In Romans 8, Paul recounts at length the Spirit’s empowerment and enablement of believers to overcome the flesh, that resident expression of the external fallenness he describes elsewhere in the chapter. In verses 18-25, there is a whole world of wonderful insight about the present state of things and the work of God that will reverse and renew them to unforeseen heights. Paul writes that the created order is “subjected to futility in hope” (v. 18) by God Himself—in hope that the entire created realm will one day be set free from its corruption to enjoy the freedom of God’s children’s glorification (in other words, the curse over the earth will be removed at our resurrection)!
That the entire created order has been placed under a divine curse, in addition to its innate fallenness because of Adam’s sin, is one of the most sobering realities of the Bible. Everywhere we turn in the word, we see this divinely-imposed futility in response to humanity’s plunging the world into rebellion.
Mark 5 describes for us two personalized, individual expressions of this fallenness and futility. (How personal and intimate the Curse and a fallen world are! Yet how more personal and powerful is the presence and reign of Jesus!) More importantly, these episodes show us the gracious, redeeming mercy of the Lord Jesus—the Creator-King who has, according to eternal plan and ancient promise, come into His world to lay the foundation for total, conquering redemption from sin and every one of its deathly effects.
While it is appropriate to see these stories as illustrations of our Lord’s power to redeem men and women from sin, it is a hermeneutical and exegetical mistake to limit their intent to that. Rather, they are foretastes of His plan of total, personal, holistic redemption, which certainly and most importantly conquers the sin nature and legal guilt of repentant sinners, but which seamlessly and effectually also redeems every area of human life from every stain of sin and the Curse. It is with that understanding that we turn to our passage.
A. The Crowd (v. 21)
Crowds are surrounding our Lord once more, and unsurprisingly so. The Man who left this side of the Sea of Galilee—because there was no one on the other side except large Gentile cities that would want nothing to do with an odd little Rabbi and His band—has returned at the behest of His Father for the next offensive on the kingdom of darkness. Luke’s account tells us the crowds were already waiting for Him when He arrived, and in a sense one cannot blame them. The needs are very great. Jesus’ healing power and compassion for suffering people is now the stuff of legend. Jesus came as Messiah to die for sinners, but He also came to demonstrate the compassion of the loving God to a world of rebels laboring under the suffering of the Curse and sin. His miracles were not merely to authenticate His office ands authority (though they were that), but real expression of the savior-heart of God, of the comprehensive redemption He longs to bring to all.
We do not know if the Lord healed any of these people; the text says He stayed by the seashore when He saw the crowd (v. 21). He knew Jairus was coming, and would not be moved until that precious man had found Him.
B. The Distressed Man (vv. 22-24)
We are told Jairus is a ruler of the synagogue (v. 22), which makes his approach to Jesus all the more startling. I wonder if there were gasps in the crowd as he pushed his way forward in desperation. You see, given his place of prominence in the Jewish religious system, he would have been closely aligned with and under the supervision of the Pharisees and scribes. Their thumb was heavily felt on every synagogue in Israel, and their theology and viewpoint reigned supreme in each assembly. And by this point in the narrative, it is no secret how the Pharisees felt about Jesus, for He was a threat to their autonomy and religious self-exaltation.
Yet this man, because of his sheer desperation and brokenness, has pushed through a crowd and any bias and hard-heartedness he may have had, coming to the only One who even has a chance of saving his daughter. He forces his way through the crowd, finally gets to Jesus, and falls on his face at the Lord’s feet. All he can do is throw himself on Jesus’ mercy. And he does: “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live” (v. 23). We learn later in the narrative that his daughter is twelve, which in that culture was the beginning of womanhood, ye to him she is still his little girl. His father-heart is aching and grieving with pain at the cold fingers of death that are siphoning away her life, and the only thing he can do is plead with the One who alone can rescue her.
The best part is the Lord’s response: He does not delay, He does not hesitate, He does not even ask Jairus if he is sincere. He simply goes with him. This moment was appointed by the Father from before the foundation of the world, and Jesus is just as willing to go with you to the place of your need. Do you realize you are not a bother to Him? That He delights to hear you pray and look to Him as your only hope and help? That He runs to your cry? That He will always do what is best for you even if it is not what you’ve asked? O Christian! Your Savior is the essence of tender compassion, and He is for you!
