.
So Jesus clears out the house expect for Peter, James, John, and the parents. You would expect for a miracle of this magnitude that there would be some extraordinary ritual or prayer that Jesus would have to do in order to pull this off. But what Jesus does next is so simple and anti-climatic that it is astounding.
“Talitha cumi” which means little girl, arise. There is no fanfare, no nothing. Jesus tells her to get up and she gets up. I believe the exact words of Jesus were so etched into the mind of Peter because he has never seen anything like it. Jesus wants to bring this girl back to her parents and it happens!
The little girls gets up, walks around and Jesus says to give her something to eat. That’s it. The disciples and the parents are simply astonished! Jesus gives one last remark that they should not tell anyone….at least not yet. I’m wondering how you would keep this a secret, however, when you have wailing over a girls death, Jesus enters the house, and the next thing you know the girl is in good health.
This is just one more example of what we call Jesus divine secret…the open secret of his deity in the Gospels. We will talk about this throughout Mark, but Jesus wants to make abundantly clear that he did not come to be a miracle worker. He didn’t even come to raise people from the dead. The work of Jesus is to be raised himself from the grave, so that death is defeated once and for all. Jesus wants to make plain that he can heal the hopeless merely by his will and his word, so that we can know that as he sits at the right hand of the Father, he has the absolute authority to save us from our sins and give us new, eternal, spiritual life.
Challenge: How are you hoping to be delivered from sin and its terrible effects on your life? Have you given up hope, or are throwing yourself toward the Master of Hope?
Do you identify with Jairus…. All in all you have a good life and have lived it well in the standards of others, there is a despair over something that you are completely powerless over?
Do you identify with the woman…. You are reminded day after day that you are not good enough that you don’t measure up. You feel like an outcast. All you are looking for is a small amount of relief from spiritual agony. But understand that Jesus offers even fare more than that!
Have you ever come to a place in life where you know that Jesus…and only Jesus…can save? Sometimes we look to Jesus as a “hedge our bets” insurance policy. Just in case. But when you look at the faith that Jesus blesses. It’s not a perfect faith…or sometimes even a correct faith…but it’s a desperate faith…A faith of no plan B. How many of us today have simply thrown ourselves to Jesus as plan A-Z?
About Venture Church
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Venture Church meets online and in-person at our Dallas, NC location Sundays at 9:30 & 11 am for Worship and Wednesdays at 7 pm for Bible study. Visit daretoventure.org to connect with a life group, support this ministry, or take the next step in your personal faith journey.
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