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The Fourth Sunday after Trinity — Fifth Sunday after Pentecost — is June 27, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 5:21-43

5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.

5:22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet

5:23 and 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.”

5:24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.

5:25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.

5:26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.

5:27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,

5:28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”

5:29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

5:30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

5:31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'”

5:32 He looked all around to see who had done it.

5:33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.

5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

5:35 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?”

5:36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

5:37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

5:38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

5:39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”

5:40 And 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.

5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”

5:42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.

5:43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is one of my favourite Gospel readings involving the woman suffering from a haemorrhage and Jairus’s daughter.

John MacArthur puts it into context for us:

… in the midst of that selfish, self-righteous, fickle crowd, there were two people who stand out. Their story is a great benediction to us; and it shows us that there were those people who did have true faith in Jesus. I think these two were likely part of the 500 believers gathered after the resurrection who saw the risen Christ in Galilee.

They’re an interesting duo. They have no relationship to each other. There’s no reason they would even know each other. But they’re brought together in the text of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They’re two, a man and a woman; one rich, one poor; one respected, one rejected; one honored, one ashamed; one leading the synagogue, the other excommunicated from the synagogue; one with a twelve-year-old daughter dying, and one with a twelve-year-old disease suffering. They remind us of what Mary had said in her Magnificat in Luke 1:52 when she said, “God was a Savior who brought down rulers and exalted those who were humble.” Here is a perfect illustration of that.

The man is the ruler, the woman is humble. He is brought low, and she is lifted high: the ruler and the outcast. And so the scene is set, verse 22, for the accessibility of Jesus. “One of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and seeing Him, fell at His feet.” Jesus was immediately accessible. There were no intermediaries. Did He have disciples? Yes. Did He have identified apostles? Absolutely. We know that already. But they didn’t screen Him. He was accessible.

Jesus had returned from putting two men’s demons (Mark says one man’s) in the Gadarene Swine, a flock of pigs which ran off a cliff. The Gadarenes, who were Gentiles, were furious and told Him to leave because He caused their livestock to die.

Upon his return to the Capernaum area, a crowd awaited Him by the sea (verse 21).

Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, fell at His feet (verse 22), begging Him to lay His healing hands on his daughter, who was dying (verse 23).

MacArthur explains Jairus’s position in the synagogue at Capernaum:

He is a synagogue official. What does that mean? Well, it means that in each synagogue there was a man or a group of men who acted as the caretakers, or the overseers, or the administrators of synagogue life. They weren’t necessarily the teachers; they, however, were the ones who cared for the scrolls, and cared for the facility, and administrated the facility, and organized the synagogue school. They had oversight responsibility: supervising activities, appointing readers, prayers, teachers, et cetera.

The man who received this honor would be a man who was respected: a religious man, a man of devotion, a man of mature leadership; a non-clerical, local official in the synagogue in Capernaum, selected by all the people to be a part of a group of elders, usually from three to seven, who would give leadership. He was the epitome of the Capernaum religious establishment.

That Jairus would fall at the feet of Jesus was unusual:

That is clearly out of character for a synagogue leader, especially when he’s falling down before someone that the religious establishment wants dead because they believe Him to be a heretic. He fell at His feet. Matthew records it in chapter 9. You’ll read in there “worshiped.” The verb can mean that; it can mean that …

I mention this because I want to emphasize the fact that this man’s faith was in Jesus Christ.

Jesus agreed to go to Jairus’s house, and the crowd followed, pressing in on Him (verse 24).

Matthew Henry’s commentary has this beautiful description:

The case is this, He has a little daughter, about twelve years old, the darling of the family, and she lies a dying; but he believes that if Christ will but come, and lay his hands upon her, she will return even from the gates of the grave. He said, at first, when he came, She lies a dying (so Mark); but afterward, upon fresh information sent him, he saith, She is even now dead (so Matthew); but he still prosecutes his suit; see Luke 8:42-49. Christ readily agreed, and went with him, Mark 5:24; Mark 5:24.

MacArthur explains the significance of Jairus’s daughter’s age:

He had a daughter who was nearly dead. And she was twelve-years-old, as we find out later in verse 42, which means she had reached the wonderful age where she was eligible for marriage, ready to be an adult, ready to begin her life as a wife and a mother. And this was the most anticipated time in a girl’s life, and should have been filled with joy and hope, anticipation. But she is very, very ill. She is, he says, “At the point of death.” Luke says she was dying, she was dying. And later on, the message comes in verse 35, “Your daughter has died.”

As they were walking, a woman suffering from a haemorrhage for 12 years, was among those in the crowd (verse 24).

She had been bleeding all of that time and had spent all of her money on physicians; her condition worsened (verse 25).

Because she was bleeding, she had to sequester herself from her friends and family, according to Mosaic law. She could not associate with anyone. That included attending religious services at her synagogue.

Jairus’s daughter was 12 years old. This lady had been suffering her scourge for 12 years.

MacArthur considers the time period and the woman’s lonely, debilitating plight:

To simplify it, she is a female who has a bleeding problem, and she has had this bleeding problem for as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive. She’s had this bleeding problem since Jesus was about twenty years old.

Now we don’t know what caused it, Scripture doesn’t tell us this. Lots of possibilities. She was having a constant loss of blood, hemorrhaging. That would involve a loss of strength. A female kind of problem like that would certainly cause embarrassment, the danger of death, severe physical effects.

There was more than that; that alone would have been enough. But on top of that, there was an Old Testament law to consider. According to the twelfth chapter of Leviticus, verses 3 through 8, and the fifteenth chapter of Leviticus, verses 19 to 27, a woman was unclean for seven days after such an experience. Here was a woman who was unclean for twelve years. She could never be clean, never.

What did that mean? An unclean, defiled woman couldn’t go to the synagogue, couldn’t go to the temple. She was an outcast for twelve years. If she touched her husband, he was unclean. If she touched her children, they were unclean. If she touched her friends, they were unclean. If she touched a stranger, he was unclean. What was life like for her? There was no way to become ceremonial[ly] clean.

By the way, that law of seven days of cleansing ritual was designed by God to be an illustration of what sin does. There were lots of symbols in the Old Testament, in the ABCs of God’s disclosed revelation, and one of them was that the laws of clean and unclean were symbolic ways to demonstrate how sin soils, defiles, and corrupts. It was just a constant, constant, constant reminder. This woman never was able to rise beyond that; constantly, ritually defiled, unable to touch anyone without passing on that defilement, according to the Old Testament. Sad, sad lady.

In addition, medical treatments at that time would have been extremely primitive and useless, involving things we would consider to be based on superstition:

The prescription for a woman who had this problem, according to the Talmud, was to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer, and to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a cotton bag in the winter. Or carry a barley corn found in donkey dung, or drink wine with alum and crocuses, or wine with onions. Not very helpful. No wonder she couldn’t get any help. 

The woman had faith that Jesus could heal her, even if she was able to only touch His garment (verse 28), which she duly did (verse 27).

MacArthur describes what Jesus wore:

According to Numbers chapter 15 verses 37 and following, the Jews were to put tassels on the bottom of their cloaks, to mark them as those who belong to God. And you remember the Pharisees, wanting to parade their supposed devotion to God, enlarged their tassels, according to Matthew 23, and verse 5 – a part of their hypocritical ostentation. But Jesus wore the traditional robe with the traditional tassels on the bottom.

As soon as she touched his garment, her body was restored to health ‘immediately’ (verse 29).

As if to emphasise the miracle, verse 30 also begins with ‘immediately’. Having felt power drained out of Him at that point, Jesus turned around and asked who touched Him.

That is one of my favourite verses in the New Testament. As MacArthur says:

It’s an amazing revelation, absolutely amazing. Immediately she was healed, and immediately Jesus felt the power go out of Him. That’s a stunning reality, an amazing revelation.

Listen, His power is personal. I think we can think of God as some kind of massive, cosmic force. We can maybe overextend the notion of His impassability. To say that God is impassable means that He is not affected by what men do or do not do. But that does not mean that He does not feel every expression of power, whether it’s power expressed in grace, or power expressed in wrath, whether it’s sanctifying power, glorifying power, justifying grace, He feels the power. Luke 8:46 says, “I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” The expulsion of divine power that comes from Him into the life of that woman, Jesus actually experienced. He experienced the power flow that created the woman’s body new; it replaced the old with a brand new organ system

The work of the living Lord on behalf of sinners is personal. He felt the power flow out of Him when He healed that woman. He felt the power flow out of Him when He saved you. He feels the flow of power into your life as He sanctifies you. And He’ll feel the power that takes you into glory. This is intimate, personal involvement with every one of us. And He feels the power of His judgment that falls on the ungodly.

