Too Late for Two Daughters (Mark 5:21-43)
Passage: Mark 5:21–5:43
I. When Is It Too Late?
“You’ll never make the gate in time.”
“He’s not coming back.”
“There’s nothing else we can do for her.”
“You just can’t do it given your age.”
“The offer is no longer on the table.”
“It’s too expensive now.”
“But he doesn’t love you anymore.”
“That door has closed.”
“That train has left.”
“That boat has sailed.”
When is too late? Is there a point, a clear place in each situation, when you must accept reality and give up? When you have to let go? When you have to step back?
When is it too late?
This morning I want to return to the Gospel of Mark and look at another episode from the ministry of Jesus; an episode, a story that deals with this very question, “When is it too late?” We recently looked at this passage in our Growth Groups, but I thought it would be good to spend more time thinking about this account.
II. The Passage: “Fear Not; Only Believe” (5:21-43)
So take your Bibles and turn to Mark 5. (page 840) Let’s pick up in 5:21…
A. A Daughter in Desperate Need (5:21-24)
21 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. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 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.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
When Jesus left this western side of the Sea of Galilee, we’re told in 4:36 that He left a large crowd. Here we read that when he returns, another crowd quickly gathers. But Mark wants to highlight one person from this crowd. A man named Jairus.
Although this man is the ruler of the synagogue, a position of great esteem, here we see him falling at Jesus’ feet in great humility.
This is interesting because, because the last time Jesus was in the synagogue, according to Mark 3, He came into such conflict with some of the Jewish leaders that they left in order to plot His death.
But here, the leader of that same synagogue is coming to Jesus for help. Maybe he was there at the synagogue when Jesus healed a man’s withered hand in chapter 3. Maybe now, because of that, maybe because of what he saw, He is coming to Jesus in this moment of profound desperation.
We read that his little daughter (as Luke tells us, his only daughter) was at the point of death. But as we see, the man has not given up; in his mind, it is not too late. Maybe over the grief–filled groaning of family member who were waiting for the little girl to expire, maybe Jairus heard people rushing down the alleyway outside. Maybe the name Jesus was heard in the midst of the clamor.
However he knew that Jesus was back, Jairus worked his way through the crowd, driven by faith. He clearly believes Jesus can heal his daughter. And so he begs Jesus to come to his home. And as we read, Jesus agrees to go. And of course, many in the crowd witnessed this whole exchange, and were eager to go along and see what Jesus would do.
B. Another Daughter in Desperate Need (5:25-34)
But as they are going along, look at what happens…look at how Mark focuses in on another face in the crowd… (look at 25-29)
25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
As we see, Jairus was not the only one who came to Jesus that day for healing. Here we meet a woman who is personally suffering because of a discharge of blood, what may have been some kind of uterine hemorrhage.
Notice the window into her suffering that Mark opens for us. Not only had this woman been suffering with her condition for twelve years, but her suffering was compounded by doctors whose ‘help’ only made things worse. Furthermore, she was penniless because she had spent all her money on trying to get better. But she was not getting better. She was progressively getting worse. And to top it off, there’s something else here that Mark does not mention explicitly, but it may have been clear to the original readers.
According to Leviticus 15, this issue of blood made the woman ritually unclean. If someone touched or was touched by such a person, then that person would also be unclean.
So for twelve years this woman had been sinking deeper and deeper into despair. Physically suffering, financially ruined, and ritually unclean. She had exhausted every option. Was it too late for her? Was it too late for hope and help?
As we see here, she hadn’t given up. Why? Because she had heard the reports about Jesus. Maybe as Jesus turned to go with Jairus, as the crowd begin to contract and shift, maybe she saw her only hope walking in the other direction and decided to act.
It’s her faith that drives her forward. Look at her exceptional faith in Jesus’ power. She thinks, “If I can just get close enough to touch the edge of his robe, I will be healed.” Now, to be clear, the woman does not believe Jesus’ garment will heal her. She believes that Jesus is so full of God’s power, that it permeates even the clothes on His back.
So in spite of the fact that she should not be touching Him because of her uncleanness, she reaches out in desperation. And when she did this, she knew, she could feel, that she had been healed.
But notice what happens next. Look at 30-34…
30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 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. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Don’t you love the disciples here? Jesus, like them, is being jostled by hundreds of people. And yet Jesus stops and asks who touched His garments. The disciples were probably saying, “OK, Jesus, very funny; the joke is over; what’s next ‘who looked at me’ or ‘who stepped on my dirt’?”
But we’re told that Jesus was simply standing there looking around and waiting for an answer to His question. He is not trying to identify the person, because everything we know about Jesus tells us He already knew who it was; but He is giving the woman the opportunity to step forward.
