When the Despairing Meet the Lord of Peace

Sermon Passage: Mark 5:21–43 | Preached to Sovereign Grace | 07/04/2021

By Peder Kling

Three Stories of Jesus's Care Toward Us

In the last few sermons through Mark’s gospel, we have read a few different stories which draw our focus away from the crowds, and onto more intimate, personal stories of Jesus’s care for his people. This really is a shift. Until chapter four, we see Jesus constantly surrounded by crowds as he indiscriminately heals people, whether they trust him for salvation or not. Perhaps you might remember when Jesus cleansed the leper at the end of chapter 1, and the leper immediately disobeyed Jesus’s instructions to keep news of his healing quiet. Throughout these first four and a half chapters in Mark, Jesus was constantly healing everyone, and he was beginning to make explicit statements which identified his people from his enemies.

 

Then starting in chapter 4 verse 35, Mark’s gospel narrows into three consecutive stories which give us a picture of Jesus’s care for his people. These are intimate, detailed stories. Mark’s gospel is usually more brief and concise than the other gospels—but here, Mark break that trend and actually give us a more detailed account of these three stories than Matthew or Luke. The reason is because Mark wants us to see how Jesus cares for his people. Like a good parent, he loves us and meets us where we are, in exactly the way we need. Like a good farmer, he tills the soil for the specific plant he desires to grow. 

 

Think about these three stories together. In the first story, starting in chapter 4 verse 35, Jesus took his disciples out to sea in order to test their faith with a terrifying storm that nearly swamped their boat. He knew his disciples, and what they needed. After seeing and hearing everything Jesus was doing—these 12 men didn’t need a comprehension test, but an in-the-field exam, followed by a rebuke. Most of us know the story well. As Jesus was asleep on their sail across the sea of Galilee, a storm raged up and the disciples frantically and anxiously woke Jesus up, begging him to do something. Do you remember what he says to them? Most translations render his words, “Why are you so afraid?”. As I explained before, I don’t think that’s a fair translation. It should say “Why are you so cowardly? Have you still no faith [i.e., after everything you have seen and heard]?”. The disciples, in that moment, needed to realize that they were cowards for be so scared and anxious. Jesus was teaching them that they needed to take the things they had seen and heard to heart, and rest in Jesus’s divine power which they knew of first-hand. So he gives them this rebuke, and one more outstanding show of his power by calming the sea. Then we are told that they were filled with “great fear” (verse 41). This was a lesson they needed to learn. They needed to learn that faith involves trusting Jesus’s power and care even in the worst situations. One day they would be called to cast their anxieties upon Jesus even as they were being martyred in his name. Jesus knew what these men needed, and how to prepare their hearts for what was ahead. This is the first intimate story of how Jesus cares for his people.

 

Then, there’s the next story with the man possessed with a legion of demons—we covered this in our previous sermon. Again, Jesus is caring for and saving his people. This time the problem wasn’t anxiety or pride like the disciples’ in the boat. It was demonic. This man didn’t need a rebuke. He needed to be delivered from demons and the demonic lusts that consumed him as he lived naked in the tombs, destroying anyone who would travel his road. He needed to be clothed, to sit down for a moment, and be restored to his right mind. That’s exactly what Jesus did for him. After Jesus cared for the man, the man was the only person in his entire region who was begging to be with him and his disciples. 

 

That brings us to today’s story—the third story in this section. You might call it two stories because Jesus extends his power and mercy to two different people in two different situations. In fact, Mark presents this story to us in a literary sandwich—or, a “mark sandwich”—as people often call these. Mark’s gospel will often tie two stories or themes together by introducing the first story, interrupting the story with another story, and then finish the first story. So, it’s like a literary sandwich—an A-B-A pattern if you will. 

 

That’s what’s going on in today’s passage. Jairus asks Jesus to save his daughter, and Jesus is interrupted on his way to Jarius’s house by the woman with the flow of blood. He heals the woman, and then he makes his way to Jairus’s house to heal Jairus’s daughter. So we need to ask ourselves—what’s tying these two stories together—and, how do they add to the picture of Jesus’s power and mercy which we have gathered from the other two stories in this section? The answer to these questions is quite simple and to the point—in both stories, Jesus shows his cards of compassion and tenderness toward the despairing. He’s not rebuking his disciples who are dragging their feet in trusting him as they ought. He’s not rebuking demons with raw authority and power as he shapes a demon-possessed heart for his grace and glory. Here, he brings gentleness and kindness to the most sensitive situations, and the most despairing people. It reminds me of that beautiful imagery in Isaiah 42, verses 3, where God describes the sort of man the Messiah will be when he comes. God says of the Messiah when he comes with unchallenged power and authority—" a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench”. Have you seen a bruised reed in a lake or the ocean, as it flops over as if it is drowning in the water, while the other reeds stand up straight and tall? Or—what do you do when a candle is hardly burning? You blow it out. Not the Messiah, not Jesus.

