Jairus and the Woman
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
Ordinary 13 Year B
St. Mark 5: 21 — 43
This reading brings us a very moving account of our Lord’s dealings with three people, and how He strengthened the faith of two of them. We will consider the text in three parts corresponding to how each of these three people comes into focus:
1. Jairus (verses 21 — 24)
2. the woman (verses 25 — 34)
3. the little girl (verses 35 — 43)
Setting The Scene
Our text follows an interesting incident we may find helpful to recall. Jesus had been ministering in the country of the Gadarenes, or Gerasenes as some would know it. There, a number of demons had begged Jesus to allow them to enter a herd of 2000 pigs rather than have to face Him. Jesus approved and the herd ran violently down a steep hill into the lake and drowned. This rather frightening event led the locals to press Jesus to leave town immediately. Jesus seemed very willing to oblige and stepped into a boat without any requests for an explanation. A man whom He had delivered from the demons mentioned above wanted to depart with Him but our Lord asked him to remain:
“Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you.” The man did exactly as Jesus ordered, “and all marvelled”. (There is a lesson for us in that as we shall see with regard to the woman whom Jesus is about to heal. Jesus asked the woman also to “proclaim” the marvelous works of God.)
This story, with the lack of interest in the people to listen to Jesus explain himself, and the overflowing enthusiasm of the man healed, has some bearing on our text under study.
Some Reflections on the Text
Verses 21 — 24
When Jesus had crossed again (in the boat) to the other
side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed
close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet
and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at
the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and
pressed upon him.
Let’s note what has just taken place. Jesus had set out across the lake and returned to Capernaum (Capharnum). There the people crowded round him, giving him a warm welcome in contrast to the stand-offish, cool reception of the Gadarenes.
A prominent senior administrator of the synagogue named Jairus arrived on the scene and, seeing Jesus, fell at His feet and pleaded earnestly with Him. The man did not stumble but, as a devout Jew, knelt in front of Jesus and bowed his head to the ground. He pleaded:
“My little daughter is at the point of death. Please come and
lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
So our Lord does as He was asked immediately and headed off immediately with the man to his home. But He did not get very far before being stalled in His tracks.
Verses 24 — 34
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and
had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the
crowd and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body
that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched
But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is
pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before
Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
A large crowd followed Jesus as He walked with Jairus. In the eagerness of many of the crowd to meet Him and ask Him questions, there was a lot of pushing and shoving: such was their interest and enthusiasm. Our Lord, of course, is delighted and is encouraged by their friendliness and acceptance of Him. He is completely at home.
Amongst the crowd jostling for positions near Jesus, there is a woman who has been troubled with a distressing haemorrhage, and had “suffered greatly” (literally, endured many things) on and off repeatedly for twelve years. She had consulted every physician available and tried all their potions and cures. In fact she spent everything she had on professional treatment, and instead of getting better she grew worse than ever!
Listening to the crowd talk about the things Jesus has done for other people, she hatches a little scheme in her mind. Realising she is ritually unclean, and therefore by law (Leviticus 15: 25 — 30) unable to touch Jesus, she positions herself so that the fringe of his cloak (i.e.in Hebrew tzitzit.) brushes over her, believing that by doing this, she will be healed.
It is easy to become confused when consulting Christian commentaries on the Gospels dealing with these points.
First, Jesus represented a generally Orthodox position regarding Jewish interpretation of the Scriptures but strongly objected to layer upon layer of rabbinic interpretations imposed by orthodox rabbis. Although the woman in our Gospel reading took care to avoid directly touching Jesus, many in her day would have accused her of still breaking the Law since they also held a person’s clothing to be part of themselves. (Perhaps we would say, in common language today, it didn’t matter what she did, she couldn’t win.)
Secondly, the woman was interested in touching only one part of our Lord’s clothing: that was the fringe commanded by God, to hang from every man’s outer garment. (Numbers 15: 38 — 40). See Appendix: Touching and Beholding Tzitzit ― Tassles. The tassles were to call the wearer to remain united at all times to the Holy Will of God and thus be consecrated to His service, accepting always His judgments and precepts. The woman’s desire to allow the tassles (tzitzit) to slide across her in some way could only mean she sought God’s cure only if it be His Divine Will. In fact, had she not been under public scrutiny, she may well have wanted to kiss His tzitzit, as Jesus Himself did frequently, to express His love for what God commands.
Comments about her possible superstitious belief in magic are unfounded and ignore basic Jewish cultural piety.
As soon as she is touched by our Lord’s tzitzit, i.e. fringe on His clothing, she can feel that the problem has gone. She is healed.