His disciples thought it was preposterous to even pose the question in such an immense crowd (verse 31), but Jesus turned around to see who it was (verse 32).

The woman, afraid, approached Him and fell before His feet, telling Him the ‘whole truth’ (verse 33).

Hers was a holy fear, the same that the Apostles experienced in last week’s Gospel reading from Mark when Jesus calmed the tempest on the Sea of Galilee.

MacArthur explains that she knew she was in the presence of the Son of God:

She’s not afraid because of her offense, she is afraid because she’s aware of what has happened to her. And what has happened to her is she has just been healed in a split second, and she knows it, and she therefore knows what Jesus had been saying all along, and what Mark is trying to let us know, that this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. She is in the presence of divinity or deity. This is not human embarrassment, she got past that. This is holy fear

And that becomes more evident in what she does. “She came and fell down before Him.” Everybody knew what that meant. You didn’t do that unless you were bowing to someone greater than yourself. Jews didn’t bow to anybody. They didn’t bow to anybody. They didn’t have a king. They bowed only to God.

With that holy fear comes an awareness of personal sins.

MacArthur tells us about what her very public ‘whole truth’ in verse 33 might have entailed:

She collapses, fully aware of the terror of being a sinner in the presence of the Lord, a posture that begs for mercy for her sin. And then she has the opportunity to make a public confession. In verse 33, she told Him the whole truth. Told her whole story: the confession of her sickness, the confession of her faith, the confession of her healing, the confession of her need for mercy.

In fact, Luke says, “She declared it in the presence of all the people.” So everybody around heard about her story. This is an open public confession, isn’t it? She’s confessing Him before men, and to be confessed before His Father in heaven.

Jesus recognised the woman’s faith, calling her ‘daughter’, saying that it had made her well and that she could go in peace, being healed of her disease (verse 34).

What a life-changing moment that must have been for her.

MacArthur points out the significance of ‘daughter’ emanating from the lips of Jesus:

… the capstone comes in verse 34 in His response: “And He said to her, ‘Daughter.’” Hmm, daughter? There’s a word to dispel fear, isn’t it? This is the only time in the New Testament that a woman is so addressed by Jesus: “Daughter. Daughter.”

Matthew chapter 9 says He added, “Be of good comfort, relax, rest.” “How can You call her Your daughter? Is she a child of God? A daughter of God?” “Yes, your faith has made you well,” says the text. The Greek verb is sōzō, “to save.” It’s the word used in the Scripture for salvation. “Your faith literally has saved you.”

While Jesus spoke those words, members of Jairus’s household came to tell him that his daughter had died and asked why he wanted to bother Jesus by asking Him to see her (verse 35).

However, Jesus told Jairus not to fear, only believe (verse 36).

At that point, Jesus said that only his closest Apostles — Peter and the two brothers, James and John — could walk with him and Jairus (verse 37).

Henry explains why:

his three bosom-disciples, Peter, and James, and John; a competent number to be witnesses of the miracle, but not such a number as that his taking them with him might look like vainglory.

MacArthur has more:

This is the first time in the ministry of our Lord that He isolates these three; this is the first time. And get used to it, right? The inner circle: Peter, James, and John. They were three of the first four apostles that He called. James and John were brothers, and Peter and Andrew were brothers. Peter becomes the leader. James and John, the other two intimates. And Andrew is a sometime inclusion in the inner circle. This is the first occasion where He separates them out: Peter the leader, John the lover, and James the first martyr.

It isn’t that they were to be given special treatment, is it rather that they were to become the channel of intimate experiences, personal teaching back to the rest. They were not the end, they were not the cul-de-sac, they were not the dead end; they were merely the conduit. Jesus could only give Himself intimately to a few; and this must be the perfect number for Him to work with intimately; and through these three disseminated the experiences and the instruction back to the rest. Important for leaders to understand that, I think.

So Jesus says, “Only you can come.” For the first time they’re looking at each other and saying, “Wow,” because this is their first time as His intimate triumvirate.

When they arrived at Jairus’s house, people were weeping and wailing loudly in mourning, as was the custom (verse 38).

MacArthur explains the Jewish mourning rituals in that era, which were quite noisy:

Jewish funerals had three elements that would be a little bit unique for us. One, you came and you expressed your grief loudly. You shriek and howl; and everybody does that. And it is required that you tear your clothes. Okay. So when you go to a funeral in our environment, we find good clothes. When you went to a funeral then and you knew you were going to have to rip it up, you found something you didn’t mind ripping up.

This became so involved that Jewish tradition came up with thirty-nine regulations on how to tear your clothes. So I suppose you had people talking to each other about the regulations to make sure they didn’t leave anything out. Tearing was to be done, for example, while you’re standing up. If you were related to the dead person, you had to tear your garment directly over the heart. If you weren’t related to the person, you could tear your garment somewhere else near the heart.

And by the way, the tear was to be there, and the garment was to be worn over a thirty-day period so that you continue to show your attitude of mourning. You could sew it up for obvious reasons, but originally it had to be torn big enough to put your fist through. Modest people would tear their undergarments, or wear the torn garment backwards. The tradition developed that you could sew it up loosely, but it had to be evident that it had been torn. So you have people there who are shrieking, and howling, and wailing, and weeping, and ripping their clothes.

Now the second element of a funeral was you brought in the professional wailers who had developed the art of howling and shrieking. They wailed, sort of priming the pump, you might say, to get everybody else wailing. Agony was magnified, not shrouded in silence.

And then the third thing they had was the playing of flutes. That was the most common instrument. And lots of folks could play flutes; and they all showed up with their flutes and played dissonant notes, a cacophony of things that didn’t go together. So if you ever walked into an event like that, you wouldn’t even believe it was a funeral; you would think it was a contemporary musical event. Yeah.

The very poorest of the Israelites had to have at least two flutes and one wailing woman.

A noisy mourning was also true for Gentiles:

In fact, this was part of the Ancient World. Seneca, the Roman statesman, reported there was so much screaming and wailing at the death of Emperor Claudius that he felt Claudius heard it from the grave. And that’s what was going on, just chaos.

Jesus asked the mourners why they mourned, saying that Jairus’s daughter was not dead but only sleeping (verse 39).

But they laughed at Him. He put them outside and taking His three Apostles along with Jairus and his wife, went to see the girl (verse 40).

Henry says that the mourners’ mocking laughter was proof that she had actually died:

it was evident beyond dispute, that the child was really and truly dead. Their laughing Christ to scorn, for saying, She is not dead, but sleepeth, though highly reprehensible, serves for the proof of this.

He took the girl by the hand and told her to get up (verse 41).

MacArthur explains the wording. ‘Talitha’ means ‘youth’ and is also an affectionate use of ‘lamb’ in Aramaic:

So He comes into the room, and again you see this tenderness, taking the child by the hand. Here again this very personal touch, this very tender sensitivity, “And He said to her,” – and by the way, only Mark gives us the original Aramaic. Jesus’ daily language was Aramaic. That was the language they spoke in Israel, the New Testament being written in Greek. The other writers give us the Greek translation. “Little girl, arise.” Mark gives us the very words of Jesus in Aramaic, “Talitha kum!” – which translated means – “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”

Talitha means a youth or a lamb. It’s as if He said, “Little lamb.” We use those kind of endearing terms, don’t we? …

Now this one was still a lamb in the eyes of Jesus, and she was twelve, she was twelve. And she was a lamb to that family. That was a term of endearment. “Kum, get up. Little lamb, I say to you, get up!”

Mark tells us that ‘immediately’ she got up and began to walk around (verse 42). He tells us that she was 12 years old and that those with Jesus — the three Apostles and her parents — were ‘overcome with amazement’.

MacArthur tells us about the Greek word for ‘walk’:

it’s not just walk, it’s peripateō. We say somebody is peripatetic, we mean they never sit down, they just walk around all the time. And that’s exactly what it is, it’s the verb pateō, “to walk,” and peripateō, “walk around everywhere.” She just got up and walked around everywhere. There was no need for rehabilitation.

Jesus told them not to reveal the miracle to anyone but to give the girl something to eat (verse 43).

Henry says that Jesus did not want the miracle to be made public because of His resurrection:

It was sufficiently known to a competent number, but he would not have it as yet proclaimed any further; because his own resurrection was to be the great instance of his power over death, and therefore the divulging of other instances must be reserved till that great proof was given: let one part of the evidence be kept private, till the other part, on which the main stress lies, be made ready.

MacArthur thinks that Jesus did not want the house to be bombarded by visitors but also be bothered by people with Messianic fervour or the increased hate of the Jewish hierarchy:

Number one, He could have said it to avoid a stampeded on the house, to give the family time to feed the girl, and to celebrate and rejoice, and give Him more time to instruct and teach. If they went right out of the house, as you might be prone to do, and spread this everywhere, there would be a kind of a sensational response; and curiosity would drive the crowd to the house and debilitate Jesus from doing what He wanted to do, and rob away that precious time for the family and that reunion. Is that possibly behind the statement that, “You need to get her something to eat; that’s the first thing you need to do is take care of her before you draw a crowd”? Was that in His mind?

