Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43


Mark gives the fullest account of Jairus' daughter and of the woman who touched Jesus' garment. Luke's account (8:40-56) is shorter than that of Mark. The account in Matthew (9:18-26) is quite brief. Even among scholars who accept the Gospels as the very Word of God at times there is difference of opinion concerning the order of events in the Gospels. For example, at this point Robertson was of the opinion that Mark gives us the order of events but Lenski thought that Matthew gives us the order of events. This difference of opinion does not affect the exegesis.

Mark 5:21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. (Buls: Now after Jesus had crossed over again to the other side in a boat, a large crowd gathered to Him and He was by the sea.)

The sentence begins with a genitive absolute, with Jesus as subject. We know from the remainder of the account that the disciples were with Him. He crossed over from east to west. Note how often large crowds followed Jesus.

Mark 5:22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet (Buls: Then there came one of the rulers of the synagogue by the name of Jairus and when he had seen Him (Jesus) he fell down at His feet)

"Ruler, official, leader." In any case he must have been well-known. That an important man came to Jesus, shows the former's humility. Furthermore, it would seem that Jairus was already a Christian. The words here denote a close relationship and great respect.

Note that, as in English, the name "Jairus" has three syllables.

Bengel: It is a strong proof of the truth of the Gospel, that the very proper names are given in the Evangelist's narrative.

Mark 5:23 and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." (Buls: and begged Him intensely with these words: "My little daughter is about to die; come and put your hands on her so that she'll be well and will live.")

This verse and the parallels in Matthew and Luke indicate several things:

  1. A critical condition in Jairus' home;

  2. his love for his daughter; and,

  3. his faith in Jesus.

"Healed and live" in the sense of bodily healing and continuance of physical life. That is the obvious meaning. Jairus must have prepared her for death though we cannot prove it.

Mark 5:24 So Jesus went with him.(Buls: And He went with him . . . )

Jesus complied with Jairus' request immediately, but the interruption by the woman with the flow of blood was no accident.

Fahling: In consequence of this delay, the urgent need of Jairus was almost forgotten. But this was wholly in line with the plans of Jesus.
Kretzmann: Jairus must first pass through a test of his patience.
Commentators are agreed that the interval between verse 24 and 35 was very brief, perhaps only a few minutes, but the interruption must have tried Jairus' faith.

Mark 5:35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?" (Buls: While He was still speaking, some of the synagogue ruler's servants came and said: "Your daughter is dead. Why are you still troubling the Master?")

Here is another interruption. This time from Jairus' house. The people came and interrupted what Jesus was saying.

It is remarkable that Jesus had just called the woman "daughter" in verse 34, but is interrupted by messengers who speak of Jairus' daughter. Jesus uses the word metaphorically.

Bengel: There were, therefore, disciples of Jesus in the family of Jairus, and Jesus was the Teacher of the ruler of the synagogue.

Mark 5:36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe." (Buls: But Jesus ignored what had just been said and said to the ruler of the synagogue: "Cease your fears. Simply believe.")

"Ignoring" might be translated "overhearing."

Note that Jesus addresses only Jairus, not the messengers.

Ylvisaker: Jesus will not break the bruised reed. On account of the weakness of his faith, He does not say to Jairus, as He had spoken to the nobleman: 'Go thy way, thy daughter liveth' but He went with him.
Kretzmann: There was danger that Jairus' confidence would be lost. So Jesus gave him a word which was to hold his wavering confidence.

"Cease fearing, just keep on believing." Jesus stops fears and encourages continued faith.

Hendriksen: Throughout the history of redemption it has ever been thus. When it seemed that all was lost, believers placed their trust in God and were delivered. This was true with respect to Abraham (Genesis 22:20, Moses (Exodus 14:10f), David (1 Samuel 17:44-47), and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:1,2,12).

Mark 5:37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. (Buls: He allowed no one to go with Him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James.)

The double negative makes the negative emphatic: "Absolutely no one."

There was no reason for limiting this to five people. Peter, James and John were Jesus' close associates on at least two other occasions: the Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Bengel: Mark wrote his Gospel not long after the Ascension, at the time when the memory of James, who had been beheaded, was still fresh in the disciples' minds, so that he was better known than even John himself.

Mark 5:38 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. (Buls: They entered the house of the ruler of the synagogue and He saw a tumult, people weeping and wailing quite some.)

"They" are five people: Jesus, Jairus, Peter, James, John.