What she didn’t bargain on was the response of Jesus. As soon as the fringe of His garment touches her He feels power go out from Him, and He turns round and asks the crowd “Who touched my clothes?” Everyone goes silent and they all look at one another as Jesus looks at them. His closest disciples are quick to reply:
“What do you mean, ‘Who touched me?’! Everybody has touched
you, with all the pushing and manoeuvring that’s been going on!”
Actually, Jesus did not ask, ‘Who touched me?’ He said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ ― meaning, my tzitzit. He was thus responding to the spiritual depths of the woman, and thereby validated her intention and inner disposition. His question was worded just for her.
Despite comments from the disciples near Him, Jesus takes no notice of them and continues to wait for someone to own up. Finally, realising there was no escape; the woman walks up to Jesus and falls at his feet. Our Lord, says nothing and just waits for her, when she is ready, to give her explanation. Patiently He remains silent and draws out her story of intense embarrassment and hardship.
Our Lord creates a space for her to explain her situation and why she had appealed to God’s Mercy. This, He did, in the Biblical tradition, to honour God’s glory, and to fulfil the need for her to “publish His Works”. (That is to proclaim what He had done for His servant.) This is the Hebrew way. Please see:
1 Chronicles 16: 24
Psalm 96: 3
Psalm 118: 17
When she comes to the end, Jesus simply tells her that it was her faith in God’s Divine Will that healed her.
Some writers comment that Jesus implied it was her faith that healed her, not the touching of His tzitzit fringes. We believe this misses the point: the woman displayed an intensely strong desire to show respect for the Torah, the Sacred Scriptures, but in all humility and abandonment to God’s Will, and utterly desperate and powerless to get over her problem, asked for His Lovingkindness and Mercy. Her request was granted.
Jesus said to her, “Shalom! Go in peace, and be cured”. But she was already cured! What did He mean? In rabbinic custom, He was referring not just to her physical cure, but also her full and complete restoration to the Household of God. She was now free to resume a full life which had been denied to her for so long.
Well, this has been a dramatic and emotional experience for everyone present ― but what about poor Jairus and his desperate situation!
Verses 35 — 43
While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s
house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble
the teacher any longer?”
Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the
synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter,
James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he
caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and
weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along
the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and
entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked
around. (At that) they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that
she should be given something to eat.
All this while, poor Jairus has had to wait patiently for our Lord to do what, after all, He came there to do. We would hardly consider the man unreasonable if he thought to himself, “If the woman has had this ailment for twelve years, surely another twenty minutes wouldn’t matter when my child is dying!” During this time Jairus said nothing.
While our Lord is speaking to the woman He has just healed, some men come from the house of Jairus nearby and announce bluntly “Your daughter is dead. What’s the point of troubling the Rabbi any further?” Still Jairus remains silent. Not even a response such as, “I knew this would happen.” Jesus, however, is aware that Jairus, naturally, is finding it all too much to cope with.
It is interesting to observe our Lord closely at this point. He pays no attention to these men. Instead, while they are still talking, He interrupts them and speaks to Jairus. Actually He commands Jairus, saying literally, “Do not be unbelieving. Instead, keep your heart focussed and very firm. Don’t let anything tempt you to doubt!” He is very aware of the emotional pressure on Jairus and speaks to him in a way which empowers him to keep on believing. Jesus then forbids anyone to accompany Jairus and himself to the house except Peter, James and his brother John. The three apostles chosen to witness the miracle which followed were probably more fitted to understand and keep silent. They are the inner circle, who will be privileged to see the Lord in His Transfiguration and His Agony. Peter will, no doubt, remember this scene when he confesses our Lord’s divinity six or seven months later. (Cox) When they arrive at the home of Jairus, the ceremony of mourning had already commenced.
With the greatest of respect Jesus goes inside and says, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” That is not well received and the mourners all laugh at him. Without comment Jesus ushers them all out of the house. Then He takes both the child’s parents and the three disciples to where the twelve year old child was lying.
In a simple but gracious gesture, Jesus takes the girl by the hand and in Aramaic, says to her, “Talitha cumi!” “My dear child, I want you now to get up!” Immediately she stands up and walks around the room. All present are totally amazed. Jesus commands them emphatically not to talk about the incident and then, characteristically, (and just as emphatically) tells them to give her something to eat. This relieves a tense situation, and brings the transfixed parents back to normal. It is a picturesque touch, showing his personal interest in the young girl; for Him, people, not miracles, are the important thing! (Cox).
The case of the woman who was cured demonstrates an important truth to us. We don’t have to gatecrash in on God. We don’t have to impress with any showy performance. A humble approach in sincerity is what catches the attention of Jesus.
