Jesus raises a little girl from the dead. Mark 5:22-24a; 35-43

The literary structure of Mark 522-24a; 35-43

Parallels handout

We’re back in the Gospel of Mark this morning, with the story of Jesus raising a girl from the dead – Mark 5:22-24a; 35-43. This story is sandwiched around what we looked at last time ,the healing of the long suffering woman. There are some interesting parallels between these stories, which you can see on your handout.

Let’s set the scene. Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee to the Eastern shore. On the way over he calmed the stormy sea. And when he arrived he cast out the legion of demons from the man in the cemetery. And now Jesus has come back across the Sea of Galilee to the Western shore and a large crowd has gathered around him (v. 21).

Picking up in v. 22 . . .

The story

22Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, “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.” 24And he went with him.

A synagogue ruler was a lay person who was in charge of organizing the worship service each Sabbath, making sure there were Scripture readers and teachers and so forth. They also took care of the synagogue building. They were highly honored and also Jairus seems to be well off.

He falls at Jesus’ feet and is imploring Jesus. You can see his faith here and also his father’s heart for his dear child. We don’t know what her ailment is, only that she’s to the point of death. Put yourself in his shoes. Can you feel the emotions he must have been feeling?

These verses show us that not all Jewish leaders are opposed to Jesus. And as we see here, Jesus is more than willing to go to heal his daughter.

In the verses that follow, which tell of the healing of the long suffering woman, time has elapsed. And we learn in v. 35 something bad has happened in the meantime.

35 While he was still speaking (to the woman he has just healed), there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

Jairus believed that Jesus could heal his daughter, even though she was near to death. But who would think that Jesus could do anything once the child has died? This is the clear assumption of the messengers. Don’t trouble Jesus anymore. It’s too late! The situation is hopeless. Sure, Jesus may well be able to do many things – but not this.

36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

The word “overhearing” can also be translated as “ignoring.” However it’s translated Jesus does hear what the messengers say and he does ignore it. And he instructs Jairus, “do not fear.” Fear is the opposite of faith. Jesus is saying, don’t be afraid with regard to what they are saying about your daughter. “Only believe” that is, in him. Continue believing that he can help, even in what seems to be an impossible situation.

37And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.

This is Jesus’ inner circle (which also sometimes included Andrew.) They’re selected to witness what’s about to take place.Presumably the rest of the disciples are left to attend to the crowd that has been following Jesus; to keep them from bothering or overwhelming the family.

38They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

Things have to move quickly since in the ancient world dead bodies have to be buried in a timely fashion. And so there are already people gathering to mourn – before Jairus and Jesus arrive.

This crowd would have included professional mourners. These were hired by families, even poor ones, to show how much the family is grieving their loss. In this case there seems to be a number of them, indicating Jairus’ wealth.

These professionals would weep and wail, as it says here. And they would play musical instruments and beat their chests and so forth, until the body was buried.  

39And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him.

Jesus confronts the professional mourners.

Sleep is often used as a metaphor for death in the New Testament. What Jesus seems to be saying here – is not that the girl is literally asleep and not dead, but that her death is temporary, like sleep, and he is about to wake her up.

They respond by ridiculing him. See how quickly these actors move from weeping to laughter.

But 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.

Jesus takes charge of the situation. Those who don’t believe; those who ridicule are excluded from seeing the work God is about to do. Everyone has to leave, except his three disciples and the parents.

41Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Talitha cumi is an Aramaic phrase, the common language of Israel at this time, which means, “lamb, arise.” Lamb is a pet name for a child.

Jesus does what is impossible by all of their standards. He has healed many people, he has cast out demons, even 5,000 at once. But now he has raised someone from the dead. He simply speaks and she is alive again. At the end of v. 42 it says literally, “they were amazed with a great amazement.”

43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Jesus is back in Israel after having been in Gentile territory on the East side of the Sea of Galilee, so he once again tells them to be silent about this. This seems mostly to be about crowd control. Jesus doesn’t want to be so swamped by crowds that he can’t move or do any ministry.

