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 hemorrhages 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 hemorrhage 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.
Socio-Cultural Dynamics: Honor, Shame, and Status
We can explore this ministry encounter through socio-cultural dynamics as Jesus extends the radical inclusivity of the kingdom of God. This is a similar to his re-framing the table fellowship and meal sharing practices earlier in the Gospel.
It is helpful to understand the cultural dynamics of honor and shame, a person’s status within the community, that guided the social life of people in the time of Jesus and Mark. Ched Myers references the work of Bruce Malina, citing his book The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (1981):
“From a symbolic point of view, honor stands for a person’s rightful place in society, his social standing. This honor place is marked off by boundaries consisting of power, sexual status, and position on the social ladder….Honor is a claim to worth along with the social acknowledgement of worth. The purpose of honor is to serve as a sort of social rating which entitles a person to interact in specific ways with his or her equals, superiors, and subordinates, according to the prescribed cultural cues of the society….For honor has both individual and corporate or collective dimensions. Relations within the natural grouping are sacred, blood, or pure relationships the tie persons directly together....Relationships within voluntary groupings are focused on posts and functions (Malina:1981, 47f).”
This social understanding can help us to recognize the radical way the Jesus interacts with those he encounters. “In the process of his symbolic construction of the new social order of the kingdom, Mark’s Jesus was subverting the status quo in order to create new possibilities of human community (Myers, 199).”
The Healing of Two “Daughters”
Jesus is met by Jarius, the ruler of the local synagogue. Jarius, a rare named character in Mark’s story, is a person who has power and influence in the community. He is a person who has honor. His approach to Jesus, falling at Jesus’ feet, is a use of his honor in order to extract a favor. He greats Jesus as an equal in order to ensure the favor is granted. He appeals to Jesus on behalf of his daughter.
Their movement to Jarius’ house is interrupted by an unnamed woman who reaches out to touch Jesus from the large crowd gathered around him. The unnamed woman is a person who has been shamed by the community. She is ritualistically unclean because of the flow of blood. She is an outcast, not able to participate in the normal rhythms of community life. She has also drained her resources trying to find healing. She is not only an outcast, she is poor. To put it metaphorically, she is socially dead.
The nature of Jesus’ ministry, his radical inclusivity, stops the procession to Jarius’ house in order to heal the unnamed woman. Jesus is again purposely upsetting the established status quo in order to give life.
The moment that initiates the healing is one the creates a problem for Jesus. The purity code has been breached. Having been touched by an unclean person, Jesus is now unclean himself. But there is a reversal. Has we have already witnessed in the healing of the man with the skin disease (1:40-45), Jesus chooses to violate the purity code for the sake of healing. In a sense, Jesus takes a moment of social death and chooses to give life. The touch that could contaminate becomes a touch of new life.
Jesus also changes the status of the woman within the community. He names her daughter, drawing her into kinship of the community of Jesus’ inaugurating. No longer is she at the bottom of the honor scale, she is a part of the family of the kingdom of God.
After this radical reversal news reaches the procession that the daughter of Jarius has died. The group is troubled as suggests that Jarius no longer bother Jesus. Jesus overhears the conversation and tells Jarius, “Do not fear, only believe.” This phrase can also be translated as “Do not fear, keep on trusting.” This is a mantra of discipleship that the disciples will need. A mantra that is important for our own journey of faith. Keep on trusting!
Jesus proceeds to the house where he is greeted by weeping and wailing. When Jesus tells them that the girl is not dead, only sleeping, they laugh at him. Jesus then throws them out of the house. It’s interesting to note that Mark uses the same work, ekbalon, to describe the action of Jesus. It’s the same word he uses to describe Jesus casting out demons. Jesus is literally casting out the opposition to his ministry from the house!
Jesus takes only the girl’s family and Peter, James, and John with him into the back room where the girl is located. He tells her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” What we translate as “get up,” is the word ἐγείρω - to be raised. It’s the word Mark uses for resurrection. Jesus raises the girl to new life. Mark connects this event to what happens at the tomb.
Mark also tells us that the girl is twelve, the same number of years that the unnamed woman had been bleeding. This could also be an interesting commentary on status and access to resources within the community. The daughter of Jarius has had access to resources because of the status of her father. The unnamed woman as left at the merciless hands of those who controlled the purity code and access to healing. Jesus breaks down these obstacles with his ministry and creates a place for all in the kingdom of God.
Questions for Modern Day Disciples
- What are the cultural barriers in our midst that keep healing at bay?
- How do we still embody a culture of honor/shame?
- How do we follow Jesus in breaking down the barriers that keep people from healing/wholeness?
- What are some ways the discipleship mantra of "keep on trusting" can be used in our lives?