It is also possible that Jesus said this because He knew the crowds had these messianic expectations, right? Now the Jews were looking for a Messiah. They wanted the Messiah who would come demonstrate massive, divine power, and use that power to overthrow Rome, and use that power to provide everything they needed and everything that had been promised to them in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Jesus was believed to be that Messiah; and if it ran rampant and it got carried away, the crowds could get very aggressive and try to force Him into a role that was never His intended role. Read John 6:15 where it says, “After He fed them all, they tried to force Him to be a king.” Was He trying to keep the flame of messianic expectation low, and not throw gas on it by a report of a resurrection?

Or, thirdly, was it perhaps that He was motivated not to escalate the fear and the hatred of the scribes and Pharisees who were His enemies? If the crowd got excited, then Jesus becomes a bigger threat. Then they escalate their animosity, and they have to do something to stop that threat; and in premature action against Him, they might come after Him to kill Him. That had already been tried, right? Up in Nazareth in His own hometown they tried to throw Him off a cliff.

He didn’t want wrong messianic expectations escalated, that’s true. He wasn’t going to be killed on their timetable, but on God’s timetable, at God’s time, in God’s place, and in God’s manner. And those, I think, are valid ways to understand that.

MacArthur is certain that Jairus was a man of faith:

Certainly Jairus’ faith was confirmed, wouldn’t you think, vindicated? And, folks, you’ve got to understand too, there was conversation going on in that house with Jairus and Jesus and the family; we just don’t have the record of it. But Jairus had his faith confirmed. I think we’ll meet Jairus in heaven, very likely that little girl too.

I do hope so.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (‘Jesus’ Power over Death’, Parts 1 and 2).

Matthew 9:18-26

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly[a] the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

—————————————————————————————————-

Matthew structured his Gospel to show the Jews and us that Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour.

His accounts of our Lord’s miracles in chapters 8 and 9 demonstrate His divine power over disease, demons, nature and death.

Over the past few weeks, we have read of Jesus’s cleansing of the leper (Matthew 8:1-4), the healing of the centurion’s service from a distance (Matthew 8:5-13), restoring Peter’s mother-in-law to health (Matthew 8:14-17), stopping the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), driving demons into swine (Matthew 8:28-34) and the healing of the paralysed man (Matthew 9:1-8).

Today we have the healing of the woman issuing blood and raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead.

I wrote at length about Mark’s and Luke’s fuller accounts of these miracles in 2012 and 2013. This means that neither of these miracles appears in the three-year Lectionary, which is a crying shame. They are two creative miracles which occur at approximately the same time and bring much relief to all concerned.

For a fuller explanation of these miracles, please read my discussions of Mark 5:21-34, Mark 5:35-43, Luke 8:40-48 and Luke 8:49-56.

Incidentally, in reading these accounts, we see that one of the biblically perfect numbers — 12 — features prominently. Mark tells us that the girl is 12-years-old. The woman with the blood flow has suffered for 12 years.

Matthew does not name this man as Jairus, although both Mark and Luke do. Matthew merely refers to him as a ruler (verse 18). Jairus, as the other two Gospel writers tell us, was the ruler of the synagogue. This would have been the synagogue in Capernaum.

From this information we can deduce that he was powerful locally and that, in approaching Jesus, going against the norms of his hierarchy in Jerusalem. That said, Jairus had no problem in publicly kneeling before Him. He explained that his daughter has just died but if He were to come and lay His hand on her, she will live.

Matthew Henry tells us that Jairus’s appeal in this situation should be ours as well:

Note, In trouble we should visit God: the death of our relations should drive us to Christ, who is our life it is well if any thing will do it. When affliction is in our families, we must not sit down astonished, but, as Job, fall down and worship.

Jesus immediately followed Jairus to his home (verse 19). On the way, the woman with the blood flow touched the fringe of His garment in desperation (verse 20).

From the time of Moses, women were ritually unclean when they had their menses. They had to live away from the rest of the household and have a ritual bath once their monthly period had ended. (This is something orthodox Jewish women still do.) Anyone who touched a ritually unclean woman or anything of hers was also unclean and needed to be purified according to Jewish law.

Therefore, let us imagine her sense of isolation and loneliness over so many years. We do not know if she lived on her own or adjacent to the family home. In any event, she would have had no visitors or relatives to give her a hug, converse at length with her and share meals with her. If she had been married, it could be that her husband divorced her. She would no doubt have been pondering why she had such a blood flow and what she might have done spiritually to cause it.

To compound matters, Luke tells us that she had spent all her money in vain on physicians for a cure. Remember that, until the 19th century, medicine was largely a primitive affair. In this lady’s era, she was given potions, herbs and, possibly, animal parts wrapped in linen — all of which would have been in vain.

Even worse, this blood flow would have been odorous and painful. It is possible that the lady suffered from obstetric fistula, which is still common today in Africa. As I wrote when examining Luke’s account, Wikipedia describes it as follows (emphases mine):

The most direct consequence of an obstetric fistula is the constant leaking of urine, feces, and blood as a result of a hole that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum.[11] This endless leaking has both physical and societal penalties. The acid in the urine, feces, and blood causes severe burn wounds on the legs from the continuous dripping.[12] Nerve damage that can result from the leaking can cause women to struggle with walking and eventually lose mobility. In an attempt to avoid the dripping, women limit their intake of water and liquid which can ultimately lead to dangerous cases of dehydration. Ulcerations and infections can persist as well as kidney disease and kidney failure which can each lead to death. Further, only a quarter of women who suffer a fistula in their first birth are able to have a living baby, and therefore have miniscule chances of conceiving a healthy baby later on.

These physical consequences of obstetric fistula lead to severe socio-cultural stigmatization. Most girls are divorced or abandoned by their husbands and partners, disowned by family, ridiculed by friends, and even isolated by health workers. Women with obstetric fistula become worthless in the eyes of society because they are no longer able to give birth and they secrete a harsh odor. [13] Now marginalized members of society, girls are pushed to the brims of their villages and towns, often to live in isolation in a hut where they will likely die from starvation or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces, and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. Because such consequences highly stigmatize and marginalize the woman, the intense loneliness and shame can lead to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Further, women are sometimes forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because the extreme poverty and social isolation that results from obstetric fistula eliminates all other income opportunities. Because only 7.5% of women with fistula are able to access treatment (as found by the UNFPA in 2003), the vast majority of women are forced to suffer the consequences of obstructed and prolonged labor simply because options and access to help is so incredibly limited (there is one hospital dedicated to fistula treatment in the world, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).[14]

We can better understand why this woman was desperate to touch the fringe of Jesus’s garment (verses 20, 21). Matthew and Luke specify ‘fringe’. John MacArthur explains:

Now, in the Old Testament, in Numbers 15:37-41, and Deuteronomy 22:12, the Jews were told that they were to mark their garments with a zizith.  It’s the Hebrew word.  Basically, it’s translated in the Old Testament fringeKraspedon is the Greek word, and it really means a tassel. And they did this: they wove blue thread through their garment; and they had four tassels of kind of a blue color, a bright blue color on their garment; and those tassels were woven in a certain configuration with certain kinds of thread, seven times around and eight times, and there were, there was the significance of various numbers. But the sum total, without going into detail, was that the threads were put together to represent the word of God, faithfulness, loyalty to the word of God, and holiness unto the Lord.  So that every time a Jew went anywhere, the world knew that he belonged to God.  And every time he took his clothes off or put his clothes on, he saw those things and it was a reminder to him.  We have some of that today.  Some people have a little cross, maybe, that they wear, or sign of a fish; and every time you put that on or you look at it, maybe you’re reminded who you belong to.  That’s what that was for them.

Of course, it was the sign then of being holy unto the Lord; and in Matthew 23:5, it says, “The Pharisees made theirs very big.”  See, the bigger your tassel, the more holy you were, they thought.  And you might be interested to know that in times in Europe when the Jews have been persecuted, they have still worn them, but they’ve worn them on their undergarments; and in contemporary times today, you’ll find them still on the prayer shawl of an orthodox Jew;  little blue tassels.

Mark and Luke record that Jesus felt power going out of Him at the moment the woman touched — actually, grabbed — His fringe. Jesus turned around and asked who had touched His garment. In Matthew’s account, He turns around and sees her.

They also record that she approached Him trembling and falling down at His feet, telling Him about her illness.