Although, how this could remain hidden is hard to say. Many saw the girl dead and now she is alive and healthy – and hungry. Maybe this is just to give him time to move on to another place.

There are a number of things that can be highlighted from this story: First of all, Jesus can do the impossible. And he can do the impossible because he is God’s Son, come to bring salvation to the world. So we learn again about the identity of Jesus; who he is.

We also see a picture of this salvation that he is bringing in the raising of this girl from the dead. She was resuscitated and will have later died again. But it points forward to a day when, once again, Jesus will simply say the word (John 5:25) and the dead will be raised. This time to live eternally.

So our deaths are also only like sleep – in that it is temporary. And Jesus will “wake us up” on the final day. Jesus is lord even over death itself.

But I want to focus on Jairus’ faith, because what Jesus says to him is –

A good word for us today

Do not fear, only believe.”

I believe this is God’s word to us today. I hope you will receive it.

It must have been a big risk for him to come to Jesus in the first place, while other Jewish leaders were rejecting Jesus. But he did come. And he believed that Jesus could cure a deadly sickness.

But then things changed. His daughter died. All is lost.But Jesus indicates to him that God still wants to heal his daughter, when he says, “do not fear, only believe.”

What will Jairus do? I mean, that’s impossible! And everyone around him is saying, ‘that’s impossible.’ Leave the teacher alone and come bury your child. What do we do when we have a promise from God, but it seems impossible to us and to everyone else around us?

Well, Jairus didn’t give in to fear, but acted in faith. He brought Jesus to his home anyway. And he didn’t intervene when Jesus started doing things that could cause him social disgrace – like rebuking the mourners whom Jairus and his family are paying, and throwing them out of his house.

He had bold faith in Jesus and because of this he experienced what was considered to be impossible – his daughter was raised from the dead. Jesus came through for him.

When we find ourselves in an impossible situation, will we freeze up with fear or will we be able to look beyond the circumstances all around us and move forward in faith in God’s promises to us? Will we look at our circumstance or to Jesus and his word to us?

I encourage you this morning to have the faith that Jairus had so that you can receive God’s grace and mercy through our Lord Jesus.

Jesus casts our Legion. Mark 5:1-20

The literary structure Mark 5:1-21

We’re back into our series on the Gospel of Mark. Remember with me – after teaching in parables all day Jesus took a boat, along with his disciples, to the other side of the sea of Galilee. On the way a great storm arose and Jesus calmed it, leaving his disciples astounded and asking, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (4:41).

Just after this, when they arrive on the other side, our story begins.

Mark 5:1-20

5:1They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.

It’s impossible to say exactly where this took place given what the gospels tell us.

decapolis and galilee

As you can see on the map the city of Gerasa is some 35 miles away! (Matthew says, “the region of Gadara” which is much closer to the lake, but still 5 miles away.) What Mark is doing here is using the phrase, “country or region of the Gerasenes” as a way of talking about the region called Decapolis, mentioned later in the story (v. 20). He means the part of the Decapolis or region of the Gerasenes that touches the Sea of Galilee.

This was a Gentile area, Jesus’ first visit to such a place, as Mark tells the story of Jesus. It used to be a part of ancient Israel, but was now Gentile.

2And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out (or howling) and bruising (or cutting) himself with stones.

Three things stand out in these verses. From a Jewish point of view the ceremonial uncleanness involved is highlighted. It’s not just that the Decapolis is a Gentile area, this particular man has an “unclean” spirit and he lives among tombs – which were unclean according to the Law (Numbers 19:11, 16; Matthew 23:27). These tombs were probably caves in the side of a hill, where he could find shelter.

Second, he’s beyond anyone’s help. No one is strong enough to subdue him. And even chains and shackles, that is, handcuffs and leg irons can keep him down. He breaks them apart due to his superhuman demonic strength.

Finally, his sad state stands out. He’s not in his right mind (v. 15). He lives in tombs. He’s like a wild animal, screaming or howling – running around naked (v. 15). And he’s engaging in self-destructive behavior. And he does this, Mark tells us, “night and day.” What a terrible and miserable existence!

