Go ahead and spend a few minutes reading today’s section, Mark 5:21-43, so that rather than retelling the story, I can go straight to some meditations on these precious verses. Here are nine applications from the story of Jairus’s daughter and the bleeding woman.
1. Our Stories Are Connected
All our stories are connected. The story of the healing of Jarius’s daughter is intertwined with the story of the healing of the bleeding woman. This connection is made obvious with the mentioning of “twelve years” in both cases. The little girl was twelve years old and the woman had been bleeding for twelve years. Think about their lives, Jarius and his wife welcomed into the world a newborn baby and on the same day, in an unknown home, a woman began to bleed. One family experienced joy and another fear. Twelve years later, their paths would intersect, because both their stories were brought together by a need for Jesus.
We are all connected, but not just in our brokenness, in our hope, also. People today find it meaningful to recognize our connection as a suffering human race, but we are also connected to each other by what Jesus can do for us. Your story is connected with someone on the other side of the planet, because Jesus can touch both of you. The healing hands of Christ hold all the stories of the world together.
2. Our Efforts Make Things Worse
Our efforts to repair our lives make things worse, not better, so we need to rely on the grace of God. There was a bleeding woman, “who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26). The true story of the bleeding woman is also a parable to us about our ability to fix ourselves. Nobody could heal the woman, no matter who they were. Even though she spent everything she had, she was no better.
Spiritually speaking, the same is true for you and me. There are no people out there who can stop the bleeding in our lives. And the harder we try, the worse things get. Most of us know what it’s like to try our absolute hardest at something, only to see it get worse, not better. Friedrich Nietzsche called human beings “the sick animal,” and I think this is what he meant by such a remarkable phrase. Most of the time we know we’re sick, but the more we try to repair ourselves, the worse we become; and sometimes, we sabotage ourselves with pain in effort to heal ourselves of pain.
3. We Need Faith
Faith, not more works, is what we need. After the bleeding woman reached out and touched the garments of Jesus in order to get healed, Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34). Faith made her well, not more money. Faith made her well, not more opportunities, better circumstances, a new job, different family, more friends, improved possessions, citizen rights, changed policies, and increased morality. All these other things can be lumped together in the trash can called “good works.” Yes, they are good, but they are not healing works. They do not provide salvation from the human disease, they do not stop the spiritual bleeding, they do not help us sick animals to find meaning in life.
In other words, nothing can take the place of God in our lives. Even if you spend all the money in the world, you will never be able to do for yourself what God can do for you. All the success and power you can accumulate in this world doesn’t compare with one touch of the bottom of Jesus’s garment. A little of Jesus in your life goes a long way, much farther than the intelligence and resources of this world. This is why faith, not more works, is what we need most. And if faith is superior to works, then we owe it to ourselves (and those we love) to engage with activities of faith, such as prayer, meditation, partaking in the sacraments, hearing the gospel preached, Christian fellowship, and so forth.
4. Jesus Will Put the Solution out of Reach
Jesus will regularly put the solution out of reach, but that doesn’t mean he’s done working in our lives. When Jarius first came to Jesus, his daughter was sick, but still alive. “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live” (Mark 5:23). Jarius’s situation was absolutely desperate, so Jesus began to go to his home at once. However, the situation wasn’t desperate enough, for Jesus knew things could get worse. On the way to see the sick child, Jesus allowed himself to be interrupted and distracted by the bleeding woman. He spent just enough time with the woman for further tragedy to strike at Jarius’s home.
“There came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead’” (Mark 5:35). While we’ll never know for sure, it seems Jesus tarried long enough to turn a desperate situation into a hopeless one. In fact, the man from Jarius’s house said, “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” (Mark 5:35), because the situation now was hopeless. But there’s a lesson here for us to learn. Whenever you hear yourself saying, “Why trouble God any more with this hopeless situation,” you may be right where God wants you to be. Don’t give up yet, because God hasn’t given up yet.