"Commotion" is a confused noise. The people were weeping and wailing much. It was customary to hire wailers to perform at a funeral.

Fahling: . . . the customary company of wailing women and flute-players -- a veritable mockery of true sorrow and in weird contrast with the awful silence of death.

Hendricksen says that what the mourners were doing was out of place for two reasons: 1) It was not sincere; 2) There was no cause for lamentation but for jubilation.

Mark 5:39 He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." (Buls: And when He had come in He said to them: "Why are you wailing and weeping? The child is not dead but is sleeping.")

At this point Jesus makes His way through the crowd of mourners and enters the house. Jesus' question shows that He was displeased with the noise and wailing. And then He makes the tremendous statement: "The child is not dead but is sleeping."

The Greeks called death a sleep but they used the word as a euphemism. The early Christians called death a sleep because they believed that the dead person would awaken sometime again.

Ylvisaker: As on the occasion of the death of Lazarus, Jesus employs the symbolism of sleep, because the power of death is broken through Him.
Hendriksen: Death will not have the final say.

Mark 5:40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. (Buls: At that they were laughing Him to scorn. But He, after dismissing all (others), took the father of the child and the mother and those with him (Peter, James, John) and entered (the room) where the child was.)

Stoeckhardt: The hope of believers is the object of ridicule for the unbelievers.

The laughter is caused by unbelief.

Bengel: They began to laugh Him down with sorrowful laughter, free from insolence.
Kretzmann: The derisive laughter of the official mourners did not deter the Lord for a minute.
Hendriksen: It seems that these mourners were endowed with the dubious gift of shifting in one sudden moment from dismal moaning to uproarious mirth.
True. Both the mourning and the laughter are prompted by unbelief. And that's the way it is with the world to this day. People weep and wail for a few days over the death of a loved one, but soon after are laughing at matters sacred.

Only the parents and the three disciples are allowed to enter the room where the child lay.

Mark 5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). (Buls: Then He grasped the hand of the child and said to her: "Talitha cumi" which is translated "Little girl, I say to you, get up.")

By the way, in verse 23 we read that Jesus was asked to come and put His hands on the girl. He does more. He take her hand in His. However, be careful of attributing magic to this action. Jesus raised Lazarus but did not touch him.

Lenski: Jesus freely used his hand in touching those whom he healed, but he healed many without touching them.

"Talitha cumi" literally means "Little girl, get up!" How do we account for the words "I say to you?" The commentaries point out that this is part of the interpretation indicated in verse 41. To which we might add that "talitha cumi" are the very words which cause the little girl to rise and the words "I say to you" indicate the unique authority of the speaker.

Stoeckhardt: With His human voice He awoke this girl from her sleep of death, the human nature of Christ, also in His state of humiliation, being full of the power of life.
So far as we know, Jesus raised only three people from the dead: this girl, the boy at Nain and Lazarus. He cleansed ten lepers at once and healed many others. He cast out many devils. Why this difference? Death is the last and great enemy. Jesus raised just enough dead people to prove that He was the promised Messiah. He did not want to be known as a miracle-monger.

Mark 5:42 Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. (Buls: Forthwith the girl got up and began walking around; you see, she was twelve years old. And immediately they were very much amazed.)

"Immediately" appears eleven times in Mark, five times in chapter five.

Bengel: She returned to the state consonant with her age.

Mark 5:43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Buls: But He commanded them sternly that no one should learn of this, and told them that something should be given to her to eat.)

"To command sternly." Jesus spoke especially to the parents.

"That no one should learn of this." Why did Jesus give this command? Weren't people bound to find out anyway?

Ylvisaker: Jesus would have none of that fanatical and extravagant enthusiasm which frequently is a disturbing element in the progress of faith. Jesus often forbade the people to spread rumors of His miracles, but never of His doctrine.
Kretzmann: He wants no false Messianic hopes to be aroused . . . Especially should the expectation of the repetition of such acts not be awakened in the people, lest His ministry be seriously interfered with.

Why did Jesus tell them to give the girl something to eat?

Note: Look also at John 5:25-29. Verse 25 speaks of conversion. Verses 28-29 speak of the general resurrection on the last day. What they have in common: by virtue of the incarnation, the Son of Man, true man, has life in Himself and has the power by His Word to raise the spiritually dead. Likewise, His majestic voice will cause all the dead, on judgment day, to come alive. The dead actually hear His voice.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B Mark-John, Sundays after Pentecost, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 19-22

Return to top

Return to Buls' Notes Index