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. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 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.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 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. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
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?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 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. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What to do with this educator’s commentary

This commentary invites you as a teacher to engage with and interpret the passage. Allow the text to speak first. The commentary suggests that you ask yourself various questions that will aid your interpretation. They will help you answer for yourself the question in the last words of the text: ‘what does this mean?’

This educator’s commentary is not a ‘finished package’. It is for your engagement with the text. You then go on to plan how you enable your students to work with the text.

Both you and your students are the agents of interpretation. The ‘Worlds of the Text’ offer a structure, a conversation between the worlds of the author and the setting of the text; the world of the text; and the world of reader. In your personal reflection and in your teaching all three worlds should be integrated as they rely on each other.

In your teaching you are encouraged to ask your students to engage with the text in a dialogical way, to explore and interpret it, to share their own interpretation and to listen to that of others before they engage with the way the text might relate to a topic or unit of work being studied.

This commentary invites you as a teacher to engage with and interpret the passage. Allow the text to speak first. The commentary suggests that you ask yourself various questions that will aid your interpretation. They will help you answer for yourself the question in the last words of the text: ‘what does this mean?’

This educator’s commentary is not a ‘finished package’. It is for your engagement with the text. You then go on to plan how you enable your students to work with the text.

Both you and your students are the agents of interpretation. The ‘Worlds of the Text’ offer a structure, a conversation between the worlds of the author and the setting of the text; the world of the text; and the world of reader. In your personal reflection and in your teaching all three worlds should be integrated as they rely on each other.

In your teaching you are encouraged to ask your students to engage with the text in a dialogical way, to explore and interpret it, to share their own interpretation and to listen to that of others before they engage with the way the text might relate to a topic or unit of work being studied.

Structure of the commentary:

The world behind the text

See the general introduction to Mark

The world of the text

Text & textual features

Characters & setting

Ideas/phrases/concepts

Questions for the teacher

The world in front of the text

Questions for the teacher

Meaning for today/challenges

Church interpretations & usage

The World Behind the Text

See general introduction to Mark.

The world of the text

Text & textual features

Mk 5:21-43 contains two healing stories, the healing of the woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years sandwiched betweenthe healing of Jairus’ daughter. This technique is one deliberately intended to highlight the middle text, which acts as the ‘meat’ in the sandwich.In pairing of these two miracle stories Mark would have intended the reader to understand them in light of each other. Courage and humility are shown by both Jairus and by the woman who touches Jesus. Jesus is ridiculed in his response to both situations, firstly by his disciples when Jesus says that he knows that someone has touched him (the haemorrhaging woman) and then by mourners when he declares that Jairus’ daughter is only sleeping. Jesus is not always understood.

Ideas/phrases/concepts

The crowd
“And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him” (Mk 5:24b).
The growth of the crowd is significant as Mark is emphasising that many hear Jesus. As the Gospel continues, crowds come not only from Galilee but from areas beyond Judea and Jerusalem. This crowd will grow to become a political force, worrying for the authorities.   

The healing touch
“Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘who touched me?’…. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum,’ which means “Little girl get up!” (Mk 5:30b, 41)
Healing occurs differently in each case. As the woman has touched Jesus herself, he has no need to reach out and touch the woman: her faith  has brought about her own healing. In contrast, Jesus takes the little girl by the hand and speaks to her. Both are restored to wholeness by Jesus’ gentle touch. 

Faith
“Daughter, your faith has made you well” (Mk 5:34)
The concept of faith is central to this passage. Jairus’ plea for Jesus to save his daughter demonstrates faith in Jesus’ power. Faith is then demonstrated in the woman who believes that if she just touches Jesus’ cloak, she will be made well. The link between faith and miracles is important for Mark. The ‘unfaith’ of the disciples in the story of the calming of the sea (Mk 4:35-41) is compared to the faith of the characters in these healing stories.

Food
Michael Fallon suggests that:

Jesus’ command to give Jairus’ daughter food is a preparation for the story of the feeding of the five thousand (6:32-44).

(Michael Fallon, 1997, p. 117).


Secrecy 
“He strictly ordered them that no one should know this” Mk 5:43a
The narrative ends with Jesus’ command that no-one should know about the miracle. The Markan secrecy theme runs throughout the Gospel.  Francis Moloney (2004) suggests that for Mark it is crucial that Jesus is not seen as the Messiah or Saviour because of his miracles. He should not be seen as a wonderworker, but as the Gospel comes to conclusion as the crucified and risen Christ. 

Peace
Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Mk 5:34a
This is the only time that the word peace occurs in Mark’s Gospel. Her healing is more than physical healing… she has found wholeness, value and harmony in her new life. 