 

Jesus’s Care for the Despairing

So, let’s consider the ways that Jesus’s kindness and tenderness toward the despairing comes out in these stories.

 

First, we’ll consider Jesus’s care for a despairing synagogue ruler, Jairus.

Second, we’ll consider Jesus’s care for the despairing woman with the flow of blood.

Third, we’ll consider Jesus’s care for the dead twelve year old, Jairus’s daughter.

 

Jesus’s Care Toward the Synagogue Ruler, Jairus

So, let’s turn our attention to the first part of the story where we meet Jairus among the crowd. Read verses 21–24 with me again—

 

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and 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.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.

 

So, this is a classic image of Jesus at this point in his ministry. Jesus crosses the sea after healing the demoniac, and he arrives back in the region where he was ministering earlier. We are told again that a great crowd gathered about him—verse 24 says that the crowd “thronged about him”. Meaning, they were pressing up against him and touching him. 

 

These are the crowds that he wouldn’t entrust himself to because they wanted him for the wrong reasons. They wanted his power, not his message of faith and repentance. But even so, it is noteworthy to simply observe that Jesus doesn’t run away from them. Just in verse 21, as Jesus is surrounded by the crowds, we get a glimpse of Jesus’s compassion even before we meet Jairus. These crowds gathered about him because they were hurting people. They really did have diseases and demons and other troubles that needed to be resolved. Later in on Mark’s gospel, Jesus would feed them food because they were hungry. It’s exhausting to be desperate, whether you have money or not. You will spend all the money, time, energy, and strength you have to pursue even the craziest glimmer of hope. Even a wealthy man can depleting his time, money, and strength, with hopes to find a cure for the undiagnosed medical problems his wife is having.

 

So, Jesus doesn’t entirely cast these people off. On the day he fed the crowd of 5,000, he originally began to teach them that day because “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. Jesus didn’t love these people because he suspected they would all turn to him for salvation. Many of them didn’t—they just went on to the next popular trend of the day. Rather, Jesus loved these people because they were people, made in the image of God. So, he was available to them.

 

John MacArthur observes in this passage that Jesus’s routine to hang out and be touched by the crowds demonstrates his accessibility. Don’t you love that? How many physicians today would you call “readily accessible”? Any position of status like that is always protected and distanced by the masses. Lawyers are greedy with their time and opinions. Physicians do their work behind an elaborate insurance and scheduling office. And of course, the politicians can be the worst. Yet Jesus, who is the physician, and the king of kings stands readily among the crowds without fear. He is always accessible; his power is always ready to be called upon by faith because he has infinite compassion and mercy upon the despairing.

 

He's accessible. We’ll talk about that a little more later. But I will say—Jairus was exceedingly grateful that he was accessible. 

 

Let’s think about Jairus. He’s the man whom Jesus first extends compassion to in this story. First, we are told that he was “one of the rulers of the synagogue”. The synagogue was the local church of the day—it’s where people gathered to pray and hear Scriptures read and explained by a scribe or a rabi. Jairus was a “ruler”—meaning, he worked the administrative details of the local synagogue. He organized the preaching and prayer schedule, if you will. Due to his position, he would have been intimately aware of the controversies surrounding Jesus, and he may have had Jesus preach at his synagogue. At this point in Jesus’s ministry, I imagine Jairus also knew that associating with Jesus could cost him his position in the synagogue.

 

What it Means to Plead to God

Regardless of these possibilities, we cannot overlook the fact that this man was both amidst the crowds, and he was willing to submit himself to Jesus with his daughter’s sickness. Whatever he saw and heard about Jesus—it was enough for him to be fully convinced of Jesus’s power and authority. He wasn’t giving a half-hearted, “I hope this works”. Verse 22 tells us that the moment he saw Jesus, he “fell at his feet and implored him earnestly”. You might say that he voluntarily threw himself at Jesus’s feet as an act of submission and desperation. And we are told that he implored Jesus. This wasn’t a request. It was a desperate plea, or command, of faith. He says to Jesus in verse 23, “Come and lay hands on her, so that she may be made well and live”. 

