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Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy

Third Sunday after Trinity

Mark 5. 21-43 "A Great Reversal "

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

Share together experiences in which you or others were treated as inferior and of no importance.

A Window on the Text

In this passage Mark weaves together two healing stories. Here we have people at totally different ends of the social scale: the daughter of a significant religious figure in the community and a woman who knows she is at the ‘bottom of the pile’, a social outcast. The official is named, a rare feature in Mark, and the woman remains nameless. We get the picture.

The request by Jairus for Jesus to come to his daughter’s aid sets the scene. Clearly, Jesus is expected to make the request top priority. But the woman with a perpetual menstrual bleeding problem creeps up on Jesus in the crowd and touches his clothing. Aware that someone had touched him in a special way, ‘the power had gone out of him’, Jesus interrupts his journey to the house of the dying girl. Faced with the question ‘who touched me’ the woman comes forward from the crowd. Instead of casting her aside as many would have expected, Jesus stops and addresses her as ‘daughter’. Her healing at the hands of Jesus has brought her to a place of inclusion as Jesus bids her go ‘into’ peace.

Meanwhile news comes of the death of Jairus’ daughter. Jesus makes his way to the house together with Peter, James and John. Jesus clears out the hired mourners and then raises the girl to life. There is no declaration of peace given by Jesus, for this girl had known the wholeness that inclusion brings for the 12 years of her privileged life.

No wonder there is confusion in the minds of Jesus’ followers. Jesus turns the accepted social arrangement on its head. Here we see the last becoming first and the first last.

Mark’s readers are being encouraged to create an inclusive community that makes no distinction between human beings no matter what their background or gender. All are one in Christ. This is radical indeed.
Responding as a community
  1. Compare the faith of the woman and that of Jairus in this story? What part does faith play in healing today?

  2. The healing stories in the gospels are as much about inclusion of the disaffected members of society as the restoration of people to good health. To what extent does the healing ministry of your church embrace social inclusion issues?

  3. The story raises the issue of delayed answers to prayer (remember also how Jesus delayed going to dying Lazarus – John 11). How should we regard these experiences? Is God trying to test us or is it about bringing greater glory to God?

  4. Comment on the statement "the life that God gives through Jesus is stronger than death."
Praying Together

Pray for all who are rejected or left out in our world because they are deemed ‘unclean’.

Pray for those suffering from long-term illness.
Going Deeper

It is interesting to note that the period of the woman’s illness and exclusion from society are the same as the girl’s age – 12 years – an allusion to the 12 tribes of Israel who also needed to be raised up.

Although the bleeding is traditionally seen as a menstruation problem, the text does not explicitly say so.

See Leviticus 15 outlines the way in which this condition should be dealt with according to the Law. See also 12 verse 7 for a reference to the flow of blood.

William Loader (2004) points out that the woman, in a state of permanent ritual uncleanness, is as dead socially as the young girl is physically.

It is clear that medical science at the time of Jesus was not well advanced (see Pliny’s Natural History). Doctors prescribed all kinds of weird concoctions from ashes of burnt wolf’s skull, stags’ horns, heads of mice, the eyes of crabs, owl’s brains, the livers of frogs and more. Powdered horses’ teeth were prescribed for dysentery, and a cold in the head was cured by kissing a mule’s nose.

“On one leaf of the Talmud not less than eleven different remedies are proposed, of which at most only six can possibly be regarded as astringents or tonics, while the rest are merely the outcome of superstition, to which resort is had in the absence of knowledge. But what possesses real interest is, that, in all cases where astringents or tonics are prescribed, it is ordered, that, while the woman takes the remedy, she is to be addressed in the words: ‘Arise (Qum) from thy flux.’ It is not only that physical means are apparently to accompany the therapeutical in this disease, but the coincidence in the command, Arise (Qum), with the words used by Christ in raising Jairus’ daughter is striking.” Alford Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), I, p. 620.

The word "sleeping" is often used in the NT as a euphemism for death; e.g. 1 Thess 4:14-5.

“Arriving at the house Jesus saw that preparations had been made already for the funeral. The minstrels and professional mourners were performing their duties as the first part of the mourning ceremony. The wailing consisted of choral or antiphonal song accompanied by handclapping. Since even the poorest man was required by common custom to hire a minimum of two flute players and one professional mourner in the event of his wife’s death, it is probable that one who held the rank of synagogue ruler would be expected to hire a large number of professional mourners.” Lane, Mark, p. 196.

Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion

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