As they leave to go to Jairus’s home, the crowd continues to press in on Jesus, and He and Jairus must push and press their way forward. This creates the occasion for the interruption in the narrative, which we look at next.
C. The Common Woman (vv. 25-34)
As is typical with Mark, he pauses the current aspect of his narrative to begin another point. We will finish Jairus’s story next week. This is part of the beauty of Mark’s style of writing—it is very up-to-the-minute, very quick and bird’s eye view.
We have read the crowds are practically mauling the Lord in an attempt to get His attention and power on their behalf. One of these is a little, forgotten, nameless woman. Hers is an especially sad case. She had had a hemorrhage (likely a uterine or menstrual disorder) for twelve long years, and doctors could do nothing to heal her. She even had spent all of her money on physician after physician, each time to have hopes dashed and slowly atrophy into cynicism. The entire process—its shame, its frustration, its isolation, its cloying sense of God’s displeasure or indifference—left her sorrowful, weary, exhausted, and beaten up. Most horribly, her disease would have made her ceremonially unclean and thus unable to be in the synagogue or participate in Temple worship. She feels cut off from God and man. But somewhere, she has heard of Jesus and His tender love for sinners, His pure heart for God. The embers of hope smoldering in her heart now find the smallest flame igniting again. Maybe. Maybe…if she can get to Him…if He’ll notice her…just maybe, He would have compassion on her too.
We do not know how long she hoped and prayed to find Him. Doubtless when word arrived in Capernaum that He was returning to the seashore, her heart leapt in her breast and she made her way there, even if she had to keep a distance from everyone else as she did so. Now, she is in the hustle and desperation of the crowd. How many has she made ceremonially unclean? How many dirty looks has she endured? Perhaps that is why she finds herself on the ground—many in the crowd would think nothing of trampling an nobody like her.
But this woman is determined. She comes up behind Him, thinking (the Greek tense is imperfect, meaning she was saying this over and over to herself), “If I just touch His garments, I will get well” (v. 28). So great is her faith in Jesus that she believes—rightly, as it turns out—that if she merely brushes her fingertips against the fringe of His robe, she will be healed. The fringe was a tassel worn on each of the four corners of observant Jewish men’s robes, a divinely appointed physical reminder of the need to obey the Lord (Numbers 15:37ff).
She touches His tassel, and immediately—instantly, as soon as her desperate hand latches on—the flow of blood stops and she could physically feel she was different. The woman had lived with an embarrassing, painful, and demoralizing affliction for over a decade. I am sure she could feel in every molecule of her body something had changed!
There is one problem with her plan: Jesus knew. This dear woman was attempting to be out of the way, hiding, inconspicuous. But the Lord knew. So He asks, “Who touched Me?” for He immediately knew that power had gone forth from Him to heal (v. 30). Now, it is possible due to Jesus’ humanity He did not know who touched Him. I think it more likely, however, that because this was a miraculous expression of His power, the Lord was hardly unaware, ignorant, or veiled as to His omniscience. Moreover, this underscores the personal-ness of His mercy: He is personally engaged in every act of His power because He is by nature a personal God. He is not aloof or indifferent when He acts on behalf of people, but He is fully aware, fully in control, fully present. He personally feels the dispensing of His power to do His will.
Of course, the disciples are a bit incredulous: With this kind of crowd, who hasn’t touched Him? But the woman knows she is found out. She is aware of what happened to her, and somehow in her heart has dawned the realization this man is holy God. She falls at His feet in humility and tells Him the whole truth (v. 33). And then: Jesus looks at her with tender love, and says, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go into peace and be healed of your affliction” (v. 34). She has not only been physically healed but spiritually saved, both by faith in the power and mercy of Christ. How many Christians have weaker, more mixed faith than this dear woman! To hear the kind voice of God incarnate saying “go into peace,” for that is your realm and rule now that you are reconciled to God!
Our God is compassionate. He cares for every need we have and every longing we experience. He simply asks that we trust His goodness and power to work on our behalf, and in His gracious answers find that we are swept into His grand purposes of making all things new.