Mark 5:21–6:6

April 16th, 2013| Topic: aBeLOG, Mark | 2

Mark 5:21–6:6

Jesus’ care, and his power over disease and death, evokes disciples’ fearless, efficacious faith.

“Do not be afraid, only believe.”
Mark 5:36:41

Mark 5:21–24 and 5:35–43 form the two halves of an outer story, with 5:25–34 being the inner story. The stories create a single tapestry. Look at the similarities: both protagonists are in hopeless situations; both fall at Jesus’ feet; both come into physical contact with Jesus; both conditions are ritually impure (one is a corpse; the other is bleeding); both stories mention “daughter,” “fear,” “faith,” and “twelve years.” But notice the subtle differences: one story deals with a named, socially prominent male, the other with an anonymous penurious woman; faith is enjoined to the man, while the faith of the woman is commended—she is the heroine of this story.

This woman’s account is introduced with a sentence that has a cascade of seven participial clauses before the main verb, “touched” (5:25–27): having a flow, having suffered, having spent, not being helped, becoming worse, hearing of Jesus, coming to Jesus, … she touched. That relentless progression of participles describes her hopeless condition, not to mention the related words “much [she endured],” “many [physicans she saw],” and “all [she had spent]” (5:26), that emphasize her utter desperation. Moreover, it comes as a shock as “unclean” makes contact with the “clean,” a breach of ritual protocol. In attending to this unclean woman on the inferior rungs of the social ladder while on his way to help another at the superior rungs, Jesus demonstrates that nobody is beyond the pale of his concern. He cares!

Later on, after the woman is healed, Jesus’ address to her is unique: the only one to be addressed as “daughter” by him in the entire Gospel is this “unclean” woman who demonstrated faith (5:34). The contrast between the daughter who had a (powerful) father to work on her behalf to summon Jesus, and this other “daughter” who had no one to speak for her, is stark. She was devoid of champions on her side. But henceforth, Jesus would fight for her, for now she was his “daughter.” He cares!

This is one special woman—she is a true disciple, and her noteworthy characteristic, faith, is one that is to be emulated by all disciples (5:34, 36). No matter how dire the situation or how hopeless the circumstance, whether it be the ravages of disease or the rapacity of death, Jesus bids the disciple trust in him faithfully and fearlessly. Whatever the crisis of life may be, whether disease or even death, the disciple is called to demonstrate fearless, efficacious faith in Jesus, the one able to conquer anything! He cares!

Almost as a coda, 6:1–6 is added on to the sandwich story. The striking thing about this brief account is that, as a result of the townsfolk’s faithlessness, Jesus was “unable” to perform miracles there (6:5). After the submission to Jesus’ power and authority over wind, waves, demons, disease, and even death, seemingly, the divine One has “met his match” in the unbelief of the people. “Unfaith” turns out be an obstacle to Jesus’ miracle-working power. Mark is trying to show the reader the efficacy of faith by demonstrating that “unfaith” is a serious obstacle to the experience of Jesus’ power in the extension of the kingdom mission.

Of course, Mark is careful to mention that Jesus was able to heal some, albeit only a few (6:6).

In any case, the consequences of the disciple’s faith (or lack thereof) are, indeed, momentous! Let’s remember, with faith, that Jesus cares!

2 Comments

  1. Scout April 17, 2013 at 8:22 am

    The contrasts in that story allow me fit just about any category at just about any point in time. Of course, moving to a sense of desperation is the best place to be. But that’s a tough place to live. Thanks for the reminder that Jesus cares (and knows and cures).

    Reply
    • Abe Kuruvilla April 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Thanks!

      Isn’t it marvelous that this ages-old Book speaks to us in any age and every age, in any situation and in every situation?

      Yes, Jesus cares … and cures.

      Reply

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