Your life is in your hands … There is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Every single circumstance of your life can change!’
Positive thinking is a central belief in the self-help movement. How reasonable do you think it is to ‘believe in yourself’ no matter what?
Can you think of any circumstances that can’t be changed by the power of positive thinking?
Jesus’ reputation was attracting large crowds.
People were travelling from far around to see for themselves what they had heard about the man, his message and (most of all) his miracles. Jesus was clearly reluctant to become famous as a miracle worker and yet he continued to heal people. As we will see again in this study, when confronted with the suffering and fears of those who came to him, Jesus healed. It may not have been what he had come to do, but it was what he did.
So far our selections from Mark’s account have built up a picture of Jesus through fast-paced sequences of short stories. In this chapter, the pace slows and Mark focuses our attention on two rather contrasting characters who both come to Jesus in desperate need.
The vivid detail of these incidents suggests that Mark relies heavily on eyewitness accounts of the events.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered round him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ 24 So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed round him.
Despite Jesus’ growing reputation, the sight of a respected synagogue ruler falling at the feet of this self-appointed rural rabbi may well have seemed odd and inappropriate to the people watching – especially because of the increasing disapproval expressed by the religious authorities.
What does Jairus’ behaviour and request suggest about his situation?
Laying hands on the sick was a common religious practice that Jairus would have done for others. What’s striking about how Jairus makes this request of Jesus?
Following Jairus’ request, Mark simply tells us that Jesus went with him.
Considering his reluctance to be known as a miracle worker, why do you think Jesus continues to agree to these requests?
25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned round in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’
31 ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?”’
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’
What do we learn in verses 25–28 about the woman in the crowd who touched Jesus? How would this woman have felt? In what ways does her situation seem desperate and beyond hope?
As well as chronic illness, the woman’s condition meant social isolation owing to the cultural stigma attached to her bleeding. Desperate, having spent all her money on doctors’ cures, she took the risky step of entering the crowd to get near Jesus. A touch, she thought, might be enough to heal her.
When the woman was brought to Jesus, why do you think she was fearful rather than being overjoyed about her healing?
How do these verses demonstrate Jesus’ tenderness towards this desperate woman?
Jesus could have let her be healed quietly, but instead he draws attention to her. Why do you think Jesus made the woman talk with him about her healing so publicly? What did he want her to understand?
How is this woman different from Jairus? Yet what do they have in common? What does it show about Jesus that he delayed helping Jairus to meet the needs of this unnamed woman?
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.
You can imagine Jairus’ and the disciples’ frustration. From their perspective, Jesus had delayed helping a critically ill child from an important family in order to speak with an unnamed woman about a twelve-year chronic condition. We now discover that during the delay the child had died.
Why, despite Jesus being known as a healer, might everyone at the home of Jairus have lacked any hope for the little girl?
Consider Jesus’ reaction. How does it contrast with their lack of hope? What do you think would be the effect of Jesus’ words if he turned out to be wrong?
41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
How does Jesus respond to the fact of death? How does he speak to the girl?
Twice in this account Jesus has emphasised the importance of faith in him.
Try to imagine that this account was all you had to help you understand the meaning of the word ‘faith’. What is faith? What does it feel like? What does it involve?
Faith in Jesus is an important theme in Mark that is easily misunderstood. Put simply, it involves giving up confidence or trust in ourselves and our own resources and instead placing our confidence in Jesus as the one who alone can meet our deepest needs.
As with the woman and Jairus, faith is displayed most strongly by those who find themselves otherwise powerless and beyond hope.
What things do you hope will provide peace or fulfilment in your own life? Have you ever questioned your faith in the ability of these things to provide what you’re looking for?
Can you understand why people put their faith in Jesus? What have you seen in Jesus that might encourage you to put faith in him?
The gospels are full of people telling their stories - people asking questions, seeking relationships, searching for something more.
A central character, woven throughout each story, is Jesus, a historical figure surrounded by mystery. Join us as we explore these stories, and build up a picture of Jesus through the people he meets and the accounts that are written about him.