Numbers in the story
Three is an important number in the Bible, reflecting wholeness and completeness in God. Three disciples, Peter, James and John, are chosen to witness the miracle of the raising of Jairus’ daughter. They are the same three who will later witness the transfiguration (9:2) and the agony in the garden (14:3). These three form an intimate circle of disciples chosen for special attention: privileged to experience his work on their own. In spite of this, they will fail most dramatically in the end. Michael Fallon (1997), suggests that the healing of Jairus’ daughter at age twelve is reflective of the healing of ailing Israel (twelve tribes of Israel). The number of years the woman has been haemorrhaging is also 12: her illness has prevented her from being in community for the whole ‘time of Israel’.

Characters & Setting

The two main characters, the haemorrhaging woman and Jarius’ daughter, are notable for a number of reasons.

  1. They are both un-named females.
    1st century Judaism had clear rules about men touching women. Francis Moloney (2004), suggests that the fact that the girl is named as being twelve when Jesus touches her would have increased the audience’s shock as she would have been regarded as a young woman. In spite of contrary teaching, Jesus’ touch brings wholeness and holiness to both women. In their anonymity, the two women represent everyone who needs Jesus’ healing, in fact everyone who needs the new life that Jesus gives.
  2. They are both ritually impure.
    In both instances, Jesus places the needs of the inflicted person above purity laws. Jesus allows himself to be touched by the woman who has been unclean because of her bleeding, and, as a result, socially and religiously marginalised; ‘outside’ the chosen people of God. If Jairus’ daughter is dead, and touch of her body would rendered him impure. In the context of this story, the two women are equals: both need healing which he is able to give. In a later chapter,    

“Mark makes the Christological point that Jesus ignores issues of ritual impurity or taboo when it is a case of giving life” (Mk 7:1-23)

Francis Moloney, (2002), p. 72, 110.

3. They are from opposite ends of the social and religious spectrum.
The naming of Jairus, the synagogue official, and Jesus’ visit to his house also connects Jesus to his Jewish foundation, especially as this
story occurs on the Jewish side of Lake Galilee. Jairus lowers himself from his dignified position and throws himself at the feet of Jesus
which would have been an amazing action for a synagogue ruler. The bleeding woman however, has no status: she is estranged from her
family and community because of her bleeding: she has no-one to ask on her behalf, no one to throw her at Jesus’ feet: she must do that
herself. Hers is an action of her own initiative, her own desperation, her own faith.

The naming of Peter, James and John, the closest circle of disciples, will become important later in the Gospel. These three, taken aside by Jesus for special teaching and modelling in this passage, will continue to fail to understand as the Gospel unfolds. 

Questions for the teacher:

What is the text saying? What am I wondering about the text?
How can you enable your students to engage with the actual text? What might they wonder about?
What of this information is important to share with the students?

The world in front of the text

Questions for the teacher:

Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.

How do you respond to the text?
What does the text tell us about the world that God desires? What might the Holy Spirit be asking you and asking us to do?
In what ways do you hope your students will respond to the text? What do you want them to know, believe and do?

Meaning for today/challenges

Church interpretation

In Mark’s healing narrative (5:1-23), Jesus breaks down barriers, ignoring rules in order to heal wounded people. We too, are called as Christians to break down the barriers in society, reaching out to those who are hurt, wounded and marginalised. 

“If the risen Christ is to touch me, it will have to be through your hands.”

Fallon, 1997, p. 118.

In the 16th century, St Teresa of Avila, expressed the Christian call to be Christ in our lives:

St Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Now, in the 21st century Pope Francis is calling Christians to break down barriers and reach out to people in need.

“God draws near to our lives… moved to compassion because of the fate of wounded humanity and comes to break down every barrier that prevents us from being in relationship with him, with others and with ourselves.”

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/02/15/pope-francis-open-heart-forgive-heal-24002

In Mark’s story, the two characters are healed because of faith: the faith of others or their own faith. Pope Francis talks often about faith, saying that faith is:

  • about relationship, not about a set of rules
  • is about witness… Christians are mean to live their faith
  • leads us out of ourselves, so that we share our faith, and
  • is nourished by prayer

Pope Francis recognises that we are a healing church that is itself in need of healing. 

Pope Francis

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.” 

https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/francis-chronicles/pope-s-quotes-field-hospital-church 

One of the themes of the Plenary Council 2020 is “Humble, Healing and Merciful,” through the community’s exploration of the question, “How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is humble, healing and merciful?”  

Liturgical Usage

One of the two stories, the raising of Jairus’ story (Mk 5:21-24,35b-36,38-42) is used in the Children’s Lectionary, in weekdays of Ordinary Time under the theme, “The Lord with Help You”.

The importance of healing is expressed today in the Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation/ Penance and Anointing of the Sick). These sacraments draw us out of isolation caused by sin and by illness, and we experience healing. Pope Francis says that experiencing these sacraments,

“means being enfolded in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the Father’s infinite mercy.” 

http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140219_udienza-generale.html