6And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

The demons know who Jesus is (as Mark tells us in 1:34) and so they know his superiority to them, which is why he bows. And he correctly identifies Jesus as “Son of the most High God,” that is, the one true creator God. (Similarly – 1:24, 3:11)

We learn in v. 8 that Jesus is in the process of casting out the unclean spirit, which explains the demon’s question, “what have you to do with me?” As we saw before this means something like, ‘what business do we have with each other?’ Or perhaps here, ‘why are you involving yourself in my affairs?’

But then the demon moves quickly to pleas for mercy. Usually an exorcist would say to the demon, “I adjure you by God,” but here the demon says it to Jesus. And he seems to be saying observe the boundaries that God has set for when demons are to be tormented. In other words, the Son of God and judge of the final day is already here now, but the demon is saying, it’s not time yet for the torment of the final judgment. (Or as Luke says the demon doesn’t want to be thrown “into the Abyss” – 8:31; or as Matthew 8:29 says, the demon says, “Have you come here to torment us before the time?”)

9And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

 A Roman legion is usually considered to be just over 5,000 soldiers. So here we’re talking about thousands of demons in this man! (Other examples of multiple demons – Matthew 12:45; Luke 8:2)

And then we have an interesting twist in the story –

10And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.

Apparently demons are territorial (Daniel 10:13) and so the demon who’s speaking doesn’t want to be cast out/ or disembodied so that, as Jesus says, “it passes through waterless places seeking rest but finds none.” (Matthew 12:43.)

That there’s a pig herd nearby confirms that this is a Gentile area, since Jews were neither allowed to eat pigs, nor to raise them.

Notice how Jesus merely speaks and the demons must go.

There are a number of questions that come from these verses that are hard to answer:

  • Can demons possess animals? Or does what happened suggest that this doesn’t work, since the pigs immediately killed themselves?
  • Why did Jesus let them go into the pigs? Whatever the reason it did become a visible way of seeing that the demons are in fact cast out and also that there were thousands of them.
  • What happened to the demons after the pigs died? Apparently they became disembodied anyway.
  • What about the herd of pigs? Wasn’t someone mad about the significant loss of wealth? Well, it was the demons who killed them. And perhaps this was a small price to have rid the community of thousands of demons. And perhaps from a Jewish point of view pigs shouldn’t be raised in what was a part of ancient Israel anyway. We’ll never know!

14The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.

He is sitting, not wild. He is clothed, not naked. And he is in his right mind instead of being out of his mind. What an amazing transformation Jesus has on this man’s life! He is completely whole.

16And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

There’s a lot of begging going on in this story. The demons beg for mercy several times. And then here the people beg Jesus to leave. They’re so afraid of his power that they ask him to depart. Jesus casts out demons from their region and they respond by casting him out of their region!

And then finally the man begs Jesus “that he might be with him. (He wants to be a part of the disciple group – 3:14). Interestingly Jesus grants the requests of the demons and the people, but not the man. Probably because he was a Gentile and that just wouldn’t work as he continued his ministry to the Jews.

He is commissioned for ministry however. (If Jesus silenced others who were made whole to avoid the crush of the crowds, there is no need here since he is leaving the area.) Jesus says to the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v. 19).

And he was faithful telling everyone, “how much Jesus had done for him.” v. 20. Notice that what Jesus does is what the Lord does. It’s the same.

Now, it’s no mystery what this story teaches us –

Jesus is able to make anyone whole

Here is a man who was beyond anyone’s help. Who was possessed by thousands of demons. But Jesus is easily able to defeat these demons and make the man whole – “clothed and in his right mind” (v. 15)  When he was possessed he was able to break literal chains. But Jesus broke his real chains – bondage to demons.

This is who Jesus is, the Son of God. And this is the hope we have – no matter what our situation, it’s not too difficult for Jesus. There is always hope because of Jesus.

And then closely connected to this –

We are to tell others how Jesus has made us whole

v. 19 is the voice of Jesus to us this morning. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Once we have received of Jesus’ transforming power we are to tell others of God’s grace and mercy to us.