Jesus says that her faith has made her well (verse 22). MacArthur says that the word for ‘well’ was not just one denoting physical health but also salvation. All three Gospel accounts in Greek use the word sodzo:

it doesn’t use the word for healing, iaomai, the normal word for healing.  You know what it used?  Sodzo: The word means to be saved

She was fully healed — and saved — at that moment.

Jesus refers to her as ‘daughter’, an affectionate and familial term. She became one of His own at that moment. Earlier in Matthew 9, He called the healed paralytic ‘son’ (Matthew 9:2), and, in that case, the man’s sins were forgiven as well as his body made fully functional once again.

MacArthur analyses her faith:

She had faith, didn’t she?  She said, “If I can just touch that thing.”  You say, “Well, it’s not exactly a perfected mature thing.”  No, it’s almost like superstition, isn’t it?  It’s almost kind of magical.  Say, “Well, the Lord certainly isn’t going to respond to that.”  Listen, faith as the grain of a mustard seed would move a mountain.  The Lord will take, the Lord will take an inadequate faith like the man’s that is somewhat selfish, and He’ll take an inadequate faith like the lady’s that is somewhat superstitious, and He’ll move it from there to the saving faith.  He couldn’t let that lady go or the, or all she would’ve remembered maybe was the superstition.  He had to pull her into the fullness of a relationship. I don’t really believe she was healed by her faith.  I think she was healed by the sovereignty of God.  God chose to heal her.  Jesus just said He’d felt power go out of Him

I think there’s a redemptive element in her faith.  Oh, she wanted to just grab on; and it was kind of a, kind of a superstitious thing, in a way.  Jesus wouldn’t leave it at that.  He drew her out, and He saved her.

Matthew Henry has a similar, but slightly fuller take:

She believed she should be healed if she did but touch the very hem of his garment, the very extremity of it. Note, There is virtue in every thing that belongs to Christ. The holy oil with which the high priest was anointed, ran down to the skirts of his garments, Psalm 133:2. Such a fulness of grace is there in Christ, that from it we may all receive, John 1:16.

… he will not only have his power magnified in her cure, but his grace magnified in her comfort and commendation: the triumphs of her faith must be to her praise and honour. He turned about to see for her (Matthew 9:22), and soon discovered her. Note, It is great encouragement to humble Christians, that they who hide themselves from men are known to Christ, who sees in secret their applications to heaven when most private. Now here,

(1.) He puts gladness into her heart, by that word, Daughter, be of good comfort. She feared being chidden for coming clandestinely, but she is encouraged …

(2.) He puts honour upon her faith. That grace of all others gives most honour to Christ, and therefore he puts most honour upon it Thy faith has made thee whole. Thus by faith she obtained a good report. And as of all graces Christ puts the greatest honour upon faith, so of all believers he puts the greatest honour upon those that are most humble as here on this woman, who had more faith than she thought she had. She had reason to be of good comfort, not only because she was made whole, but because her faith had made her whole

Now we turn to Jairus. When we read of Jesus’s creative miracles, we find people approaching Him in different ways and with various sentiments. Whereas the centurion told Jesus that a word from Him at a distance could heal his servant, Jairus says that if only He lay His hand on his daughter she would come back to life.

Regardless, Jesus knew what was in the heart of everyone He healed. In addition to being restored, their sins were forgiven or He told them they had saving faith. He accepted them whether their faith was lesser or greater, imperfect as it was.

When Jesus reached Jairus’s house, the group of mourners and flute players were already there (verse 23), as Jewish law directed. MacArthur explains:

The Talmud says this, “The husband is bound to bury his dead wife and to make lamentations in mourning for her according to the custom of all countries; and also the very poorest among the Israelites will not allow her less than two flutes and one wailing woman.”  I mean even if you were in abject poverty, you had to hire one wailing woman and two flutes.  Now, if you’re wealthy, the Talmud said, it should be in accord with your wealth.

So here is a man who probably had a lot of means, and the place was filled with flutes, and you could imagine what a mess:  Ripping and tearing, screaming and shrieking and wailing, and guys all over the place playing flutes.  In fact, they did this in the Roman world, too, and they said, and Seneca wrote that there were so many flute players playing, and there was so much screaming at the death of Emperor Claudius that they felt that Claudius himself probably heard it, even though he was dead. So you can see what a funeral was like in those times.

Jesus told the group that the girl was sleeping, not dead (verse 24). Those gathered laughed at Him in their disbelief, even though He was based in Capernaum, so, surely they would have heard of His  restorative miracles.

Henry explains why Jesus used the word ‘sleep’. Briefly, when we die, our souls go to be with the Lord whilst our bodies are at rest in a short death, awaiting the Last Day when we shall be brought together whole in perfection — body and soul — to spend eternity with Him:

They sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14) they not only rest from the toils and labours of the day, but rest in hope of a joyful waking again in the morning of the resurrection, when they shall wake refreshed, wake to a new life, wake to be richly dressed and crowned, and wake to sleep no more. (2.) The consideration of this should moderate our grief at the death of our dear relations: “say not, They are lost no, they are but gone before: say not, They are slain no, they are but fallen asleep and the apostle speaks of it as an absurd thing to imagine that they that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished (1 Corinthians 15:18) give place, therefore, to those comforts which the covenant of grace ministers, fetched from the future state, and the glory to be revealed.

The crowd were told to leave the house and wait outside. Jesus entered Jairus’s home, took the girl by the hand and, through His power, she rose from the dead (verse 25).

Matthew’s account tells us that news of this resurrection spread throughout the district (verse 26). By contrast, Mark’s and Luke’s tell us that He told the parents not to speak of it.

Mark’s version has Jesus calling the girl talitha cumi (Mark 5:41), a term of affection which is a warmer way of saying ‘little girl’.

In closing, MacArthur has interesting quotes on life and death with regard to Jesus. They help us to reflect more on Him as Saviour and Redeemer.

The first comes from Mahatma Gandhi:

Fifteen years before Gandhi’s death, he wrote this.  “I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul.  It fills my whole being, and I find a solace in the Bhagavad and Upanishads that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount.”  Utterly at peace, utterly comfortable with his Hinduism.  Just before his death, he wrote this.  “My days are numbered.  I am not likely to live very long, perhaps a year or a little more.  For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond.”  Footnote:  It was interesting; he must have been reading Pilgrim’s Progress.  Then he said this.  “All about me is darkness, and I am desperately praying for light.”  Even Mahatma Gandhi, who seemed to have it all together as he began to face the inevitability of death, saw it all falling apart.

The second — much more encouraging — is from G B Hardy, a Canadian scientist:

When I looked at religion, I said I have two questions.  Question No. 1:  Has anybody ever conquered death?  Question No. 2: If they did, did they make a way for me to conquer, too?”  He said, “I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Confucius, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Mohammed, and it was occupied; and I came to the tomb of Jesus, and it was emptyAnd I said, ‘There is One who conquered death.’  And I asked the second question, ‘Did He make a way for me to do it?’  And I opened the Bible, and He said, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.'”

May those who continue to doubt be filled with divine grace that they may believe and live for evermore.

Next time: Matthew 9:27-31

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 8:40-48

Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter

 40Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

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In 2012, I wrote about this passage in St Mark’s Gospel (Mark 5:21-34), parts of which will be excerpted below. It details what this lady’s ailment probably was; it is an embarrassing, odorous and painful condition which still affects poor women in Africa today.

This is Mark’s account (differences highlighted below, emphases mine):

21And 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 23and 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.” 24And he went with him.

   And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30And 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?’” 32And he looked around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Matthew’s is somewhat shorter (Matthew 9:18-22):

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

 18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said,  “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

As this episode in Jesus’s ministry opens, He and His disciples have just returned from Gerasa or Gadara, where He drove the legion (army) of demons out of the man. They then inhabited the pigs with such power that the pigs ran down the steep bank of the nearby hill to drown in the Sea of Galilee. The people then asked Jesus to leave and, before He did so, instructed the healed man to tell everyone of the miracle.

Prior to that, Jesus needed rest, and He and the disciples set sail to the other side of the sea, or lake, which was how they ended up in Gerasa or Gadara.

Now they were back and the crowd was waiting (verse 40). Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, approached him (verse 41). By definition, he held a lot of power, whether he was part of that ruling committee or the head of it.

John MacArthur tells us that Jairus is the Greek form of the name Jair. A man of that name appears in the book of Numbers in the Old Testament.

Jairus did two contradictory things. He fell at Jesus’s feet then He asked Him to go to his house to heal his 12-year old daughter. He approached him as a supplicant, an inferior. What he said, however, made it clear that Jesus was his servant.

Furthermore, Jairus did not have the faith of the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal from a distance.

Matthew Henry says:

But Christ complied with his request he went along with him. Strong faith shall be applauded, and yet weak faith shall not be rejected. In the houses where sickness and death are, it is very desirable to have the presence of Christ.

