The Healing Within the Healing: Gospel Deeps in Mark 5:21-43
The depths of God’s love in the gospel of his Son Jesus Christ are fathoms enough for the baptizing of the universe and at the same time safe enough for a baby. The same ocean that offers the foot-soaking shore offers core-slicing trenches veiled in mystery, depths we may never see.
I think we see this glorious truth in the miracle of the raising of Jairus’ daughter, interrupted by the healing of the woman with the bloody discharge. A refresher from Mark’s account:
And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
– Mark 5:21-43
Three gospel applications of this passage may help us see the depths of Christ’s love.
First, there are no little people in the kingdom of God.
Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, a high muckety muck. The woman clearly is not. In fact, she is considered continually unclean, and therefore untouchable, because of her condition (Leviticus 15:25), which most certainly informs the way she seeks out her healing. She tries to steal it, in effect. And yet Jesus made time for her. Even so, he could have turned around in a huff, treating her as an irritant or annoyance. But he doesn’t. Over and over we see what kinds Jesus goes out of his way to fraternize with, consistently setting the first last and the last first (Matthew 19:30). When the disciples are trying to cordon the children off, hustling them off to “children’s church” perhaps, it is the grown-ups he rebukes. It’s the sick who need a doctor and the poor in spirit who receive the blessing, and so when you tug on Jesus’ garment he doesn’t sigh or roll his eyes. He loves to be pestered. Pester him. His love is that deep.
Secondly, we see in this passage that a weak faith and a strong faith receive the same measure of grace.
Jairus comes — as far as we can tell — fully convinced. He knows that Jesus can heal his daughter and he trusts that Jesus will, so he approaches Jesus directly. The woman instead tries stealth. She trusts that Jesus can heal her, but she isn’t trusting that he will. She’s been burned too many times in the past. And she’s not willing to risk being rejected due to her condition or because of Jesus’ apparent hurry. And when finally confronted, she is full of fear and trembling.
But what does he call the woman? “Daughter” (v.34). He is equating her essentially with Jairus’ daughter, and more importantly establishing her relationship to himself and the Father. This is more wonderful evidence that it is not a strong faith that saves but a true faith. It is proof that the most beat-up and beat-down mustard seed-size of faith, tattered and tiny, will receive the eternal fullness of the glorious riches of Christ. It need not be big; it only need be real. That’s how deep God’s love is.
Finally, the way this encounter develops shows us the bigger picture that on the way to resurrection, our salvation is part of the story.
On his way to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, Jesus heals the woman and makes her part of the story. Her healing becomes part of the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter, an integral part in fact because it is in delaying his journey to care for her that the little girl passes from severe illness into death. And Jesus’ plan is to raise her, not simply heal her.
The narrative here is a mico-picture of the bigger story: Jesus is on his way to die and rise again. Along the way, he is teaching and healing and exorcising demons and eating and sleeping and welcoming and worshiping. He has a plan, and he will get there at the right time. He is on the Father’s business, determined to give himself up that he may be lifted up, but in the meantime, there is time. And all who desire his touch will get it. (I find it special too that Mark, who is the most eager of the Gospel writers to get to the cross and therefore produced the shortest and most urgent-toned of the synoptics, has the longest version of this account, compared to Matthew’s and Luke’s. It is as if he wanted his slowing down to reflect Jesus’ slowing down.)
Like the Bible that reveals it, the gospel is not about us but it is for us. The story is chiefly about God’s glory. But in the gospel we are partakers of that glory. So part of the story of Christ’s death and resurrection is the story of the captives being freed from sin and shame. I am grateful he made time for me! Before the world began he was making space for me! And in heaven now, Jesus is preparing space for me!
Paul writes in Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” So as we rush headlong toward the second coming of Christ, there is time enough for the salvation of all who trust in him. He will not come until all God’s children are accounted for in salvation. He is not really slow; he’s patient, and there’s a difference. Peter says in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
The gospel story is about Christ’s exaltation, but our healing is an integral part of the story — indeed, it is part of his exaltation. The love of Christ is so deep, there is more than enough for you if you want it.