How long is twelve years? I guess that depends on whom you are asking?
If you have been suffering with cancer, MS, Polio or some other disease the answer to that question is “twelve very long years!” On the other hand, if you have just buried your 12 year old daughter, that same measurement of time just doesn’t seem long enough – “twelve very short years.” And that is exactly the tension we find in Mark 5:21-43. A quick read gives you the impression that the two stories are independent of one another, but then one notices the ‘coincidence’ of twelve years. A Synagogue Official coming to Jesus because his twelve year old daughter is dying…A woman touching Jesus who has suffered with a hemorrhage for twelve years. Twelve short years for the father and daughter…Twelve very long years for the suffering woman…and a hope in a miracle worker who is far more than a healer, but the Messiah, the very Son of God Himself.
A Desperate Official
Jesus is in Capernaeum having ministered throughout the region of Galilee. Of course, a large crowd gathers around Him, but one man in particular enters the scene. Not the kind of person you would expect. A Synagogue Official by the name of Jairus. Now, what is significant about this encounter is that Jesus has recently been confronted by the religious elite in a synagogue where a man with a withered hand was used to try and trap Jesus. Of course, the Messiah heals the man’s hand, but understandably the religious elite don’t like it, an plot to put him to death. One is left wondering about the very likelihood that Jairus, because of his status, was part of that crowd. Yet, it shouldn’t surprise us that a “life crisis” is causing a religious person to approach Jesus because He has been healing people of diseases throughout that region…and why not his dying daughter. Jairus approaches Jesus, not as the Messiah, but as a miracle worker. He is desperate and it is the beginning of his faith…a flicker fueled by hope.
Now, remember, there is a crowd gathered watching the Synagogue Official approach Jesus and fall at His feet. To be sure, the crowd isn’t leaving. They want to see what is going to take place next. There is a story brewing in Capernaeum today! As the crowd watched they heard Jairus pleading with Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter so that she will get well and live. Jesus, always compassionate, goes off with Jairus, heading for his house where this twelve year old lies dying on a bed.
A Diseased Woman
Now, the text is very clear in the Greek, emphasizing the repeated action of the crowd following (repeatedly) and pressing on Him (repeatedly). Let’s just say that the crowd is getting bigger and pushing and shoving as they go. And then we are told that a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years reached out and touched his cloak, hoping that she would be healed. Now, the story of this woman is extremely depressing. Twelve years of feminine bleeding which makes her unclean and an outcast. She has spent all she has seeking the remedies of many physicians, but in all of it she was just getting worse. Here is a sample of what the Talmud says about cures for this disease:
Take the gum of Alexandria the weight of a small silver coin; of alum the same; of crocus the same. Let them be bruised together, and given in wine tot he woman that has an issue of blood. If this does not benefit take of Persian onions three pints; boil them in wine, and give her to drink, and say “Arise from thy flux.” If this does not cure her, set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her right hand, and let someone come behind her and frighten her, and say, “Arise from thy flux.”
As you can imagine, this unnamed woman is desperate and see’s this miracle worker as her only hope. When she touches his garment she is immediately healed and Jesus immediately looks around and said repeatedly, “who touched my garments?” Now, it is not surprising that the Disciples responded by repeatedly saying to Jesus, “You see the crowd pressing in on You and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” We have all probably been in situations where we are stuck in a mass of people and couldn’t tell who, in particular, was touching us.
That happened to me on my first trip to Russia. We were led by our guide, Sonya, into the Moscow Metro – the underground tube/train system – and were waiting for the train to arrive. The platform was full of people in heavy coats & hats and Sonya instructed us to be sure to get on the train when it came. When it arrived it was full, but I guess it wasn’t full enough. We were told to run and push our way in. So I did, with Sonya pushing my back. I felt like I was stuck on a Velcro Wall with Boris, Surgei, Sasha, Victor, Natalia and Yuri pressing in on my body. Every part was touching someone, but I am not sure who in particular.
So, you can sympathize withe the Disciples. They are right. But that’s because they don’t know the magnitude of the Messiah. He knew that power had gone out from Him. Well, the woman knew that she was healed and came up to Jesus and confessed all – that’s code for “gave her testimony” – and Jesus says to her, “Your faith has made you well.”
By now you have been so caught up with the plight of this woman that you have probably forgotten about Jairus and his dying daughter. Can you imagine what he must be thinking:
- “Doesn’t He know that my daughter is sick?”
- “We have to get to her…we have to hurry!”
- “Rabbi, you are getting sidetracked!”
And friend, this is the tension in this text…
- “Jesus, What are you doing?”
- “Why are you not paying more attention to me?”
- “Why aren’t you rushing to meet my need — don’t you know my predicament?”
A Deceased Child
And then the servants from Jairus’ house come with the bad news that his daughter is dead…even with a derogatory “why trouble this ‘Teacher’ any more?”
“I left my daughter to come to this miracle worker…I waited while he cared for another and now my hope is crushed!”
But Jesus doesn’t let his mind wander too much. He jumps in and encourages Jairus saying, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”
So, together with a few select Disciples Jesus travels to Jairus’ home passing by the profession mourners and mockers where he takes Mom & Dad into the little girls room and breathes life into her frail body. The proof of her resurrection is that she begins to walk around and is in need of food.
Our ever compassionate Savior once again performs a miracle, but a greater one. What began as a healing has now turned into a resurrection. What began as a request to come to my house turned into a life lesson showing Jairus that Jesus was much more than a miracle worker, but the very Son of God. His faith was growing, just like the Woman’s faith was growing.
As we ponder this story there are four notable obstacles to our faith that scream from the text:
- Despair – “I’ve heard everything else–why should this be any different? I have been faithfully reading God’s Word, praying, serving, fasting. I have been faithful in my attendance at church. God, why haven’t you done anything yet? When we do this we have slipped into a formulaic approach to living our lives for Christ. We now believe that God will bless my “works” of obedience, etc. and that based on what we have done God “should” come through for us. When He doesn’t, we throw in the towel and give up on Him. But all we have done is to try to put God into our box of thinking and expectation.
- Time – Just like Jairus, we may be expecting God to be working on our timetable. We believe that God can work in our lives, but we want His help on our terms rather than on His. This results in us thinking that He has forgotten or doesn’t care and we lose heart and our faith diminishes.
- The Blessings of Others – We join our brothers and sisters in Christ at prayer meeting. We hold their prayer requests up before God and many times we see how God steps into their lives and answers their prayers. We rejoice with them, but somewhere in the private quarters of our hearts a conversation with God is taking place that says, “Why God is it that you give other people blessing, victory and answers to their prayers, but you won’t meet my need?” You must not care about me…You must like them better…What have I done to deserve this? This kind of thinking pops the balloon of our faith and we can so easily give up.
- Mourning & Mocking – Although I didn’t address this, the professional Mourners turned to Mockers when Jesus said, “The child is not dead, she is just sleeping.” Oh yes, our society might tolerate a religiousness, but to think that God actually intervenes for people in their distress and struggle, well, that’s just laughable. So, our world is comfortable laughing away at the claims of Christ and His followers. This puts a doubt into our heads and can cause our faith to shrink.
Twelve years is a long time…or it is an incredibly short time, depending on your present experience. More importantly, is your struggle, trial, difficulty and present endeavor pushing you to grow in your faith or are you being drawn away into thinking distorted thoughts about the wonderful Messiah you embraced as Lord and Savior?