Jesus is criss crossing across the Sea of Galilee. He now returns from the Gentile territories on the Eastern shore to Jewish territories. Through this Mark is reminding us that Jesus’ ministry is for all people. Now he is back with the Jews a synagogue official approaches him. The detail of remembering the man’s name and position in society suggests that this is another story from Peter’s memory.
Jairus pleads with Jesus to heal his daughter. Mark uses dramatic language to show us the reactions of people to Jesus. The demoniac pleads with Jesus after his healing. Jairus pleads with Jesus. There is a passionate longing for Jesus and his healing work here. We will see how this pleading with Jesus leads to faith and faith is the key lesson in today’s reading.
As they head out to go to Jairus’ home a large crowd is pressing in on Jesus. Now a particularly moving and detailed story is told. The woman with the hemorrhage believes she will be healed if she can just touch the Lord’s cloak. The story sometimes has “the hem of his garment” and some commentators think this is referring to the prayer apron Jewish men wore at the time. The woman wants to make contact with the spiritual prayer life of Jesus through his prayer vestment. She does so and is healed.
The important part of the story is that Jesus became aware of what happened and he turns to find who it was. The woman is frightened by this display of power, but Jesus re-assures her that her faith has healed her. This faith is worth examining. Was her faith simply that she tried very hard to believe something that was difficult to believe? No. That is not faith. That is wishful thinking. Instead faith is complete trust in God’s saving power combined with action. The woman would not have been healed simply by believing hard enough. She had to believe and act upon it. This is the constant theme throughout the New Testament. Faith is belief and action together. This faith is pictured by the woman reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
This kind of faith is also seen in Jairus. His daughter is sick. He believes Jesus can heal. He steps out and takes action and goes to find Jesus. This kind of faith also pictures who Jesus himself is. Mark insists throughout the story that Jesus is a man of action. His faith is always being lived out in a radical way. So for us, faith is not simply believing the right things or praying more or being more spiritual or trying hard to believe something we suspect is not true. Faith is belief in action. We must always do something and not be passive if we are to be people of faith.
Notice Jesus calls the woman with the hemorrhage “Daughter” and it is Jairus’ daughter who also needs to be healed. We are therefore seeing the healing of two daughters and so Mark establishes the relationship between Jesus and both women. If they are his daughters then he is the Father. Jairus, as the father, pictures the loving Father God and Jesus the healer therefore shows himself to be one with the Father.
With many interesting details, Mark tells the story of Jesus going to Jairus’ house. Jairus’ servant arrives to announce the girls’ death. In the face of death Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” He thus echoes Psalm 23, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will not fear, for you are with me.” God is the Good Shepherd who walks with his people through the dark valley of death, and Jesus says “Do not be afraid” as he walks through the valley of the shadow of death with Jairus. Jesus adds to the encouragement “Do not be afraid” the further encouragement, “Just have faith.” He thus further expounds on the nature of faith. Not only is faith belief in action, but it is the antidote to fear. Without God and his love we are in constant fear. With Christ fear is banished and faith takes its place. Here faith is an abiding trust and confidence in God that all shall be well.
They mock Jesus for saying the girl is asleep. The New Testament uses the euphemism “sleep” for “death” sometimes, but Jesus is saying something more here. He is challenging death itself by saying that her death does not exist. “She is only sleeping” is a direct rebuke of death–almost as if Jesus comes onto the death scene and yanks it back to life. This is then exactly what he does as he brings the girl back to life. She gets up and Jesus make the practical request that she be given something to eat.
Finally notice again the strong language. The people are constantly “amazed, astounded and astonished” at all that Jesus does. This passage stresses the need for faith. We need belief in action and we need to cast out all fear. Someone has said, “Perfect love casts out fear. What are we afraid of? Perfect love.” You can also say that perfect faith casts out fear. What are we afraid of? Perfect faith. Perfect faith is that seen in the woman who is healed and in Jairus. They step out and move towards Jesus with total confidence and trust.
What enables them to do this? They have nothing else to lose. The woman has already spent all her money, time and effort to get better. She has only Jesus. Jairus has already given up on anyone being able to help his daughter. Jesus is all he has left. This is often where life brings us. We don’t really learn to have perfect faith until we have nothing else left. To have perfect faith, therefore, we must give up all other supports and all other sources of our strength and dependence. Then when we come to Jesus and reach out to him we will have the perfect faith that casts out fear and brings healing, light and life.