The crowd followed, among them a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention the number 12 in both cases. The dying girl is that age and the woman has been suffering her malady for the same number of years.

My post on Mark’s treatment of this story explains her illness in full. The John MacArthur sermon that I used for commentary there refers to an obstetric fistula:

I was reading something about it this week [in 2010]. There are as many as four million women who have this problem in Africa. It can be…remedied by a simple surgery to which they have no access sadly and certainly the woman in this story in Israel had no such help.

I knew two women who had this condition. One lives in England and the other in the United States. Both were eventually operated on. However, for those, such as the poor in Africa, Wikipedia says the pain and the isolation are intense:

The most direct consequence of an obstetric fistula is the constant leaking of urine, feces, and blood as a result of a hole that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum.[11] This endless leaking has both physical and societal penalties. The acid in the urine, feces, and blood causes severe burn wounds on the legs from the continuous dripping.[12] Nerve damage that can result from the leaking can cause women to struggle with walking and eventually lose mobility. In an attempt to avoid the dripping, women limit their intake of water and liquid which can ultimately lead to dangerous cases of dehydration. Ulcerations and infections can persist as well as kidney disease and kidney failure which can each lead to death. Further, only a quarter of women who suffer a fistula in their first birth are able to have a living baby, and therefore have miniscule chances of conceiving a healthy baby later on.

These physical consequences of obstetric fistula lead to severe socio-cultural stigmatization. Most girls are divorced or abandoned by their husbands and partners, disowned by family, ridiculed by friends, and even isolated by health workers. Women with obstetric fistula become worthless in the eyes of society because they are no longer able to give birth and they secrete a harsh odor. [13] Now marginalized members of society, girls are pushed to the brims of their villages and towns, often to live in isolation in a hut where they will likely die from starvation or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces, and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. Because such consequences highly stigmatize and marginalize the woman, the intense loneliness and shame can lead to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Further, women are sometimes forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because the extreme poverty and social isolation that results from obstetric fistula eliminates all other income opportunities. Because only 7.5% of women with fistula are able to access treatment (as found by the UNFPA in 2003), the vast majority of women are forced to suffer the consequences of obstructed and prolonged labor simply because options and access to help is so incredibly limited (there is one hospital dedicated to fistula treatment in the world, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).[14]

And, no doubt, this woman whom Jesus healed experienced the same pain and isolation. Treatment then — and possibly for the poorest Africans — relied on herbal or folk (carrying an ostrich egg wrapped in linen) ‘remedies’.  Luke tells us that she spent all her savings on doctors but in vain (verse 43).

So, in complete desperation, she thought the only solution was to find Jesus and position herself such that she could grab onto his garment. The Gospel accounts say ‘touched’, but MacArthur says it was a stronger, more active verb than that:

Now the word here, “touched” is a middle form verb from the verb hapto or haptomi. In the middle form it means to fasten on to, or to cling to, or to clutch. It isn’t just to tap, she’s clutching it. I mean, you’ve got to understand this is twelve years, this is…this is breaching all of social etiquette to do what she did and she finally gets there and this is her last final hope and she hangs on to His robe, to the tassel of His robe. It’s the same exact Greek verb used in John 20 verse 17 of Mary Magdalene who after the resurrection grabs on to Jesus, remember, and clings to Him. And why did she do this? Because Matthew 9:21 in Matthew’s account says she kept saying to herself, she kept saying to herself, she kept saying to herself, “If I can just touch Him I’ll be healed…If I can just touch Him, I’ll be healed.” She knew His power. She believed in it. If only I grasp His garment, I will get well. And it’s in the imperfect, she kept saying it, kept saying it, kept saying it, kept saying it to reinforce this breach of law to do what she wasn’t supposed to do. I just need to get a hold of it. She believed…and this was obvious…she believed there was so much power flowing out of Him, that if she just got in the space, she’d be healed.

As soon as she clutched His garment, her discharge stopped (verse 44). What that must have been like for her, we’ll never know. No words can describe what she must have felt.

Jesus then asked who had just touched His robe (verse 45). The crowd said they hadn’t and Peter took Him to task for even asking when they were surrounded by so many people. However, Jesus in His divinity knew who had done it; He wanted to talk with this woman who had drawn power out of Him (verse 46).

He also wanted to make it clear — to her and to the crowd — that she was restored socially and could fully participate in town and synagogue life once again.

The woman, possibly afraid as well as overcome by the healing miracle, trembled and fell down before Him (verse 47). In the presence of all assembled, she told our Lord her story in full. This might have taken some time; she might well have had a surge of elation, emotion and memories which she needed to express.

Verse 48 — as well as the corresponding verses in Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts — is important. This is because each Gospel writer mentions that Jesus called the woman ‘daughter’.

MacArthur says:

This is the only time in the New Testament that a woman is so addressed by Jesus… “Daughter…Daughter.”

By this, Jesus acknowledges that she is a woman of faith. It is a highly personal and marvellous word for Him to have used. She is as close as family.

Therefore, this is an outstanding story to use to illustrate our Lord’s relationship with each of us. So many of our present day clergy make it sound as if Christ is a million miles away when, in reality, He is involved with us intimately, in ways we would do well to realise and acknowledge in prayer.

MacArthur reminds us:

This is rich insight into the reality that our God is not detached. He is not unfeeling in the sense that He has no personal connection to us. While He is unaltered by what men do, He is still personally engaged in every act of power. I told you, people like to say I have a personal relationship with Jesus. Let me tell you something. Everybody who has ever lived has a personal relationship with Jesus. He is personally involved in their redemption, or He is personally involved in their judgment. Every expression of power, and every expression of deliverance is an experience that He feels. No one receives His power into his life without His personal involvement …

Jesus healed the people who had no faith. He healed people who had faith. But Jesus doesn’t save people with no faith. This woman seems to demonstrate a faith which brings her into the category of being a child of God, addressed as “Daughter.” Your faith has saved you, He says. And then this, “Go in…what?…peace.” Jesus doesn’t throw that around. Peace belongs only to those who have made their peace with God.

Of this lady and Jairus, he adds:

Their story is a great benediction to us. And it shows us that there were those people who did have true faith in Jesus. I think these two were likely part of the 500 believers gathered after the resurrection who saw the risen Christ in Galilee.

In the sermon for Luke’s account of this story, MacArthur has an interesting historical note about this lady:

Eusebius, the church historian says, there [was] a statue of this lady in his day, in her town as a living testimony that she became a believer in Jesus Christ.

Next time: Luke 8:49-56

Today’s post continues with the story of Jairus’s daughter in the Gospel of St Mark. Last week’s entry can be found here.

As this passage has been excluded from the Lectionary for public worship, it forms part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to our understanding of Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Mark 5:35-43

35While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39And when he had entered, he said to them,  “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And 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.” 42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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Last week’s post related how Jairus asked Jesus to accompany him to his home, where his daughter lay dying. Along the way, Jesus encountered the woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. She reached out to touch the hem of His garment and was healed.

John MacArthur reminds us that what we read in the New Testament took longer to transpire than the short accounts given. Recall that the woman told Jesus her story, which MacArthur surmises took a couple of hours.

Imagine Jairus’s anxiety in the meantime. What thoughts must have been running through his mind whilst he attempted to be gracious and patient, yet fearing the worst.  Yet, by God’s grace, he approached Jesus through faith.

The fear of death grips us all. Some fear for their own lives. Others fear for the deaths of their loved ones. MacArthur says (emphases mine):

The Bible accurately says that all the human race is in slavery to the fear of death, Hebrews 2:15. Romans 6 says that the whole human race is in slavery to sin and the consequence of being a slave to sin is being a slave to the fear of death. Death, of course, is the ultimate fear that impregnates all other fears with its threatening and final reality. That is why Job 18:14 calls death the kind of terrors.

In Psalm 55 verses 4 and 5 we read, “My heart is in anguish within me. Horror has overwhelmed me. Fear and trembling come upon me.” Why? “The terrors of death have fallen upon me.” Everybody in the human race understands the fear, the terror of death. Which raises the question of all questions, “Can anyone…has anyone conquered death and can I enter in to that experience of triumph?” That is the compelling question. Has anyone conquered death and in so doing have they made it possible for me to triumph over death?

Many years ago there was a Canadian scientist by the name of G.B. Hardy who in his search for the true religion said, “I only have two questions. Has death been conquered? And has it been conquered for me?” And in his search, he ended up the only place anybody in that search will end up and that is with Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and by His resurrection provides resurrection for all who put their trust in Him. He said that is the only question that anyone should ask with regard to the selection of a religion. Has anyone conquered death? And can that triumph be applied to me? He checked and he said, “All religious leaders in the world have occupied tombs. Only Jesus’ tomb is empty.”

