The Tale of Two Daughters - Mark 5

By Betsy Barber Jul. 18, 2011 8:00 p.m. New Testament, Spiritual Formation

I have been sitting in the Gospel of Mark for several days, and The Tale of Two Daughters in Mark 5 has caught my soul’s attention.  You remember how the last half of the chapter goes:  Jesus has just demonstrated his authority over creation by calming the storm on the sea for his disciples, has demonstrated his authority over evil by casting out a legion of demons from the Gerasene man, and now has once more crossed the sea and landed on the shore where he is met by a great crowd of folks. 

Out of the crowd comes Jairus, one of the rulers of the local synagogue and a man of faith, who falls at Jesus’ feet and begs him earnestly to come and heal his little daughter who is at the point of death.  And Jesus starts off with Jairus to do just that for Jairus’ daughter.  I am moved by this father’s request on behalf of his beloved child, who even at 12 years old is referred to throughout as a “little girl”, so she’s probably pre-adolescent still.

Well, the ‘great crowd’ of people takes off with the two men and the disciples, and they are pushing and shoving and pressing up against Jesus.

In this crowd is a woman of faith who has had an ‘issue of blood’ for 12 years.  Notice the parallel: the dying 12 year-old girl and the woman with 12 years of illness.  For as long as the little girl has been alive, this woman has been hemorrhaging from a disease.  And what a disease!  According to Leviticus 15, her issue of blood makes her unclean.  So besides suffering this messy, painful, weakening physical condition that all her money spent on doctors has not cured, she is ‘unclean’ as well.  This means that her husband (and maybe children?) cannot eat food she has cooked, cannot sit on chairs upon which she has sat, cannot touch her even, without becoming ‘unclean’ themselves!  She isn’t allowed into worship services.  Yet she listens to Rabbi Jesus and she responds with faith.  Unclean or no, she knows that if she can just touch his clothes, she will be made well.

Think of it!  The Mosaic Law is reversed here:  rather than the Lord Jesus becoming unclean and contaminated by her, she is healed and purified by the holy power that resides in him!  This is who Jesus is, he is the Holy One: the Healer.

And so this woman of faith pushes in closely un-seen from behind, she reaches out, and touches Jesus’ clothes and immediately the flow of blood stops and she feels in her body that she is healed of the disease.  After 12 long years of getting weaker and weaker, she is well, she is clean again.  And Jesus responds immediately to the transfer of healing power and turns around and says:  “Who touched my clothes?”  And the disciples look at him like he is crazy and say, “What on earth do you mean ‘who touched my clothes?!’  Do you see all these people pressing in here?”  But Jesus continues to look around and the trembling woman comes and falls at his feet and tells him the whole story.  And Jesus looks at her and calls her “Daughter”.

“Daughter.” This one word turns my heart over and brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  I love Jesus for this.  He calls her: ‘daughter’.  On his way to heal Jairus’ dying daughter, Jesus stops and cares for one of HIS daughters.  And he endorses her faith, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace, be healed.”  Touching Jesus should have made him unclean, instead the touch made the woman clean!  No longer a defiled, weak, poor, outcast woman who approaches from behind and speaks with her fearful face on the ground, she is recognized and named as a faith-filled daughter of God and she is healed and she walks away in peace.  Hallelujah.

And yet the story takes another turn.  While Jesus is still talking with his Daughter,  through the crowd come messengers who Jairus did not want to see approaching.  Folks from his household with sad faces come and tell Jairus that his little daughter has died and that he should cease troubling the Teacher.  Dead bodies are so very dead; there is no mistake here. The little girl is gone.  But Jesus overhears this side conversation and counsels Jairus to faith:  “Do not fear, only believe.”  I wonder if Jairus looked at the older woman standing there and gained faith from her healing?

Now Jesus tells the crowd to stay back, and he takes off with Peter, James, John, and the child’s father.  Jesus had started out to heal this child, and so he continues on his way despite her death.  Coming up to Jairus’ home they are accosted by a wave of noise with yet another crowd of people gathered there weeping and wailing loudly to the accompanying dirge of flutes (Matthew and Luke tell us).

