The story of a nameless woman who has exhausted her resources seeking medical treatment for a chronic condition strikes a responsive chord with many older adults today. When they were younger, doctors seemed able to provide cures. Now these persons seem to have an ever-expanding list of medical complaints. As one man in his seventies put it, “After a certain age, you are never really well. Just less sick.” The financial drain and emotional difficulty of dealing with the bureaucratic, impersonal, and compartmentalized medical establishment compound the difficulty.
While the woman is a hero of persistence and faith, Jesus and the disciples appear to represent negative experiences associated with visits to the doctor: impersonal and sometimes crowded waiting rooms; the sense that the doctor wants to get the patient out of the way, and the dismay when the patient does not respond to treatment as anticipated. Jesus at first appears to condemn the woman rather than celebrate her healing. The strong affirmation he gives to her faith at the end of the story alleviates the apparent harshness in the search for the woman. Jesus does not take the credit for making her well but points to her faith as the real source of healing.
Every parent with a seriously ill child can identify with Jairus. Parents find it more painful to entrust a young child to the hospital knowing that the youngster is about to undergo a risky or lengthy surgical procedure than to undergo similar treatment themselves. Parents and other family members feel the burden of reassuring the child that the doctors will make him or her all better, even when they know that the prognosis is not good. Stories like this one seem to promise too much. For every family whose child makes a complete recovery from major surgery or life-threatening illness, there is another family whose child dies. Where is faith and healing in that situation?
Faith and healing come after the fact, as families learn to remember with gratitude the child they have lost. The mourners who mock Jesus in the story may not have believed that the little girl had any future. Some interpreters have suggested that since the verb for “rise up” (ἐγείρω egeirō) used here is also used for the resurrection, this story contains a message about resurrection for Christian readers. Jesus cares for the girl just as much, whether she returns to earthly life or passes to life with God after death.
Those interpreters who think that the command to silence points toward the cross remind us that faith acknowledges that the crucified is Son of God. Christians do not base their faith in Christ on miracles.
- K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).
- Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989).
- John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina v.2 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer / Liturgical Press, 2001) 171-82
- Wilfred Harrington, Mark, The New Testament Message, v.4 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer Press, 1979) 914-15
- William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) 179-99
- Philip Van Linden, C.M., “Mark” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 914-15
- Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press,1994)
- Ben Worthington, The Gospel of Mark: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001) 184-91
- David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).
- Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources, available at crossmarks.com/brian/
- Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
- Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)
- The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, John David Pleins and Astrid B. Beck (New York: Doubleday, 1996).
Scripture – The New American Bible available on-line at http://www.usccb.org/bible