Certainly in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus claimed to have power over death. The gospel of John … begins by telling us that everything that was made was made by Him. That is to say He created everything that lives. It also says, “In Him was life.” He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He said, “I am come to give life and to give it more abundantly.” He said, “Whoever believes in Me shall never die.” He said, “Because I live, you shall live also.” And in that one statement in John 14:19 He answered the two questions, “I live and you can live as well.” Conquering death is the great question.

This is where we are as today’s passage begins.

However, before delving further, let’s look at the other two Synoptic Gospels — Matthew and Luke — for their treatment of this story. All three Synoptic Gospels tie together the main events of Jesus’s life and ministry.

Highlighted below are the differences in the accounts.

Here is Matthew 9:23-26:

23And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26And the report of this went through all that district.

Note the differences between Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels in Jairus’s appeal to Jesus (Mark 5:23, Matthew 9:18). Mark’s account says Jairus tells Him that his daughter is ‘at the point of death’ whereas Matthew’s quote says that she has just died.

Here is Luke 8:49-56:

49While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

Note that Mark and Luke report that Jesus instructed the parents not to talk of the healing, for possible reasons discussed below. Matthew said that everyone in Jairus’s vicinity heard about the healing.  Matthew leaves out that Jesus told the parents to give the girl something to eat. Luke adds to the words ‘only believe’ the promise ‘and she will be well’.

Back to Mark 5:35, where one of Jairus’s people came to announce the girl’s death. Therefore, there was no reason to disturb Jesus any further. The word the person from Jairus’s household uses in referring to Jesus is ‘Teacher’. He was known primarily as such, not as a healer or miracle worker.

In verse 36, Jesus overhears this and tells Jairus to not be afraid but instead have faith — ‘only believe’.  Jesus then tells the crowd, His disciples and most of his Apostles to remain behind (verse 37). He asks Peter and the two brothers John and James — the Boanerges — to accompany Him to Jairus’s house.

They are the three Apostles whom Jesus has selected as confidants.  They, in turn, will tell the other nine what they have learned during these private sorties. MacArthur explains:

Obviously He couldn’t take the crowd. He couldn’t even take the Twelve into the house, that would be too much … This is the first time in the ministry of our Lord that He isolates these three, this is the first time. And get used to it, right? The inner circle, Peter, James and John, they were three of the first four Apostles that He called. James and John were brothers and Peter and Andrew were brothers. Peter becomes the leader. James and John, the other two intimates, and Andrew is a sometime inclusion in the inner circle. This is the first occasion where He separates them out.

Eventually, they arrive at Jairus’s house, where a Jewish funeral of the day for the 12-year old girl was taking place (verse 38). Some of these traditions are still in place: wailing and rending of garments, although, from what I understand, today’s wailing is more subdued. The Jews at that time also played mournful music on their most common instrument, the flute. Imagine several amateur flautists getting together and playing simultaneously. Some might have been neighbours or friends. They probably weren’t playing in tune or in tempo. Oh dear, what a cacophony.

Jesus asks about the ‘commotion’ (verse 39), saying that the young girl is only ‘sleeping’. This is no doubt one reason for saying that the dead are asleep. Unfortunately, the mourners laugh at Him (verse 40). Imagine mourning one minute and mocking someone the next. How valid is their sorrow? It seems quite shallow and quite typical of the opposition with which our Lord and Saviour met in his public ministry.

Jesus dismisses all except for the girl’s parents and His three Apostles. The six were alone with the cherished daughter assumed to have left this mortal coil. As He did with the woman who had hemorrhaged for 12 years, he treats this 12-year old gently and mercifully. He takes her hand and instructs her in near familial terms — talitha cumi (verse 41).

MacArthur unpacks Jesus’s actions for us indirectly comparing our temporal life to our eternal life:

In that moment, Jesus redefined death as a temporary condition. That’s why He uses the metaphor or the analogy of sleep. Sleep is a temporary disconnect, isn’t it? You’re insensitive to the environment around you when you’re asleep, you don’t hear the conversations, you don’t participate socially. You’re asleep. But it’s a temporary situation. And Jesus is saying for this girl, this is just asleep, it’s temporary. This is not permanent ...

This concept of death as sleep is picked up by the Apostles, isn’t it?, in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul loves to refer to believers dying as being asleep, like he refers in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 … God will raise us, we who know the Lord Jesus Christ when we die, the body sleeps. The soul, immediately in the presence of the Lord. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” That’s the…that’s the soul. But the body sleeps until the glorious resurrection at the return of Christ. And so you can refer to the death of a Christian as a release of the soul into the presence of the Lord, but the body sleeps until the day of resurrection. And so death, in a sense for a Christian, becomes described as sleep because it’s temporary…

Hence the expression ‘asleep in Christ’.

Now to the expression talitha cumi. Matthew Henry says:

Talitha, cumi; Damsel, I say unto thee, Arise. Dr. Lightfoot saith, It was customary with the Jews, when they gave physic to one that was sick, to say, Arise from thy disease; meaning, We wish thou mayest arise: but to one that was dead, Christ said, Arise from the dead; meaning, I command that thou arise; nay, there is more in it-the dead have not power to arise, therefore power goes along with this word, to make it effectual.

MacArthur adds a softer interpretation:

Here again this very personal touch, this very tender sensitivity. “And He said to her,” and by the way, only Mark gives us the original Aramaic. Jesus’ daily language was Aramaic, that was the language they spoke in Israel, the New Testament being written in Greek, the other writers give us the Greek translation. “Little girl, arise.” Mark gives us the very words of Jesus in Aramaic, “Talitha kum,” which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you get up.”

Talitha means a youth or a lamb. It’s as if He said, “Little lamb.” We use those kind of endearing terms, don’t we? We say to a little baby, “You little lamb you,” when we dote over them, don’t we? We don’t say that after they’re about three or so. We use other animals to describe them. But when they’re little, “Little Lamb” works really well … this one was still a lamb in the eyes of Jesus and she was twelve … And she was a lamb to that family. That was … a term of endearment. “Kum, get up, little lamb I say to you, get up.”

Instantly — ‘immediately’ — the girl gets up and begins walking (verse 42). She amazes her parents and the Apostles. Jesus had restored this girl to life.

The healing — restoration to life — concludes with Jesus instructing her parents to give her something to eat (verse 43). This signifies that she has no recuperation time; she is well and she is hungry. We know that a healthy appetite is a sign that all is well with us and our loved ones. And so it was when Jesus healed Jairus’s daughter. What a happy day that must have been.

However, Jesus stipulates that no one should reveal the healing. Well, one can imagine that they were all too eager to tell their neighbours and townspeople, as Matthew records.

You might wonder why Jesus said such a thing. MacArthur explains:

when He healed somebody it was immediate and it was permanent. And immediately there was complete astonishment on the part of the parents and everybody else who was in the room, including the three Apostles, Peter, James and John. The verb existemi literally means to stand outside oneself or to be beside one’s self with bewilderment. In other words, you have no logical explanation for what you have just seen. The same word is used in chapter 3 verse 21, and translated, “out of his senses.” It’s also used in 2 Corinthians 5:13, beside ourselves. I mean, this is just inexplicable. This just doesn’t happen. Common response, by the way, to the demonstration of divine power by our Lord.

The strength of the faith of Peter, James and John was certainly increased, wouldn’t you think? And so if it strengthened their faith, why not spread it around? Our Lord gives this explicit statement, “Do not do that.” But He doesn’t tell us why. In fact, as many times as it’s recorded that He said that in the gospels, we’re never told why He said that…never.

But let me make some suggestions to you. Number one, He could have said it to avoid a stampede on the house, to give the family time to feed the girl and to celebrate and rejoice and give Him more time to instruct and teach. If they went right out of the house, as you might be prone to do, and spread this everywhere, there would be a kind of a sensational response and curiosity would drive the crowd to the house and debilitate Jesus from doing what He wanted to do and rob away that precious time for the family and that reunion. Is that possibly behind the statement that you need to get her something to eat? That’s the first thing you need to do is take care of her before you draw a crowd? Was that in His mind?

It is also possible that Jesus said this because He knew the crowds had these messianic expectations, right? Now the Jews were looking for a Messiah, they wanted the Messiah who would come just to demonstrate massive divine power and use that power to overthrow Rome and use that power to provide everything they needed and everything that had been promised to them in the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Jesus was believed to be that Messiah and if it ran rampant and it got carried away, the crowds could get very aggressive and try to force Him into a role that was never His intended role. Read John 6:15 where it says, “After He fed them all, they tried to force Him to be a king.” Was He trying to keep the flame of messianic expectation low and not throw gas on it by a report of a resurrection?