 

Is this how we should talk to God—with desperate pleas, which even boarder on commands? A lot of times, we think it is a sign of humility and reverence to make sure we are making our requests known to God—but not our pleas of desperation. Some Christian cultures might regard pleading to God as a bit presumptuous—and, a polite request is much more fitting when you are talking to your creator. Sometimes, that’s appropriate in a prayer. Keep your composure and show God that you trust him even if he doesn’t answer your prayer—make your requests known to God. Still, the Psalms are filled God’s people pleading to God. Think of David’s words in Psalm 3:7, as he was fleeing from his son Absolom—

 

Arise, O LORD!

Save me, O my God! (Psalm 3:7)

 

Or again in Psalm 38, verses 21 and 22—

 

Do not forsake me, O LORD!

            O my God, be not far from me!

Make haste to help me,

            O Lord, my salvation! 

 

God loves to hear his people cry out to him rather than this world for help. It honors him—it’s how faith talks in the moment of desperation. Don’t be afraid to talk like this in your prayers. But I encourage you—don’t do it with a heart of anxiety. Desperation does not mean anxiety and fear for men and women of faith. If you remember the message I gave a few weeks back on Jesus calming the storm—Jesus called the disciples “cowards” when they anxiously made a plea to Jesus in the boat during the storm. The problem wasn’t their plea of salvation to Jesus. It was their anxiety and fear. The heart’s composure matters to God when he hears the pleas of his people. Learn from these stories—Jesus is powerful to save his people, so you can rest easy in his care as you plead to him. This is going to be a lesson for Jairus when Jesus shows up at the house and says “do not fear, only believe”. 

To say this positively, God loves to hear confident cries of desperation—confidence that his power, mercy, and glory will shine through every situation. I’m not sure how confident Jairus’s faith was in this moment—it seems like he erred more on the side of anxiety and fear rather than confidence. Hence again, “do not fear, only believe”. On the flip side—you might remember when the centurion asked Jesus to save his servant. Do you remember what he said, when he was in a similar situation? “I’m not worthy to have you in my home. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matt 8:8). That’s a confident faith, a confident cry of desperation. Jesus’s response? “Truly, with no one in Israel have I found such faith”. But the encouraging part in all this is that, whether you are anxious like Jairus or confident like the centurion, Jesus is merciful toward his people. He’s approachable, and he hears their desperation with tenderness. “A bruised reed he will not break.” “He remembers we are dust.”

 

So, Jairus made a desperate plea to Jesus, and this moved Jesus to join the man to his house. Now, I want you to think about this detail. Jesus took time to go with the man to his house. Couldn’t he have made it easier on himself and simply said, “Your faith has made your daughter well. Go in peace.”? He did it for that centurion when the centurion asked. In fact, he also did it with a different Roman official in John 4:46. This roman official begged Jesus to come with him to his home, to heal his son who was about to die. Jesus cuts to the chase and simply says, “Go; your son will live”. That’s all it took.

 

He's Not Just Approachable, But Purposeful

Yet Jesus decided he would walk with this man to his home. The reason is that, while Jesus is approachable—he’s also purposeful in the way he handles his despairing people. I have every reason to believe Jesus purposefully took time in going to the house so that the girl would die. He designed for Jairus to suffer the death of his daughter. Had she not died, Jairus would have never tasted the joy of the resurrection as he and the disciples did. They never would have seen Jesus’s power over death. Jesus had an objective in mind—he always does when it comes to his people’s suffering. Suffering is not meaningless for us. It’s personal. It has a designed purpose in teaching us about Jesus’s faithfulness and power, for our joy. We’ll see more of this when we get to the last part of this story in a moment.

 

But for now—perhaps let’s just ask ourselves one quick question. Do you believe that Jesus is purposeful with every moment of suffering we endure in this cursed world? Do you believe that Jesus is purposefully walking with you every step of your life just as Jesus was walking with Jairus in this story, with purposeful control over Jairus’s sufferings? I love how Paul talks of this with complete faith and confidence in our Lord’s design for our sufferings. Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:16–17 for a moment, I want you to see this passage as you ponder it with me for a moment. There, Paul says—

 

[W]e do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away [i.e., in suffering], our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

 

With every moment of suffering that you experience in this world, God is preparing for you “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. Think about that—beyond “all” comparison. Paul is saying that you can’t compare the glory that God is preparing for you in your sufferings to any glory found in this massively glorious world. Think of the glorious in this seen world—the glory of the vast mountains in Alaska, or the glory of the Mariana trench 36,000 feet (6.8 miles) below sea level. The thought of that depth likely makes you feel fearful. Or you could think of the glorious stars and the galaxy. The glory of marriage, raising children, and seeing dozens of grandchildren grow up to know and love the Lord. That’s glorious. Yet, Paul is saying that these visible things of this world don’t even compare to the unseen glory that God is preparing for you through your suffering. The suffering and despair that we experience in God’s hands is never meaningless—rather, it’s eternally meaningful. Jesus was preparing a weight of glory for Jairus as he walked with him to his house. [Note: I love the way John Piper comments on this passage in 2 Corinthians halfway through this song.]