But can you imagine what she’s thinking at this point? Maybe she is saying to herself. “Oh no, he knows. He knows, not only what I’ve done, but He’s knows who I am. He knows that I’m unclean.” This may be why she comes to him trembling with fear.
But she’s tells him her story, and to her surprise, and maybe to the surprise of those standing around her, Jesus’ comforts her and commends her; He commends her faith and blesses her, even affectionately calling her “daughter”.
It wasn’t too late for her, was it?
C. Delayed, But Not Doomed (5:35-43)
But there is still another “daughter” waiting for Jesus, remember? Maybe in the midst of this whole episode with the woman, maybe most had forgotten where they were going. Jairus certainly hadn’t forgotten. But before he can compel Jesus to hurry we read that…
(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?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 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. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
We don’t know how long this episode with the bleeding woman took, and yet, I can’t help but wonder if Jairus, as he hears the message from home, as he stand there in the midst of his sorrow over his daughter’s death, I can’t help but wonder if he was thinking, “if only…if only we had gotten there sooner. Maybe my daughter would still be living.” Now that his little girl was gone, he must’ve known that it was too late. The people who brought the news to him certainly thought so, since they suggested that Jesus was no longer needed.
But look at how Jesus steps in; look at how He steps into the conversation, maybe even before Jairus has time to really comprehend what is being said. Jesus steps in to encourage Jairus to stay the course: “Do not fear, only believe.”
Jesus’ comment about the little girl sleeping in verse 39 is puzzling at first. Is he just speaking euphemistically? Well, the comment does make sense in light of verse 43. Jesus did not want the crowds to know what had really happened. Once they saw the girl come out of the house, he wanted them to realize that they were wrong about the pronouncement of death; because, in fact, she was roused from a kind of deep ‘sleep’, since sleep was an Old Testament image used to describe death.
But…the extent of what happened is clear to the parents and to James, John, and Peter.
III. Faith Perseveres
So let’s think about this for a minute: two daughters. Two lives intersecting. Twelve years earlier, Jairus and his wife welcomed a baby girl into the world. And twelve years earlier, a woman in Galilee discovered that her bleeding would not stop. And all these years later, their lives come together on one day, probably in the span of less than an hour. Two lives in need. Two stories of desperation. And yet two stories of faith.
What is God teaching us through these two stories this morning?
I think what Mark hoped his readers would see here were two pictures of how faith perseveres…how faith does not give up. Jairus and the woman were two people who were placed in situations of extreme need. They were two people who had every reason to give up. But they didn’t.
I think what God is saying to us this morning is exactly what Jesus said to Jairus, “Do not fear; only believe.”
You may or may not be able to identify with the physical suffering of the woman or the emotional devastation of Jairus, but I know that all of us are needy…desperately needy. We may not recognize the extent of our neediness, but that simply indicates another need: a need for recognition of our neediness.
Maybe this morning, you are feeling like it’s too late. Too late for change. Too late to see someone change. Too late too see change in your own life. Too late to go. Too late to stay. Too late to find relief. Too late to know hope. Too late to recover what you’ve lost. Too late to really make a difference. Too late to be free. Too late to learn. Too late to start again.
But listen to Jesus. Do you hear Him, this morning? “Do not fear; only believe.”
The faith we see exhibited here. The faith we see encouraged here by Jesus himself is the kind of trust you and I need to have. Faith that does not give up. This applies to us as individuals and as a church family.
Why don’t we look back at the passage this morning in order to understand this idea of persevering faith better.
Let me mention a couple features of this kind of faith, this faith that perseveres. These are features we see emphasized right here in these stories.
First, we see here that genuine faith perseveres in the face of even the most difficult struggles.
If anyone had good reasons to throw in the towel, it was this woman. Twelve years of physical infirmity and financial ruin. She had tried everything. Can you imagine? If anyone had reason to give up, it was Jairus, right? His daughter was dead. That was it. It was too late. But it wasn’t.
Maybe like this woman, you’ve spent years struggling and suffering through some kind of trial, with some kind of behavior, or relationship. And maybe, at some point, you quietly gave up. Maybe you’re here this morning thinking “this is just the way it has to be”.
You may not be suffering from a flow of blood, but maybe you feel like the life is draining out of you because of the pain and stress of this or that situation, of this or that circumstance.
But where God want you this morning? Does He want you to give up? Or is calling you to press through the ‘crowds’ of adversity…because that’s what faith does.
Maybe like the man Jairus, you feel like hope has been permanently extinguished. You might not be on the verge of losing a child, but maybe there is a door closing in your life, maybe there is a relationship being severed, or an opportunity being missed that you believe will be gone forever. Maybe you are grieving as if someone died because something in you has died.