Or thirdly, was it perhaps that He was motivated not to escalate the fear and the hatred of the scribes and Pharisees who were His enemies. If the crowd got excited, then Jesus becomes a bigger threat than they escalate their animosity and they have to do something to stop that threat and in premature action against Him, they might come after Him to kill Him. That had already been tried, right? Up in Nazareth in His own hometown they tried to throw Him off a cliff.

So Jesus had His reasons for keeping such dramatic healings — resurrections, if you will — quiet.

Henry’s observations help tie the various elements of this story together:

1. That the child was extremely well beloved, for the relations and neighbours wept and wailed greatly. It is very afflictive when that which is come forth like a flower is so soon cut down, and withereth before it is grown up; when that grieves us, of which we said, This same shall comfort us.

2. That it was evident beyond dispute, that the child was really and truly dead.

3. That Christ put those out as unworthy to be witnesses of the miracle, who were noisy in their sorrow, and were so ignorant in the things of God, as not to understand him when he spoke of death as a sleep, or so scornful, as to ridicule him for it.

4. That he took the parents of the child to be witnesses of the miracle, because in it he had an eye to their faith, and designed it for their comfort, who were the true, for they were the silent mourners.

5. That Christ raised the child to life by a word of power, which is recorded here, and recorded in Syriac [a dialect of Middle Aramaic], the language in which Christ spoke, for the greater certainty of the thing; Talitha, cumi; Damsel, I say unto thee, Arise.

6. That the damsel, as soon as life returned, arose, and walked, v. 42. Spiritual life will appear by our rising from the bed of sloth and carelessness, and our walking in a religious conversation, our walking up and down in Christ’s name and strength; even from those that are of the age of twelve years, it may be expected that they should walk as those whom Christ has raised to life, otherwise than in the native vanity of their minds.

7. That all who saw it, and heard of it, admired the miracle, and him that wrought it

8. That Christ endeavoured to conceal it; He charged them straitly, that no man should know it. It was sufficiently known to a competent number, but he would not have it as yet proclaimed any further; because his own resurrection was to be the great instance of his power over death, and therefore the divulging of other instances must be reserved till that great proof was given: let one part of the evidence be kept private, till the other part, on which the main stress lies, be made ready.

9. That Christ took care something should be given her to eat. By this it appeared that she was raised not only to life, but to a good state of health, that she had an appetite to her meat; even the new-born babes in Christ’s house desire the sincere milk, 1 Pt. 2:1, 2. And it is observable, that, as Christ, when at first he had made man, presently provided food for him, and food out of the earth of which he was made (Gen. 1:29), so now when he had given a new life, he took care that something should be given to eat; for is he has given life, he may be trusted to give livelihood, because the life is more than meat, Mt. 6:25. Where Christ hath given spiritual life, he will provide food for the support and nourishment of it unto life eternal, for he will never forsake, or be wanting to, the work of his own hands.

The raising of Jairus’s daughter is one of Christ’s great creative miracles. It holds lessons for us today in terms of our unwavering faith and His infinite mercy.

Next time: Mark 6:14-20

Today’s post continues a study of the passages from St Mark’s Gospel which have been omitted from the Lectionary used in public worship.

As such, it forms part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to our understanding of Scripture.

That said, today’s post discusses intimate matters relating to women, therefore, discretion is advised.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Mark 5:21-34

Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter

 21And 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 23and 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.” 24And he went with him.

   And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30And 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?'” 32And he looked around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

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Although most Christians of a certain age — predating the Lectionary — will know this story, many others might be unfamiliar with it unless they have attended a church which has readings from the entire New Testament.

At the beginning of Mark 5, Jesus drove out the demons of a man who, because he was possessed, was forced to live outside of a town called Gerasa in a Gentile area, Gadara, along the Sea [Lake] of Galilee. Many know this as the story of the Gadarene Swine and recognise this verse (Mark 5:9), where Jesus talks to the man and hears from the demons instead:

And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

The demons, who wish to live once Jesus has cast them out of the man, ask Him to allow them to inhabit the neighbouring swine herd instead.  Once the demons enter the pigs, they run off a cliff into the Sea of Galilee and drown.

By sending the demons into the pigs, Jesus heals the Gadarene man and sends him back into Gadara to tell everyone what happened. John MacArthur says:

He was really the first commissioned preacher of Christ and he was a Gentile who had been possessed by a legion of demons with no training formal or informal, except the few hours he had spent with Jesus by the sea.

Then, Jesus leaves. MacArthur explains:

Got in the boat with His disciples, that’s how verses 18 to 20 end that section, and came back the six miles across the northern tip of the Lake of Galilee to the western side of Capernaum from where they had begun. And they brought the boat to the shore near the town itself.

When we pick up the story in verse 21, Jesus has disembarked to a crowd of people. We have already read in Mark that He was surrounded by people to the point where they have even interrupted his dinner; His family also wanted to take him back to Nazareth. He healed the physically and spiritually ill, and He also taught — preached. Those who went to see and hear Him called him Rabbi or Teacher.

The story of Jairus and the woman are also in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. Next week’s post, incidentally, will conclude with the story of Jairus’s daughter.

My emphases below highlight the differences in Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts:

Matthew 9:18-22:

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

 18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said,  “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

Luke 8:40-48:

Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter

 40Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

   As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Jairus (Mark 5:22) was part of the Jewish leadership, although he was a layman. Matthew Henry explains (emphases mine):

a person than one of the rulers of the synagogue, one that presided in the synagogue-worship or, as some think, one of the judges of the consistory court, which was in every city, consisting of twenty-three. He was not named in Matthew, he is here, Jairus, or Jair, Jdg. 10:3.

Jairus does a bold thing. Given that his superiors are already angry at Jesus and plotting His death, he falls to His feet — in public. A Jew had no reason to do such a thing to another person — only to God — therefore, Jairus senses, through God’s grace, that he is approaching the Lord.

MacArthur says:

he knew about Jesus. Jesus had done many, many miracles in Capernaum. And notable miracles that could not possibly miss the grapevine. Even the ones that this man didn’t see, he would have heard about…like letting a man down through the roof of a house, healing him and forgiving his sins, and a myriad more day after day after day in Capernaum. And, by the way, he may have been in the very same synagogue where an incident occurred in chapter 1 recorded by Mark verses 21 to 28 where Jesus came into the synagogue, was teaching in the synagogue and in the middle of His teaching, a demonic power spoke out of a man’s mouth and identified Jesus as the Holy One of God. In fear and terror, the demon exposed himself saying, “What business do we have with You? You are the Holy One of God.”

Note the differences between Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels in Jairus’s appeal to Jesus (verse 23). Mark’s account says Jairus tells Him that his daughter is ‘at the point of death’ whereas Matthew’s quote says that she has just died.

MacArthur analyses Jairus’s supplication:

He, as far as we know, had never seen a resurrection. We don’t have any of them occurring in Capernaum before this. He believed that Jesus could heal his daughter who was dying. You say, “Well maybe he only believed that He could heal her if she was sick, not if she was dead.”

No, Matthew compresses the later information that came as they were moving toward the house that the daughter had died into a statement that the man, no doubt, said later, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” No, he believed Jesus could heal her. He believed that Jesus could raise her from the dead.

I mention this because I want to emphasize the fact that this man’s faith was in Jesus Christ. Couldn’t believe in the cross, it hadn’t happened. Couldn’t believe in the resurrection, that hadn’t happened. What could he believe? He could believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be, the Holy One of God as the demon had said. He was the Son of God as He Himself claimed to be. He was the Messiah. He could have believed as Jesus had taught them to believe, to believe in Him as the Son of God and the Redeemer of Israel and the Savior of the world who alone could bring redemption from sin, the gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus had preached day after day after day in that very town. That was all there was for him to believe.

Jesus starts the walk to Jairus’s house (verse 24). The crowd follows.

Notice how accessible Jesus was to all those who seek healing and who want to hear what He has to say. Jesus did not ask one of the Apostles to choose people to be healed. Nor did He take any type of transport other than a boat (the one exception being Palm Sunday when He rode a donkey).  Nor was he atop a sedan chair, being transported by His Apostles. He also never sat high on a mountaintop, accessible only to those who could manage the journey. He was on foot. He was right in the thick of it nearly every day.

In the crowd is a woman who has been hemmorhaging for 12 years (verse 25). MacArthur surmises that she might have been suffering from a common disorder in Africa and the Subcontinent, obstetric fistula:

I was reading something about it this week [in 2010]. There are as many as four million women who have this problem in Africa. It can be…remedied by a simple surgery to which they have no access sadly and certainly the woman in this story in Israel had no such help.