 

Now, we will look closer at the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter in a moment. But before we go there, Mark interrupts the story with a different story. So, let’s let Mark interrupt us. 

 

We have seen Jesus’s care for Jairus—Jesus is approachable and purposeful in going to Jairus’s house. Let’s now consider Jesus’s care for the woman with the flow of blood.

 

Jesus’s Care for the Despairing Woman

Read through the story with me again, starting halfway through verse 24. 

 

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 

 

So, that’s the woman we are talking about. Notice first that, like Jairus, she comes out of the crowd. The ruler of the synagogue was not the only one in the crowd who had a radical faith in this story. This woman had faith, and a bold faith at that. For her, the boldness would look much different. The ruler of the synagogue laid himself before Jesus’s feet in a cinematic plea for mercy. This woman tried to go unnoticed. 

 

Why is that brave, rather than cowardly and sheepish? Well, you must understand her condition. A discharge of blood like hers meant that she was religiously and socially unclean. If you touched someone else—much less a person of great power like Jesus—you would make them unclean. She was a loner, a religious and social outcast. In her uncleanness, she would not be privileged to have a place in the synagogue—no worshipping God and hearing his word with his people. God doesn’t want you, for God and his people must remain clean. It was a miserable existence for 12 years.

 

And, misery added to misery. As I said before—being desperate is exhausting. In her effort to be healed and cleansed, she spent every penny she had on physicians who couldn’t make her well. She was destitute and broke. This was a very different misery than what the synagogue ruler was experiencing. Yet, Jesus cares for all the people he calls to himself, and he knows exactly what they need. Jesus knew very well that desperation and misery doesn’t discriminate—everyone needs a physician if they are willing to admit it. John MacArthur observes,

 

They’re two, a man and a woman; one rich, one poor; one respected, one rejected; one honored, one ashamed; one leading the synagogue, the other excommunicated from the synagogue; one with a twelve-year-old daughter dying, and one with a twelve-year-old disease suffering. They remind us of what Mary had said in her Magnificat in Luke 1:52 when she said, “God was a Savior who [humbled] rulers and exalted those who were humble.” Here is a perfect illustration of that.

 

So, given their different circumstances—the ruler threw himself at Jesus while the woman hardly touched Jesus. Both acts of faith were bold, desperate, and honorable—even though they looked so different. 

 

Let me ask you—do you ever get desperate, and plead to God with appropriate show of humility and boldness? Today, we don’t have Jesus to touch physically. But, we do have certain means the Bible has instructed us with—consider fasting, solitude, praying on your knees or prostrate on your face in a closed room. James 4:10 reminds us to “humble yourself under the Lord, and he will exalt you”. These are not ways you can manipulate God—manipulation is an act of pride. Sticking you face on the ground in a prayer closet isn’t going to manipulate God with your private display of piety. We do this in order to physical humble ourselves—God promises that he will exalt the humble one way or another, even if he doesn’t directly answer their specific plea for mercy. “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and he will exalt you”. As Jairus did, this woman did the same.

 

Keep reading. Verse 29—

 

And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

 

Isn’t this a strange passage? Did Jesus—as God who knows all things—not know what happened to him? Did he accidentally let his power slip from him? Well, it’s hard to say exactly what’s going on here, and I’d be happy to discuss possibilities after the service if you’re interested. But for now, consider what I think this passage is really trying to convey to us. Jesus forced the woman to come out and fess up. Verse 33—“the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth”. Don’t you think she’d be rejoicing? Well, remember her perspective. She had just made Jesus unclean by touching him. She had made everyone in the crowd whom she bumped shoulders with unclean. She was used to being despised rather than accepted. This would have been terrifying to a woman like that. But again, “a bruised reed he will not break”. 

