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Jesus Heals Jairus' Daughter (Mark 5:35-43)

Analysis and Commentary

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Jesus Heals Jarius' Daughter

Jesus Heals Jarius' Daughter

    35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. 37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. 38 And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
    39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. 40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. 41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. 42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. 43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.
    Compare: Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56

Can Jesus Raise the Dead?

Before Jesus unknowingly healed the woman who had been suffering for twelve years, he had been on his way to attend to the daughter of Jarius, a ruler of a local synagogue. Every synagogue at the time was managed by a council of elders which was in turn presided over by at least one president. Jarius would thus have been an important man in the community.

For him to come to Jesus for aid was a sign of Jesus’ fame, his abilities, or just Jarius’ desperation. The latter would be likely given how he is described as falling at Jesus’ feet. Traditional Christian exegesis insists that Jarius comes to Jesus out of faith and that it is this faith that gives Jesus the ability to perform his miracle.

The name “Jarius” means “He will awaken,” signaling the fictional nature of the story and emphasizing the connection to the later tale about Lazarus. There is a double meaning here: awakening from physical death and awakening from the eternal death of sin in order to see Jesus for who and what he really is.

This story closely mirrors one that appears in 2 Kings where the prophet Elisha is visited by a woman who pleads for him to work a miracle by raising her dead son. When this story is told in Matthew’s gospel, the daughter is reported dead immediately just like in the Elisha story, whereas here the daughter starts out merely sick and then is reported dead later. To be quite honest, I find that this heightens the drama.

Once the death of the girl is revealed, people expect Jesus to go on his way — thus far he has only healed the sick, not raised the dead. Jesus, however, refuses to let that dissuade him, despite the fact that people laugh at his presumptuousness. At this point, he performs the biggest miracle thus far: he raises the girl from the dead.

Up until this point Jesus has demonstrated power over religious traditions and laws, over sickness, natural elements, and over uncleanliness. Now he demonstrates power over the ultimate force in human lives: death itself. As a matter of fact, stories of Jesus’ power over death are the ones which tend to have the most emotional force, and it was the belief in his power over his own death which set Christianity up as a new religion.

When Elisha raised the boy from the dead, he did so by bowing over him seven times — obviously a ritual act. Jesus, however, raises this girl simply by speaking two words (talitha cumi — Aramaic for “young girl, arise”). Once again I think we are being told that Jesus has come to help people get past musty traditions and return to personal relationships, both with each other and with God.

It’s curious that most of the disciples were left out of this event with only Peter, James, and John in attendance. Was this supposed to suggest their priority over the others? Did they even do anything except witness the miracle?

It is also interesting that Jesus returns to his previous methods and instructs everyone to keep quiet about what happened. He started out the chapter by exorcising a Legion of demons from a man whom he told to spread the word about the power of God — a very unusual way to end the story. Here, however, Jesus once again admonishes people that they shouldn’t say anything at all.

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