Mark 5, 21-43 no. 16 Oct 6

Mark has picked up again his recital of powerful deeds from Jesus. The present two stories are notable for their vivid features, which indicate that these particular stories remained very much alive in their color and drama over many years of retelling. A particular sign of this remembrance is the interweaving of two different stories – a rare occurrence in the Gospels. As before so now, Jesus is pictured first with a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. This is Mark’s way now of indicating Jesus’ usual work, that of teaching what repentance means. The significance of the first miracle, that of stopping hemorrhages, follows the fact that no doctor has been able to help this suffering woman. If the professionals cannot, who can? Also, in this story we have the thought that just a touch of a holy man’s tassel would bring healing – the tassel being the ’most distant’ element associated with the healer. Such a belief is seen throughout the Mediterranean world of this time; we see it again in Acts 5, 15: ’they laid the sick along Peter’s path in hope that even just the shadow of Peter would fall on them so that they would be cured’. The holiness and power of the person radiates even through his clothing. The tenderness of the story is enhanced by Mark’s giving us a number of direct address statements and by the juvenile reaction of the disciples who do not understand at all what is transpiring and by Jesus’ use of the word, "Daughter". That the woman, realizing her cure, falls in fear before Jesus makes the story more than that of healing; her understanding reveals the deep meaning of the Lordship of Jesus over all evil. The enduring element of the entire story, however, is the accent upon faith which Jesus underscores: faith in him brings salvation. Of course, the story limits ’salvation’ to a cure, but the reader realizes the deeper meaning involved here; through Jesus one reaches all manner of salvation. Unfortunately, the disciples fall short in appreciating what is happening. Again, this second miracle is lively by having the real name of the synagogue leader, direct address from different actors in the story, the ridicule of those in the house who know only that the girl is dead, Jesus’ guiding the mother and father of the girl to the miracle, and his handing their little girl to her parents. These touching elements are all intended by the author of the Gospel. Undoubtedly, emphasis falls on two points. First, the power of Jesus, the power of his word, is astounding; they parents reflect this astonishment. By just a word he makes live what was dead. It is by his word, not by a prayer to God to give life to this girl; it is by his word alone. Second, the apostolic witness is present: Peter, James and John. Thus, the testimony that validates the way in which Jesus acted, the way in which he made the dead live. The telling of these two miracles, so expertly intertwined, ends unexpectedly in Jesus’ orders that no one should be told of what he has done. At this point his command is mysterious, but it will come clear as we progress further into the Gospel. Enough now, Mark notes, is that the girl be given something to eat! Inevitably, the life Jesus pursues out of obedience to his Father marches on, with various reactions to him. Who is he? John Kilgallen, S.J.
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