 

I love how this story pans out. The terrified woman who acted out with a desperate show of faith is terrified to come to Jesus because she doesn’t know exactly how powerful or merciful Jesus is. She doesn’t know he can’t be made unclean—that he has authority over those laws (as he has shown us already in Mark). She simply knows he had power to heal her, and he did. So, Jesus lures her out with her trembling knees, and pronounces an unexpected word to her. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease”. 

 

“Daughter”—that was unexpected. He called her daughter. He regarded her as his spiritual child. Again, we see another example of Jesus’s approachability. He is not merely available as a public figure in the streets, but he is approachable to those who trust him, as though he were family. And might I add—Jesus was certainly purposeful with his words. He knew exactly what this despairing and terrified girl needed to hear. Who knows the last time she heard a term of endearment addressed toward her like this, much less from a powerful and public figure.

 

In the Bible, we learn that our sin, like this woman’s flow of blood, makes us unacceptable before God’s holy presence. Perhaps you actually feel unclean and dirty after you commit certain sins. That’s a good, godly impulse. It’s your conscience. But, Jesus’s blood and righteousness takes care of that. Literally, Hebrews tells us that Jesus’s blood cleanses our conscience (Heb 9:14)—that voice that condemns you as unclean after you sin. On account of Jesus’s cleansing blood and justifying righteousness, God literally adopts us into his family and calls us his children. That’s the gospel, the good news of salvation that we experience by faith. This woman had the privilege to experience it physically as well.

 

So, we have seen once again that Jesus is approachable—and this time, even by an unclean woman who would ordinarily make him unclean. Yet in his sovereignty over the Old Testament purity laws, he makes her clean. He would one day die for her eternal purity and healing before God. Jesus’s care and power toward the desperate truly is astounding in these stories. You might say that, in his care toward the despairing, Jesus is approachable, purposeful, and powerful. If you keep those three qualities of Jesus ever before you when you are suffering, I think you’ll do much better.

 

Now, let’s consider “part 2” of our story with Jairus and Jesus, and the 12 year old girl.

 

3. Jesus’s Care for the Twelve Year Old Girl

We are told in verse 35, 

 

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 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. 

 

Death is the most hopeless situation, isn’t it? Perhaps the hardest thing to hear a doctor say is “time of death”. We despair to hear those words. That’s when people stop pouring money in for a “last hope”. But of course, Jesus is purposeful with the despairing. “Do not fear, only believe”.

 

He arrives at the house, and he finds the professional mourners on duty. That was a thing in that day. Funerals were not somber, quiet events like they are today. It was expected that you wail loudly, tear your clothes, and make a commotion. Literally, professional mourners would be hired to assist in the process with flutes and their own wails. So, Jesus says “why are you making a commotion? The child is not dead but sleeping”. Again, people did not understand his power. They mocked him.

 

Jesus is Gentle Toward the Despairing

But just as Jesus is approachable, purposeful, and powerful—he’s also gentle with those who are suffering. He really won’t break a bruised reed, even when he’s being mocked. Perhaps you have been known to mock or curse God in a moment of desperation. He’s patient, isn’t it?

 

As Jesus is being mocked, his purposeful and gentle wisdom takes over in verse 40. He put everyone outside and took the child’s father and mother back into the house with a few of his disciples. The girl was laying there, lifeless. This really was a sacred moment. Verse 41,

 

Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 

 

Literally, the word “arise” could be rendered “wake up”. You get a picture, here, of Jesus waking up a little girl from a deep sleep. He gently grabs her hand and says, “Wake up, little one. it’s time to get up”. Then verse 42—

 

And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

 

Jairus certainly didn’t expect to see this come out of his despair. Yet, Jesus had a plan. In a small scale, this is a picture of how Jesus designs the sufferings of his people to be preparation for an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. From an earthly standard, there is no glory like the resurrection of a 12 year old daughter. I’m sure Jairus’s moments of despair only added to the experience as his utter despair turned to utter joy and hope. But from an eternal perspective, we can’t begin to imagine what God has in store for us, and how our sufferings are preparing us for the eternal glory he offers us in Christ. 

 

Conclusion

So, there we have it. Another picture of how Jesus cares for his people. In the previous two stories—he rebuked the disciples as they needed it, and he rebuked the demons in order to save and care for the demoniac. Yet today, we saw another way Jesus cares for his people—even the despairing. As you endure painful suffering in this world, remember that our Lord is approachable, purposeful, powerful, and gentle.. Through his blood and righteousness which cleanses you of sin, you can rest assured that he’s always there with you, giving meaning to your trials. Rest in his care and providential plan. He won’t break you, no matter how bruised you get