Mark 5: A Story within a Story

Getting out of the boat:

I was reading in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, today. A lot happened around Jesus when he got out of boats. The previous chapter ends with Jesus calming a great storm on the Sea of Galilee and chapter 5 begins with him getting out of this boat. He was in the country of the Gerasenes (v.1). He is met by a demon-possessed man and subsequently releases him from this spiritual bondage (v.1-20). It is a fascinating story, but not the story I would have you notice in chapter 5. Sometime after compassionately dealing with this tormented man, Jesus gets back into a boat and again crosses the Sea of Galilee (v.21).

When he disembarks from this sailing vessel, he is again sought after by a tormented man. This man was a synagogue official, named Jairus. He was not enslaved by demons but driven by his young daughter’s terminal condition. So desperate is this man that he falls at the feet of Jesus begging him passionately to heal his daughter so that she would live. She was in critical condition – “at the point of death” – her father says. I can only imagine the depth of his desire to see his child healed. Mark records simply that Jesus “went off with him”. The crowd evidently went too, and was pressing in on the group on every side.  So this is “the story”: a desperate father, a sickly daughter, a compassionate Christ and an eager crowd (v.22-24).

Another story:

Mark then focuses on a single individual within the vast crowd. There is a woman who is tormented with a “hemorrhage”. Some sort of bleeding issue has plagued her for twelve years. The doctors can’t fix her, she has run out of money, options and hope. She has seen the issue not only stay unresolved, but actually growing worse. She, too, has heard about Jesus and desires him to heal her. She works her way through the crowd, finally moving directly behind Christ. Mark says she was thinking, “If I just touch his garments, I shall get well.” There is no clamoring for Jesus’ attention. No throwing herself at his feet. Just a shaking hand reaching out at the only Hope she had left. The crowd surges around Christ and her hand brushes his cloak. Immediately she was healed, and she knew it. Christ stopped. He knew what had happened and turned to the crowd behind him and asked, “Who touched me?” What a silly question! At least that is what the disciples thought. They questioned Christ about his inquiry. “…the multitude was pressing in on you, and you say, ‘Who touched me?’”

Here it is that “the story within the story” unfolds. Jesus is intent on dealing with this woman, the disciples don’t understand what Jesus is doing, and a synagogue official is waiting for Christ to keep moving so that his daughter might be healed. Christ looks at the woman who had touched his cloak. The woman was very frightened. She had become the center of attention for the entire crowd. She had been ill, desperate for help, and now, she didn’t know what would happen to her. She comes close to Jesus, falls at his feet and bares her wounded soul to him. Jairus listened. The disciples listened. The crowd also heard. As she comes to the end of recounting the past 12 years, Jesus puts her fears to rest. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (v.25-34)

It was as these comments from Christ were being spoken that Jairus finds out his daughter had died. They were so close. If only they had not been delayed, she may have been healed. How Jairus’ heart must have broken! He is prodded by these people from his house to let Jesus go. There is no sense in tying up his time now. The girl is dead. (v.35)

What was going through the mind of Jairus? The disciples? The crowd? The woman?

The powerful conclusion:

Jesus overhearing the conversation, perhaps noticing the grief in the father’s eyes, speaks. The crowd is hushed with the news of death delivered. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” Fear was in his eyes and in Jairus’ heart. He had tried everything humanly possible to get Christ to his child. And he failed to do so in time. Jesus speaks to his fear and casts it aside. Christ takes Jairus, Peter, James and John and continues to the house. The wailing of the survivors hangs in the air. Jesus comes into the home and says to them, “Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.” Sorrow turns to scorn and the people gathered laughed at the seemingly silliness of his claim. Again Jesus moves with compassion taking the father, mother and his companions and enters the twelve year old’s room. He pauses where she lay, took her hand, and said, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!

From that moment on this family was never the same. The girl not only got up but walked around demonstrating her new found strength. His parents and his friends were astounded. He instructs her parents to give her something to eat and then he leaves. The story ends. (v.36-43)

There is so much intertwined in these two stories. Let’s look at three things we can take away from this amazing chapter in Mark’s Gospel:

  1. Jesus Christ always triumphs over any affliction. It does not matter the opposition, whether physical or spiritual, Jesus is able to deliver any and all from their torment. In chapter five we see demon possession, disease and untimely death. In every instance Jesus Christ demonstrates his Lordship over his creation. He remains in perfect control. As the Apostle would write: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by him all things were created, both in the heavens, and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
  2. Suffering always has a purpose. For twelve years this woman with the hemorrhage suffered increasing discomfort. A little girl, only twelve years old, lay on the threshold of death. Their suffering brought them in contact with their Savior. But beyond that, their suffering stretched not only their faith, but the faith of those around them. In both cases, their suffering, which could not be eliminated by man, was eradicated by the Great Physician. This brought glory to God and could not be explained away by man. Even this man tormented with demons could not be confined or reformed by man. Jesus came to him and set him free from all his suffering.
  3. Jesus Christ always compassionately comforts those who seek him. It began by listening to a hurting father and Jesus went with him. It continued with a sickly woman and Jesus calls her, “Daughter”. He gives her peace in place of her fear. He provides healing in place of her hurting. He hears the dreadful news of death and brings the family into greater faith.

What circumstances do you find yourself in today? Are you tormented and weakened spiritually? There is a greater Power. Are you suffering in a chronic condition that only seems to worsen? There is a greater Physician. Are you grieving loss like no other? There is a greater Comfort.

Our struggles may not lessen in this life. We may not see such miraculous change as is described in Mark chapter five. Yet we are confident in the knowledge that Jesus can stop the affliction at any time. We are encouraged in the thought that our suffering serves a greater purpose. And we are comforted by the fact that Jesus Christ will meet us in our torment and soothe us as only He can.

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