“But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe’” (Mark 5:36). In terms of boxing, Jesus was not ready to throw in the towel, but wanted to go a few more rounds. Be careful who you listen to, for there will be those voices in your life that say to you, “Don’t bother about this anymore, because it’s hopeless.” In critical moments like these, turn your ear to Jesus and listen to what he says, instead. Chances are, he’s still in the ring fighting for you. “Do not fear, only believe.”
5. When Suffering, Be Careful about Who You Allow to Get Close
When times are really tough, be careful who you allow into your life. Even though we’re told over and over again that there were great crowds of people tagging along, notice that Jesus only selected a few to walk with him into the suffering home. “And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John…” (Mark 5:37). As your suffering increases, your friends will decrease, for not everyone has what it takes to face a storm. Peter, James, and John had what it took to walk with Jesus into the tragedy, but no more than this. To tell the truth, you don’t want people in your life who can’t hack the pain and difficulty. You want just a few tried and true friends to be with you when things are really tough.
6. Allow Jesus to Believe for You
Allow Jesus to believe for you, when you find it hard to believe for yourself. When Jesus entered the home of Jarius’s daughter, many family members and friends were “weeping and wailing loudly” (Mark 5:38). Jesus said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39). The people laughed at him for saying this, because they knew she was dead (40). They knew what they saw with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, and felt with their own hands: the little girl was dead. They found it very hard to believe she was sleeping. Now, here’s a lesson we’ve got to learn about suffering in life. The suffering you observe is true, but the suffering Jesus observes is also true. Yes, you are right, your life sucks, the pain is real, and there is no hope in sight, but guess what? The things Jesus sees are also right: our pain is not final, but just a pause, like a night’s sleep. Both are true.
So when you can only believe the former, trust Jesus to believe the latter for you. To be clear, Jesus believes in our healing and restoration to life, even when nobody else believes it’s possible for us. Even when your dreams are dead, with Jesus in the room they are merely sleeping, waiting for him to wake them up.
7. Jesus’s Words Are More Powerful
Jesus’s words are more powerful than the forces of earth. There’s no doubt that the forces of this world are very powerful, such as disease, nature, technology, and living creatures. However, Jesus’s words are stronger than all these combined. Death was strong, but Jesus’s words, “She is not dead but sleeping” were stronger. And his words, “Talitha cumi” pried her from death’s seemingly impenetrable grip. Just as a painter’s hand creates when it moves, so do Jesus’s words create when they sound. If Jesus says, “You are forgiven, then” then a new reality is manifested, a new world is born. The world changed when it received back the little girl from the dead, and so does our world change when Jesus brings you back to life, forgiven of your sins. His words about you create a new reality, which no other words about you can erase or conquer.
8. Take Care of Your Miracle
Take care of your miracle. After Jesus raised her from the dead, Jesus, “…strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat” (Mark 5: 43). When God gives you a gift, you are not off the hook, but you are responsible to care for it. Jesus made her alive, but they had to keep her alive, by feeding her. We often forget to take care of the wonderful gifts God gives to us, taking both them and him (God) for granted.
9. God Can Make It Even Better
Finally, if you’re lucky, life will not work out the way you want, because God makes it even better. Up until now, Jesus healed in just one way, by touching the sick. But because of the crowd and fear of being known, the woman “discovered” a different kind of miracle, received by touching Jesus’s robe. This was new, different, and unforgettable. Disappointment and suffering birth a better version of you, forcing you to change course and see Jesus from a different vantage point in the crowd. God loves to do new things, rather than repeat the same old kind of miracle or write the same kind of story. Sometimes we need to know when to let go of our old dreams in order to let God give us new ones, for some dreams are twelve years in the making.
- Which of the above truths (found in the headings) stood out to you? Why?
- What are some things we can do to move away from self-reliance and begin to rely more on God?
- Has God ever seemed to put the solution you needed out of reach? What happened? What did you learn about yourself? About God?