Jesus rebukes the mourners, insisting that the child is only sleeping.  At this, their weeping turns to mocking laughter.  Jesus shoos them all out of the house and taking only the little girl’s mother and father and his accompanying disciples, he goes in to where the child is laid.  And now he does something else amazing – he reaches out and takes her hand!  We are told in Numbers 5 that touching dead bodies defiles a living person.  But again, the holy power differential flows the other way with the Lord Jesus.  He not only has authority over nature and over demons, he has authority over death!  He is showing these Jewish folks that he is the authoritative Messiah about whom the prophets taught.

So Jesus reaches out and takes the little girl by the hand and says to her, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”  And immediately she gets up and walks around…. which freaks her parents right out with amazement.  They are stunned and overcome.  “Give her something to eat!”, says Jesus.  (I think he had a chuckle in his voice when he said that.)  This is, of course, proof-positive that she is alive and well: you don’t feed dead people after all. 

In meditating on these human interactions between Jesus and the two daughters, I am encouraged, I am heartened in my faith.  This passage reminds me that our dear Lord Jesus cares for the disenfranchised, he cares for us humans when we are sick and suffering.  When we are limited and brought low by suffering and sorrow, we too can call out to the Lord Jesus in faith for his healing and cleansing touch, for his attention.  And I am reminded that for us who follow the Lord Jesus, when we fall asleep in that final sleep of death, we too will wake up to his beloved voice, “Daughter, Son! Get up! Come and eat!”  And we will wake up in our Father’s Kingdom and eat at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19).  The voice of Jesus is the Voice that we all will obey when he calls us to life.

The Lord Jesus brings life to the dead, cleanliness to the unclean, healing to the sick.  Through salvation, he brings us to life and holiness.  His intent is to reverse the law of sin and death and to give us instead holiness and life.  Life and purity radiate from him and he gives them away freely.  He is generous and always merciful.  This has always been his characteristic way of responding to his daughters and sons.  This is who he is.


  • Cynthia Ruchti Jul. 19, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Two of my favorite stories! I love how The Message version expresses Jesus' words to the woman who suffered such humiliation for 12 years. It reads, "Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!" I can't imagine how weak she must have felt, physically. Emotionally, too. Such a relentless pain, relentless shame. But she reached out to Jesus, maybe even only able to pinch two fingers together on the hem of His robe. And it was enough, because He is more than enough! Great thoughts, Dr. Barber. Thank you.

  • Debbie Gault Jul. 20, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    Thank you for this poignant reminder of the power and compassion the Lord Jesus has for His children. Only He can heal, make us whole, and reverse the damage sin does to our souls. He gives us His holiness in place of our utter unrighteousness. To awaken to His voice, His invitation to the feast -- what a precious thought!

  • Rusty Jul. 20, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Thanks Betsy for sharing your first blob, and the story of the wonderful healing power of Jesus. - Rusty

  • rita Jul. 24, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    Did Rusty have a "typo?" Regardless; blob, blog they are wonderful words of life - I'm smiling! :)

  • Adam Jul. 25, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Thank you Betsy. So uplifting and encouraging to see Jesus loving you so well through His word.

  • Elsa Barber Aug. 4, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Thanks, Betsy. God truly works through you to minister to others!

  • MsApril Feb. 11, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    I cried like a baby. I read the passage in Luke just this morning during my devotional time. How compassionate is our Savior. He wants us to have the same compassion for others. Lord, help us!

  • Manqoba Sengwayo Zungu Jun. 22, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    This is so mind opening and helps in temrs of spiritual formation. I am so revived by this Christful message of hope to the seek and the outcast.

  • Mario Oct. 18, 2014 at 1:32 AM

    I have been thinking about the two intertwined episodes a lot, and I have also written about them, but your post is by far the best paraphrasis and comment I have ever read on them. Congratulations! Keep the good work!

  • Asi Aug. 24, 2015 at 3:00 AM

    Can anyone remember why the Holy Spirit chose to connect those 2 stories and share with us the details about the 12 year sickness and the age of the little girl? I heard an explanation once, but I can't seem to remember it now. thank you ^_^

  • Kevin Sapp Oct. 20, 2015 at 8:03 AM

    It would appear that the young daughter, and daughter of the religious leader, represents the "religion" that the Covenant Law has morphed into. Rather than a relationship it has become a 'keeping of the Law' and, thusly, has become "sick" and is now dead! Christ had come to restore the life and relationship between the father (and "The Father") with their children.