I knew a woman who had the operation done in England. The aftercare was no treat, but she healed quickly. Wikipedia explains the physical and social consequences:

The most direct consequence of an obstetric fistula is the constant leaking of urine, feces, and blood as a result of a hole that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum.[11] This endless leaking has both physical and societal penalties. The acid in the urine, feces, and blood causes severe burn wounds on the legs from the continuous dripping.[12] Nerve damage that can result from the leaking can cause women to struggle with walking and eventually lose mobility. In an attempt to avoid the dripping, women limit their intake of water and liquid which can ultimately lead to dangerous cases of dehydration. Ulcerations and infections can persist as well as kidney disease and kidney failure which can each lead to death. Further, only a quarter of women who suffer a fistula in their first birth are able to have a living baby, and therefore have miniscule chances of conceiving a healthy baby later on.

These physical consequences of obstetric fistula lead to severe socio-cultural stigmatization. Most girls are divorced or abandoned by their husbands and partners, disowned by family, ridiculed by friends, and even isolated by health workers. Women with obstetric fistula become worthless in the eyes of society because they are no longer able to give birth and they secrete a harsh odor. [13] Now marginalized members of society, girls are pushed to the brims of their villages and towns, often to live in isolation in a hut where they will likely die from starvation or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces, and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. Because such consequences highly stigmatize and marginalize the woman, the intense loneliness and shame can lead to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Further, women are sometimes forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because the extreme poverty and social isolation that results from obstetric fistula eliminates all other income opportunities. Because only 7.5% of women with fistula are able to access treatment (as found by the UNFPA in 2003), the vast majority of women are forced to suffer the consequences of obstructed and prolonged labor simply because options and access to help is so incredibly limited (there is one hospital dedicated to fistula treatment in the world, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).[14]

The lady following Jesus would have probably experienced the same. She would also have been expelled from synagogue life because her condition would have rendered her ritually unclean. Even today, Jewish Orthodox women must sleep separately during their menses and for a few days afterward. They must then take a ritual bath — mikva — to purify themselves prior to resuming marital relations. The word mikva (also mikveh or mikvah) is also the term used to designate the bath house where this is done. (Men also have mikvas before important religious ceremonies and holidays; the baths are segregated by sex.)

Mark’s and Luke’s accounts tell us that the woman had spent all her money on physicians who could do her no good. Medicine at the time was primitive. MacArthur describes the ‘remedy’ she would have taken:

… physicians didn’t really help and the more elevated ones, according to the Talmud, used some kind of toxins and astringents to supposedly help things like this. But the more common formulas you will be very surprised at. The prescription for a woman who had this problem, according to the Talmud, was to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer, and to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a cotton bag in the winter. Or carry a barley corn found in donkey dung, or drink wine with alum and crocuses or wine with onions. Not very helpful. No wonder she couldn’t get any help.

By the way, Mark says that. Luke left that part out. Luke, being a physician, exercised some discretion and Luke says she was incurable. But nonetheless, she had spent all of her money, whether on the famous doctors who served the rich, or the fakers who exploited the poor, the result was the same, all her money was out of her pocket into the physician’s pocket, and she was worse.

In desperation, she seeks Jesus’s healing power and manages to touch His clothing (verse 27). Mark (along with Matthew) explains that she believes that she will be healed through this humble gesture (verse 28).  And so it is (verse 29). Not only that but the healing is also complete and immediate.

At that moment — ‘immediately’ — Jesus notices a loss of ‘power’, divine energy (verse 30). He asks who touched His garment. The disciples dismiss His question (verse 31); how could anyone know in a crowd of that size? Jesus persists (verse 32).

At that point the woman comes forth to tell her story (verse 33). She is also filled with awe, as if she knows she is in the presence of the divine, so she falls at His feet.  Matthew Henry writes that she might have also been afraid of what Jesus would say:

not knowing how he would take it.

Yet, He is not only merciful but gentle. He calls her ‘daughter’ (verse 34), not ‘you’, ‘lady’ or ‘woman’. He uses a familial term. He tells her that her faith has effected the healing and that she may go in peace. That peace is not only physical but also spiritual.

Henry says:

Christ puts honour upon faith, because faith gives honour to Christ. But see how what is done by faith on earth is ratified in heaven; Christ saith, Be whole of thy disease. Note, If our faith sets the seal of its amen to the power and promise of God, saying, “So it is, and so let it be to me;” God’s grace will set the seal of its amen to the prayers and hopes of faith, saying, “So be it, and so it shall be, to thee.” And therefore, “Go in peace; be well satisfied that thy cure is honestly come by, is effectually wrought, and take the comfort of it.” Note, They that by faith are healed of their spiritual diseases, have reason to go in peace.

This miracle provides more evidence that Jesus Christ has a personal relationship with each of us, even those who turn their backs on Him. He is not an impersonal Saviour. Note how He felt the woman’s presence; some of His divine power connected with her broken body and soul.

MacArthur observes:

This is rich insight into the reality that our God is not detached. He is not unfeeling in the sense that He has no personal connection to us. While He is unaltered by what men do, He is still personally engaged in every act of power. I told you, people like to say I have a personal relationship with Jesus. Let me tell you something. Everybody who has ever lived has a personal relationship with Jesus. He is personally involved in their redemption, or He is personally involved in their judgment. Every expression of power, and every expression of deliverance is an experience that He feels. No one receives His power into his life without His personal involvement.

When the Bible talks about Him holding up everything…upholding, Hebrews 1, “Upholding everything by the Word of His power,” that is something He personally does. He is not some kind of emotionless unfeeling divine force. Bringing it down for the sake of time to where we live, we know that we are called and justified and sanctified and one day glorified by a living union with Jesus Christ. “So that I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” He is fully involved in my life, working out His spiritual work of salvation to its fullness and final completion in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is intimately involved in my life.

This is what it means to be in Christ, doesn’t it? In living union with Him. This ends all magic, all superstition, all healing by touching relics and television sets, nonsense. The work of the living Lord on behalf of sinners is personal. He felt the power flow out of Him when He healed that woman. He felt the power flow out of Him when He saved you. He feels the flow of power into your life as He sanctifies you. And He’ll feel the power that takes you into glory. This is intimate personal involvement with every one of us. And He feels the power of His judgment which falls on the ungodly.

This woman had a place in the purpose of God, a place in the family of God. This was one of the chosen, this was one of God’s sheep. Remember John 10, “My sheep hear My voice. They know Me, they don’t listen to strangers.” And here He is about to call one of God’s chosen whom the Father is drawing to Himself. This is the indomitable attitude of Christ who is never satisfied with a superficial answer, but presses all the way to the issue of salvation. A good lesson for us in our accessibility and availability and interruptability … should be that we don’t know what He knows [or] who the elect are [so we are] to bring the truth of salvation to those people in need …

How do we know this was a real conversion? Again I tell you, she believed everything that could be believed of what Jesus said as far as we know. But the capstone comes in verse 34 in His response. “And He said to her, ‘Daughter,’” Hummm…daughter? There’s a word to dispel fear, isn’t it? This is the only time in the New Testament that a woman is so addressed by Jesus… “Daughter…Daughter.” Matthew chapter 9 says He added, “Be of good comfort, relax, rest.” How can You call her Your daughter? Is she a child of God? A daughter of God? Yes, your faith has made you well…says the text. The Greek verb is sozo, to save. It’s the word used in the Scripture for salvation. Your faith literally has saved you.

There’s another word for strictly healing, iaomai. This word, I think in this case, needs to be translated the way we’re used to translating it, saved. Jesus healed the people who had no faith. He healed people who had faith. But Jesus doesn’t save people with no faith. This woman seems to demonstrate a faith which brings her into the category of being a child of God, addressed as “Daughter.” Your faith has saved you, He says. And then this, “Go in…what?…peace.” Jesus doesn’t throw that around. Peace belongs only to those who have made their peace with God.

Here is a woman who has a need, knows there’s no answer on a human level. Here is a woman who is humbled. She knows she’s a sinner. She lives with the symbol of her sin every day of her life for twelve years. She has literally gone through all of the ceremonial things that you can imagine again and again and again. The idea of sin and corruption is clear to her. She can’t do anything about it. She comes in faith, unwavering confidence that He can heal her. And then she knows whose presence she’s in and falls at His feet in worship and is called a daughter, told to be comforted, affirmed that she can go in peace and be healed of your affliction. Recovered back to health, recovered back to society , recovered back to her family, recovered back to the synagogue and back to God.

And he has this to say about Jairus — a respected man in his community — and the healed woman, a humble outcast:

Their story is a great benediction to us. And it shows us that there were those people who did have true faith in Jesus. I think these two were likely part of the 500 believers gathered after the resurrection who saw the risen Christ in Galilee.

Next week’s post continues with the second part of this story which concerns Jairus’s daughter.

Next time: Mark 5:35-43

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