Jairus was incredible! Our Lord demanded him to be more than merely patient. His position was something like: “You have asked me to come and cure your daughter. I have made it plain I intend to do exactly that. Leave the rest to me!” Jesus appeared to be sidetracked but of course, wasn’t. It was Jairus who faced the great danger of having his faith hijacked. Today, it is no different. To have faith in or on the Lord Jesus is to hand over all control of what we hope for; it is to let Him mastermind the whole plan and to want simply to co-operate as best we can. Of course, that is more easily said than done. Listening to what Jesus commands is our only way ahead.
Both people in this account had their faith strengthened beyond what seemed possible. To the woman, Jesus hardly said a thing: she did most of the talking and He, most of the listening. Her story was important for her to tell and for Him to hear. He had identified the need for all present to realise there was nothing magic in the touch of the holy Rabbi’s fringe. He identified her strong faith and this inspired her touching, but only because deep in her heart she believed He could cure her. That beautiful spark of faith needed to be nurtured further so that it could grow to fulfilment. It was something Jesus wanted His chosen apostles to witness, and for Jairus to experience.
Most of us will at some time be faced with a test of faith similar to what Jairus confronted. We will ask for help from the Lord and as we wait in hope, we will wonder if our plea has fallen on deaf ears. There is only one remedy, if we find ourselves in that situation, and that is to go back over the Gospels, reflecting on the loving and merciful actions of our Lord. Then we will be reminded that it is we who have been blind and deaf. The Lord will always take action as God’s love demands. Sometimes that will be hard to believe in, but His implied warning to us is the same as to Jairus: “Make your requests known and leave the rest to me. Do not allow any doubt to take even the slightest hold within you!”
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Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
Jairus and the Woman
Ordinary 13 Year B St. Mark 5: 21 — 43
1. Our Gospel reading raises the interesting question regarding touching things which are regarded by God as sacred. The fringes (tzitzit) on our Lord’s outer garment represented all the Commandments of God. And when you take them all together, they represent a Way God has outlined for man to follow in order that we might reach our intended goal. In Hebrew culture, the touching of holy things is commonplace and this has passed over into some aspects of traditional Christian life and practice. The physical body should be involved in our worship just as much as the mind and its faculties. Christian culture has, to some extent, drifted a long way from its Hebrew roots and may profit considerably by restoring the role of the body and physical things in prayer and worship. Paradoxically, the flood of paganism into what is supposed to be modern Christian worship, is due in some way to this negative attitude some Christians have formed towards the physical dimension of our existence.
2. A Roman Centurion one day asked our Lord to heal his house-servant of some ailment. He later discovered that Jesus had performed the miracle the moment He was asked. Jairus, on the other hand, had to wait while another person, with a seemingly lesser problem, was given priority.
Some would say that our Lord was testing his patience. But one aspect of this incident (verse 36) stands out in Hebrew understanding of observance of what God (or His agent) commands. Here Jesus commands:
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
In the Hebrew mind, to listen to this command and take it into one’s heart with the intention to obey, conveys the blessing and power to perform. This is the true function of the Commandments of God: humble, loving observance enables God’s servants to carry out what is commanded. Here Jesus is lifting Jairus to the heights of heroic, faithful observance, and he is blessed accordingly.
3. Amidst all the excitement of a miraculous return to life, our Lord issues two instructions: keep what you saw to yourselves just for now, and give the girl something to eat straight away. Jesus is concerned equally for our physical wellbeing as well as spiritual. Both dimensions of our human makeup must be nurtured and we should not hesitate to follow His example in doing so.
Touching and Beholding Tzitzit — Tassles
“As mountains surround Jerusalem, the Lord surrounds His people both now and forever.” Psalm 125: 2.
This is a beautiful verse from a beautiful Psalm. It conveys one of many descriptions given in the Scriptures signifying the close relationship God seeks to have with His people. The Hebrew Scriptures (together with the New Testament) refer frequently to the ways this relationship is to grow and to be maintained. The key to success is the sincere desire in each person to observe the commandments of God, or as it is often expressed, “to walk in His ways”.
Here are some verses from Psalm (119) which originated in meditation on God’s Divine Word: See verses:
Blessed those whose way is blameless, who walk by the law
With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your
I will ponder your precepts and consider your paths. Verse 15
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for that is my
I will never forget your precepts; through them you give
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path. Verse 105
Throughout this Psalm — and especially in these verses, the devout writer expresses the understanding of God’s people that:
• God’s Teaching, His Torah (a word which also means ‘word’,
• God’s Word is a path He provides, a way He has constructed
• God’s statutes, precepts, laws, commands, or whatever we
The great central truth upheld throughout the whole of Sacred Scripture, and especially in God’s early dealing with His people, is expressed in
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your
This declaration and commandment is repeated several times, daily, by devout Jews. Our Lord upheld and reaffirmed this observance when a scribe asked Him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with
The emphasis in this instruction is two-fold:
First: We must acknowledge God alone as our creator and source of life.