Well, again, I don’t exactly what you might be going through, but if God says all things are possible for those who believe, maybe you shouldn’t give up.
The more severe the suffering, the greater the odds, the more refined the faith, the farther God is asking you to step out. Is God refining you this morning? Is He calling you to press forward, to grow strong in you faith?
The second thing we see here, and this is absolutely critical, we see that genuine faith perseveres in order to get to Christ.
In any discussion of faith, we always need to come back, first and foremost, to the object of our faith, lest we make faith an end in itself.
Faith is not simply about getting what we want. It is not positive or wishful thinking. Please let me be clear: I am not promoting a “genie-in-the-bottle” approach to God; I am not calling you to be optimistic and positive because God definitely wants to change your circumstances according to what you think is best.
The kind of faith we’re talking about here is not trust in the fact that our needs will be met. This faith is the belief that all of our needs will be met by Jesus Christ. It is first and foremost a belief that Christ is sufficient.
As we see here, as this episode with the woman demonstrates, Jesus commends that faith that fights to get to Him.
Here’s a question we need to ask: why did Jesus stop and wait for this woman to come forward? He knew she was healed. Wasn’t it enough for Jesus to simply bless this woman and keep on moving? Wasn’t it enough that she was healed? Wasn’t that the most important thing?
No…it wasn’t. Jesus does not allow anonymous withdrawals from the bank of God’s blessing. The goal of this woman’s healing was that she might be brought face to face with Jesus; that she would find in Jesus the answer to all of her questions and the healing for all of her hurts. We cannot simply take from Jesus what we need and walk away without engaging Him. He will not give us anything until He can give us what we need.
Jesus came to look this woman in the eye. He came to have a relationship with her.
When I say, “don’t give up” this morning, “it’s not too late”, I’m not trying to indiscriminately encourage you to keep pursuing anything you think you need. All of us have priorities that are out of whack, or expectations that are unrealistic, or agendas that are self-centered.
I think God is showing us that no matter what our need is, if we are driven to Jesus by that need, we’re on the right track. Through Christ, God may challenge that need of ours, but in coming to Christ, we will find One who wants to bless us, to speak tenderly to us in grace, and remind us that our deepest need is our need for Him.
No matter what you are going through this morning, do you believe your greatest needs will be met in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that if you touch even his garments, that is, if you grasp just a portion of who Christ is, you will be profoundly satisfied? Are you saying, “If I can get just a 1/1 thousandths of Christ, I will be filled.” What a picture of faith!
Please hear me. It may be too late for this or that situation in your life. This or that circumstance may never change. But…listen…but it is never too late to hope because, as the writer to the Hebrews expressed it, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (13:8)
The relational and social and emotional and physical and financial and vocational and medical and parental needs that we so often feel so acutely, these are always needs that send us searching for healing and wholeness…for fullness of life. But what God has reminded us of this morning is the amazing fact that the healing and wholeness we need, the fullness of life we so often look for in a change of circumstances, is always available to us in Jesus. It is never too late to hope in Him.
The story of these two daughters was not recorded to promise us physical healing or temporary blessing. No, the story is here in order to point us to ultimate the healing, the ultimate blessing, the ultimate resurrection….through faith in Jesus Christ.
And that kind of faith perseveres to get to Him through the gospel, and to walk with Him through the gospel. The gospel…Good News that the God of heaven we have rejected in favor of sin and self, that holy God came down in the person of Jesus Christ, died on the cross to receive the punishment we deserved, and then rose again, beating death in order to reign forever. It is faith in that reality, that truth, that saves us and is saving us and will save us. Faith and faith alone!
And through that faith God does want to bring incredible change to your life. He does want to heal relationships. He does want to heal your wounds. He does want to bring wholeness to your thinking and feeling. He does want to free you from your hurtful habits and painful choices.
But even if that door of opportunity here or there does close, the door of heaven is always opened to those who are in Christ by faith. Even if this or that relationship is never reconciled, in spite of your attempts, you are reconciled to your heavenly Father through faith in Jesus. Even if that job does not work out, or your diagnosis does not change, or your dream is not realized here and now, we can rejoice this morning that eternal healing and wholeness can be ours through faith in Christ…faith in the gospel.
Whatever your need this morning, let that need drive you to Jesus Christ. Like Jairus, seek Him out, plead with Him to come to your place of genuine need. You may not understand how He will work, but that’s OK…do not fear, only believe. Like this woman, fight through the hustle and bustle of your life to get to Jesus. Don’t give up. It’s not too late.