    Note the fact that the woman was ceremonoly unclean and not allowed to mingle among the population... so many believe she may have been a gentile. We, the gentiles, are likewise searching for a solution for our life that is wasting away but finding none. The answer for the gentile is to also press forward and touch Him.

    The dual twelves are to help us connect the two events and thus see His dual roles of reaching both the Jew and the Gentile.

  • Sophie Aug. 2, 2016 at 2:21 PM

    Hi Betsy,

    I love that you noticed this also! I was wondering if you think there is anything significant about the 12. Mark obviously thought it important enough to note that the woman had suffered for 12 years, and then the little girl was 12. You noted that as long as the girl had lived, the woman had suffered. I feel like there is something significant about this, but I just can't seem to put my finger on it!!

  • david Oct. 13, 2016 at 3:12 PM

    This is an interesting story. Ive wondered if the woman who has been bleeding for 12 years is the mother of the 12 year old child. The gospel writers refer to her as a CERTAIN woman which signifies something special about her. Could there have been some kind of complication with the childbirth? Is this some type of postpartem bleeding or dysmenorrhea (abnormal menstrual period) that occurs with some mothers after childbirth? Which would render her ceremonially unclean and unable to perform her wifely and motherly duties. Perhaps this is why she was so desperate and spent all of her money seeking doctors and why she was bold enough to come to Jesus the way she did...because she was desperate and motivated to be reconciled with her family? One writer states that she was healed and could walk...insinuating that maybe the child didnt walk because of her illness. It doesnt actually say that but that could be inferred. Afterall, the child was sick and dying from something? Why did Jesus tell them to feed her. Was she malnourished and cachetic (frail). Their are no idle words in scripture. The writers make it clear to connect a woman bleeding for 12 years (which suggests that she is still of childbearing years) with a 12 year old dying child. Instead of spoon feeding us everything, the Lord leaves enough clues for those willing to study, pray and dig into the word to discover the deeper mysteries of the bible. Or perhaps this is all speculation on my part. That is for each of us to decide.

  • Sam King Oct. 29, 2016 at 3:12 PM

    You miss the point of these two connected stories. When Jesus says "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," he means that the old way of healing based on supernatural connection (initiation through the mystery schools) is past, and that the new way of healing is based on the human ego (the "I AM" which Jesus brought to humanity through the descent of the "I AM" into his body at the baptism by John in the Jordan river (he became the Christ - the anointed one - at that point)). In order for a "healing" to take place now that the "kingdom of heaven" is at hand (the "I AM" has come down to humanity and is available - "at hand" - to each of us through our ego), we get to chose to have faith. The woman's "faith" made her whole because she chose to have faith. But there's also a teaching about karma here. There is a reason why the woman had 12 years of bleeding, and the child was 12 years old. There was a karmic connection between the woman and the child. In order for the child to be healed, first the woman had to be healed.

  • Pearl Dec. 18, 2016 at 12:50 AM

    Faith is a risk, a risk each believer is willing to take. John 1:12 says: 'He gave power to become the children of God. It is one thing when Genesis says God created Adam, man, and it is another to say "A Child of God". We are all to thrive to be called children and not just God's creation. Thank you for the good work man of GOD.

  • Janet B. Dec. 29, 2016 at 7:56 AM

    Dr. Barber, the fact that I found your post today is a direct truth that our Savior lives! I recently completed and published "A Certain Woman; Unleashing Your Greatness Through the Power of Your Faith!" And even with the book written, published and now on sale, I felt there was MORE God wanted me to see and know about this woman! My curiosity has more recently been the correlation between the two [Jairus' daughter and the woman] so today, I began online search and clicking and found your message immediately. Thank you for your compassionate clarity on the subject matter. Thank you for making it such an easy read and so beautifully and gently approached. I honestly don't see an "interpretation" here, I see the Holy Spirit and have received the words as such! I'm enlightened, renewed and inspired to press forward, reach higher and trust deeper! Your spirit is gentle but the power of God through you is mighty! God bless you for your faith in writing about His Daughters! I delight in knowing I am a member of the Family! :)

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