Secondly: We must love God with every fibre of our being, and our neighbour as
The traditional Jewish manner of observing this teaching is to obey God’s command in
“Speak to the Israelites and tell them that they and their
When you use these tassels, let the sight of them remind
Thus you will remember to keep all my commandments
The wearing of these tassles, or (in Hebrew using the singular form) tzitzit, is to help the person remain very close to God — to stay on the path He laid out for His people — by seeking to obey every precept of the Lord, every expression of His Divine Will.
As a devout, practising Jew, Jesus obeyed the Scriptures and wore the tzitzit on the corners — or as the Hebrew translates, on the wings of His outer garment. Following the commandment, He held them, kissed them and touched the Sacred Scrolls of the Scriptures with them. All of this is clearly less about obedience than love of God and paths of Life He provides in His Word.
The dedication of Jesus to carrying out every command of His Father was crucial in His role as Messiah, for as Malachi prophesied (Malachi 4: 2):
“But to you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness
This was held, in rabbinic teaching, to be an important reference to the coming of the Messiah. He would not, of course, have wings, but as the Hebrew language indicates, He would have healing in the corners, the wings, of His outer garments.
The woman who sought to touch the tzitzit of our Lord’s garment was as devout as she was well informed. She was not superstitious — she was the chosen agent to give prominence to this great prophecy and demonstrate how the humblest and least important among the people are often the ones appointed to proclaim, (publish), by their faith, the advent of the Messiah and His saving works.
Blessed be His Name whose glorious Kingdom is forever.
Mark 5: 21 — 43
Ordinary 13 Year B
21 7 When Jesus had crossed again (in the boat) to the other
22 One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
23 and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at
24 He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and
25 There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve
26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and
27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the
28 9 She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
29 Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body
30 Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
31 But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing
32 And he looked around to see who had done it.
33 The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in
34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace
35 10 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue
36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to
37 He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter,
38 When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he
39 11 So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and
40 And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took
41 12 He took the child by the hand and said to her,
42 The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked
43 He gave strict orders that no one should know this and
7 [21-43] The story of the raising to life of Jairus’s daughter is divided into two parts: ⇒ Mark 5:21-24; ⇒ 5:35-43. Between these two separated parts the account of the cure of the hemorrhage victim (⇒ Mark 5:25-34) is interposed. This technique of intercalating or sandwiching one story within another occurs several times in ⇒ Mark 3:19b-21; ⇒ Mark 3:22-30 ⇒ Mark 3:31-35; ⇒ 6:6b-13; ⇒ 6:14-29; ⇒ 6:30; ⇒ 11:12-14; ⇒ 11:15-19; ⇒ 11:20-25; ⇒ 14:53; ⇒ 14:54; ⇒ 14:55-65; ⇒ 14:66-73.
8  Lay your hands on her: this act for the purpose of healing is frequent in ⇒ Mark 6:5; ⇒ 7:32-35; ⇒ 8:23-25; ⇒ 16:18 and is also found in ⇒ Matthew 9:18; ⇒ Luke 4:40; ⇒ 13:13; ⇒ Acts 9:17; ⇒ 28:8.
9  Both in the case of Jairus and his daughter (⇒ Mark 5:23) and in the case of the hemorrhage victim, the inner conviction that physical contact (⇒ Mark 5:30) accompanied by faith in Jesus’ saving power could effect a cure was rewarded.
10  The faith of Jairus was put to a twofold test: (1) that his daughter might be cured and, now that she had died, (2) that she might be restored to life. His faith contrasts with the lack of faith of the crowd.
11  Not dead but asleep: the New Testament often refers to death as sleep (⇒ Matthew 27:52; ⇒ John 11:11; ⇒ 1 Cor 15:6; ⇒ 1 Thes 4:13-15); see the note on ⇒ Matthew 9:24.
12  Arise: the Greek verb egeirein is the verb generally used to express resurrection from death (⇒ Mark 6:14, ⇒ 16; ⇒ Matthew 11:5; ⇒ Luke 7:14) and Jesus’ own resurrection (⇒ Mark 16:6; ⇒ Matthew 28:6; ⇒ Luke 24:6).
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised