One Living Hope

The Servant King’s Upside-Down Operation of Grace – Mark 5:21-43


I had a doctor’s appointment this past Friday and before the checkup, I went in on Wednesday morning to get my blood drawn. If you didn’t know, I am a diabetic and also have had high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. I take a lot of oral medication to control it. So having all these multiple issues with my health, going to get my blood drawn is always a point of discouragement and I always ask for prayer about it. It is an area I don’t believe the Gospel deep enough for me. As a hypochondriac, I become very fatalistic, always assuming the worst news.

Anyway, the morning I was going to get my blood drawn, I was talking to Jenny and I confessed that I forgot to take my pills the night before. She was rightfully upset and now I was even more upset and grumpier than usual as I walked into the lab. I had to fill out forms with the receptionist first.

I wanted to go in and out quickly.  I meet an older woman, Debra. She was really so joyful and was trying to have a conversation with me. To be honest, I was thinking, “Ain’tnobody got time for this lady! Not today. Give me the form, let me draw my blood and leave.” I am sure I had a “don’t talk to me right now” look on my face. So she’s talking about the weather and she noticed that my wife’s name was the same name of the nurse who calls her with orders. I said she’s a nurse nearby at a doctor’s office. She says, “Well, tell her thank you for your hard work.” I was like, “Who are you?” Who says that?!

Then she starts talking about her husband whose going to have surgery soon and then she says, “It’s important to have hope.” I nodded. “And you know, it’s important to know where your hope lies.” I looked up at her. What is going on right now? Is she witnessing to me? It might have been because she was like, “Koshy? Is that Hindu?” but I think it’s more because I looked so sad and depressed.

I’m still not saying anything as she’s talking, at this point. Then she says, “If it wasn’t for the Lord and the Scriptures, I don’t know where I would be.” Then I smiled and asked her, “Are you a believer?” She says, “Yes.” And those moments are always so great, because you feel like you just met a long-lost family member, and you have! Then of course I had to tell her sadly that I was a pastor. She was gracious, though if I wereher, I would have been like, “Physician, heal thyself!”

Later I was thinking, I realized that the Lord had sent her to me personally. I desperately needed encouragement. Underneath all my layers, the real question behind all questions and the sin under the sin as Keller would say is that I don’t really believe God cares for me enough to carry me through my anxiety about my health. And He sent her to remind me, “I care for you.” That’s always what’s underneath our struggles. Does God care for me? Does He love me? If so, why isn’t this happening? And why isn’t it happening right now? There is always a layer of unbelief. Worry is doubtingHis love, His wisdom, His power and His sense of timing.Things don’t happen according to our timetable or the way we perceived it, so we struggle. Sometimes we struggle because we have comparisonitis. We compare and despair because we think our story should be the same as someone else in our same season. Sometimes we struggle because it’s a chronic situation. It’s been a prayer for so long and it’s not happening.

In our passage today, we are going to look at two stories that will hopefully help us look and sort out these things a little better.We have been seeing the Servant King’s Authority in our series in Mark. He has authority over the natural world (Mark 4:35-41), the supernatural world (Mark 5:1-20) and today we will see two more opponents that will come against the Servant King: disease and the biggest opponent of all—death. And both these opponents will also find themselves defeated as well. However, the way the Lord operates in these stories is fascinating.

What we have today is another Markan sandwich. You have Jesus interacting a religious leader named Jairus, whose daughter was on the verge of death in vv. 21-24, interrupted by a bleeding woman in vv.25-34 and then back to Jairus and his daughter, who dies in vv.35-43. These sandwiches make it impossible to outline the text, so what we will do is go over the similarities of both stories, then the differences and finally glean some principles for us today.

First, let’s look at the similarities of both stories:

  • Females who are healed
  • Both called “Daughter” (v.23 and v.34)
  • The number 12—the woman’s chronic illness of 12 years and the age of the child
  • Jesus met by rebukes (v.31 and v.40)
  • Jesus comes in contact with uncleanness (the menstrual hemorrhage of the woman and the corpse of the child).All three characters in Mark 5 transfer their uncleanness to Jesus (don’t forget the demoniac in vv.1-20), and to each Jesus bestows the cleansing wholeness of God.[1]Both are desperate for Jesus. Some have called this chapter “The St. Jude Chapter.” St. Jude is the saint of hopeless causes.[2]

What about the differences? They are plenty!

Name No name given
Man Woman
Synagogue ruler Outcast
Approach face-to-face Approach from behind
Wealthy Destitute
Verge of death Chronic Illness

These are two totally different people and Jesus is totally different in the way He handles their situations. Let’s start with this:

I. Jesus has an upside down timetable

Let’s look at what happens. A great crowd is around Jesus and in comes a synagogue ruler named Jairus and falls at Jesus’ feet. He’s one of the lay leaders (as opposed to professional scribes and Pharisees) of the local Jewish worshipping community entrusted with overseeing the synagogue. He took care of the admin, maintained the building, made sure scrolls were available for reading every week, assigned Scripture readers and preachers.[3] He was an important religious leader with great honor and respect in his community.[4]

We don’t know if he was sympathetic or hostile to Jesus, but he was desperate, desperate enoughto risk religious ridicule and public embarrassment by kneeling at Jesus’ feet and begging Him to come to his home and heal his daughter.To “implore him greatly,” means He is making an intense, fervent plea from a full heart.[5] Luke in his account tells us this was his only daughter (Luke 8:42).

She’s in critical condition as the phrase “at the point of death” means she’s  “at death’s door” or “sinking fast.”[6]We are talking any minute now. She’s going to die unless Jesus comes. So despite this huge throng, Jesus enters this man’s plight and goes with him. I hope you see here that Jesus has concern for individuals, with the demoniac, the only child of Jairus and the bleeding woman. Just as they are rushing to Jairus’ house with the huge crowd probably going with him to see another miracle, a woman sneaks behind Jesus and touches His robe. We’ll come back to her, but notice what happens.

Mark 5:30 says in a strange way that Jesus feels weakness. He feels power going from Him. He knows there’s been a healing. But instead of continuing to rush to Jairus’ house, He stops everything. It’s like Jesus is sitting in an ambulance rushing to a really bad accident with the sirens going and Jesus saying, “Stop here” as he sees a person by the side of the road with his car hood up.

“I need to find out who got that healing.” “Really?” Jairus thinks. Are you serious Jesus? There’s no moment to spare! Actually, yes, there is Jairus, and I’m sparing it. Well, I’m no doctor, but there is a difference between chronic and acute. Chronic means something’s going on for a while and it’s bad, but it could wait a couple of hours. Acute means it happened suddenly and needs immediate attention. The bleeding woman has a chronic problem that’s been struggling with for 12 years. She lived with it for 12 years, so she can wait a little longer.

This little girl is about to die! And Jesus stops to hang out with her. If I was Jairus and this was happening and the doctor was doing this in the ER, I would probably sue for malpractice. And I wonder if Jairus is like, “Hurry Jesus! You can meet her later. She’s healed, but my daughter is going to die. C’mon! And lady, get in line!”

And then Jairus’ worst nightmare has come true. His daughter dies. And I am sure he is devastated. There is still one thing Jairus can do, but he must shift his focus from the circumstances of his daughter’s death to Jesus himself.[7]Jesus says in v.36 “Do not fear, only believe.”Boy, that’s tough. Trust me, Jesus says, be patient. I would have said, “Be patient? Be patient like you? Look what your patience has cost me! Your patience has cost me my daughter!”

Once again we see that Jesus is unmanageable. He was more unmanageable than the storm, more unmanageable than the demoniac and now we see that He will not operate on our sense of time, our idea of a reasonable schedule, our idea of punctuality or according to our organized google calendars. You can keep scheduling Him and His provision inside your google calendar, but He will keep deleting it. Why? He loves you too much to let you be the boss of your life. Don’t you hate backseat drivers? Jesus hates it too, especially when we do it with our lives and especially when you’re a child who thinks he’s a grown-up.

Do not hurry Jesus. He will not be hurried. Tim Keller says that God’s grace and love are compatible even with things that seem to be unconscionable delays. It’s not “I will not be hurried eventhough I love you”; it’s “I will not be hurried because I love you. I know what I’m doing. And if you try to impose your understanding of schedule and timing on me, you will struggle to feel loved by me.”[8]

Are you doing that to Jesus right now? Do you struggle with feeling loved by Him as a result? Do you feel like there is malpractice done by the Lord in your life? That’s because His timetable is upside down. Jesus’ patience is always a trial for our own because we need to see this:

II. Jesus has an upside down value system

If Jesus was a doctor in our day, He would have certainly been sued for malpractice. But we know here, He has total control of the situation and the reason for the delay teaches us some things about His value system. First:

a)      He values what we are becoming more than getting our needs met

Look, if He simply did this hit-and-run healing, we would easily think this Servant King is just a genie in a bottle. Let’s look at this lady for a minute. She has a chronic bleeding uterus, basically. Ken Gire describes her: “She has lived with a bleeding uterus for twelve humiliating years. She has been labeled unclean by the rabbis and subjected to the Levitical prohibitions: unable to touch others or to be touched. Ostracized by the synagogue. Orphaned by society. And orphaned by God, or so she thinks. She has prayed. She has pleaded. But for twelve agonizing years God has been silent.”[9]

What do you think people would say if they met her? They would judge her right away: “Bleeding uterus? That’s what you get probably from your perverted behavior.” She’s out of options as no doctor has been able to help her. Destitute, now her life is ebbing away. The steady loss of blood over the years has taken its toll. She is anemic, pale, and tired. So very, very tired.[10]

She’s not allowed to touch anyone, let alone a rabbi, so she has this superstitious idea that maybe she can touch His clothes to heal her. But notice that her faith is screwed up. Tell me, what did she need? She needs to be healed. No, that’s what she wanted. Jesus is giving her what her heart really needed which is the life transforming joy of a disciple of Christ that comes from being saved by grace and following Jesus.Jesus is saying, “Look. Don’t come to me just to have your needs met. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever meet any needs. Come to me for a life-transforming relationship with me. That’s what you should be coming for.”[11]

For the first time in maybe a long time, she is called, “Daughter.” Don’t miss that. She was an orphan to society and probably felt like an orphan to God and though she thought what she wanted was a quick healing, what she needed was to know that she belongs back into community, into a relationship with God. He speaks like a father to a child. Notice also her faith was all messed up. It was in Christ, but she had weird ways of showing it. A strong faith in a weak branch will kill you, but a weak faith in a strong branch will save you. It’s the object of our faith that counts, more than the quality.

Jesus is not interested in being our cosmic Santa Claus. He wants followers, not fans. So He’s interested in what we are becoming more than what we think He should be doing. What is God trying to teach me then? I don’t know because the only story I have is His and mine, not yours. But I do know He wants us to grow to be amazing disciples

A.H. Strong writes that when God wants to make a squash, He takes six months. But if He wants to make an oak tree, He takes 100 years. Growth is not a uniform in the tree or in the Christian. “In some single months there is more growth than in all the year besides. During the rest of the year, however, there is solidification, without which the green timber would be useless.”

To be honest, we don’t feel like we are being made into an oak. We want an appetite for quick, squash-like growth and progress.  As one blogger agreed, “I want excellent preparation and execution to always produce visible, lasting results and I want God to do the great things that I have dreamed up.  On top of that, I want these things now.”[12]

Notice Strong doesn’t say we produce squash, but that we are squash when we cannot wait. But knowing us, we would rather go around and say, “Look at how mighty I am, the squash! Instead of deeply bearing down our roots, growing in depth and strength.”

Isaiah 61:3 tells us that God wants us to be strong oaks, planted by Him for His glory! So we can be a squash or an oak. If we choose the path of the squash, we do it for our own glory, for the quick fruit that we can impress others with now.  If we choose the path of the oak, we are choosing to submit ourselves to the Lord’s purposes in everything, trusting that He will make us into something we could never become on my own.God will take you where you didn’t intend to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own.

b)  His values are always based on grace, not merit

We looked at how different these two people are. In this culture, who would have earned the right to talk to Jesus? It would have been the religious leader. Keller notes, “Yet Jesus Christ turns to the woman with zero social, economic capital and power and gives her his full attention and treats her as if there is nothing else in the world but her. He turns to a woman with zero status and power and makes a male civil and religious leader wait in the moment of his greatest need. “You can wait outside, please.”[13]His operation of grace here is upside-down. Remember how He called her “Daughter.”He is restoring her identity. She was labeled by her how society saw her and He’s changing the price tag to reflect her worth in Jesus’ eyes…and it’s totally by grace!

It would have been easy for Jairus to think, ”Well, I’m a religious guy. I do religious things for a living. If anyone should deserve the attention of this religious rabbi, it should be me.” Jesus says, “No. No one deserves my attention, but I freely give it away, purely by grace. You and the woman are the same. Both are needy for grace.” Jesus is a God of real grace. That reverses the values of the world, reverses the values of the world about beauty and status and power, etc.

Some of us think God owes us something. Hey I’ve prayed this long and I have tithed this much and I don’t do this bad thing or that bad thing, why isn’t God showing up? In other words, God’s my employer. I put in the hours, where’s the paycheck? We forget that all that we have is by grace. There is nothing good about us except Jesus Christ. I have nothing to offer my Lord except what He’s given to me, the song says. But do I really believe that?

Who believes that in this story? It’s the woman. She’s got nothing except her messed-up-ness and that attracted Christ to her. Our self-righteousness keeps us from Christ. The IAN after ChristIAN stands for “I am nothing aside from Christ.” One reason why we struggle so much with the Christian life as Christians is that we think that growing up in the faith involves becoming less dependent on God, that if I were really mature, I wouldn’t be such a mess and so needy for Jesus. But in reality precisely the opposite is true. It’s upside down. Your weakness is the door to His strength. The problem is that we are not needy enough. We are not desperate enough. We are the crowd who gather around Jesus but never touching Him or getting touched by Him.

Do you come to Sunday worship like that? I am so needy for His touch today? Delays in our life will knock our self-righteousness out of us and put us needy for grace. That is worth more to the Lord than leaving us the way we are. I am so glad His grace comes to us!

III. The cost of Jesus’ upside down grace

Though the news of the daughter’s death had arrived, Jesus decides to go anyway. These people “weeping and wailing loudly” were mostly women hired to mourn in that day (again shows Jairus as a man of means to afford this). They would be there from the house to the grave, clapping their hands and wailing loudly. This would have been really, really loud. He walks in and says, “She’s only sleeping.” Everyone is confused and mock Him. Why does He say that? Some have said this means the girl was just unconscious and Jesus was going to resuscitate her.

However in Luke’s account in Luke 8:55, it’s pretty clear that she was dead. Then why does He make the reference to sleep? Well, look at what happens. He sits down, takes her by the hand and says two words to her: “Talitacumi.” Talitha is “little girl” but it’s a lot more endearing than it sounds. A mother would use it towards her little girl. Maybe the best contemporary English translation is “honey.” He says, “honey, get up.” In other words, this is what a parent would say to a child to get up in the morning. Once again He’s speaking like a parent to the child…whether a bleeding woman outcast or a religious leader’s daughter, both treated by the Savior by grace.

Look at His power. No spells or calls to a higher power, no rolling up His sleeves to do a magic trick, but in a word, He stares at death, His biggest opponent yet…bigger than a hurricane/storm, bigger than legion, bigger than disease, but the number enemy of mankind…He stares at death and death blinked and gently lifts her up right through it. What is He saying? He’s saying, “When I have you by the hand, death is nothing but a good night’s sleep.”[14]

Don’t get confused here. When a believer dies, some have said your soul and body sleeps. However, the Bible teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Your body will sleep, but your spirit will be with Christ. Jesus died but through His death transformed death into an experience where it’s like you woke up after a good night’s sleep.

She’s resurrected and everyone’s amazed. We have a preview of every believer’s resurrection here. And Jesus is so practical as He tells them to give her some chicken soup or something. He also warns them not to say anything because He doesn’t want any publicity, but it will be hard to keep something like this quiet.

But here Jesus is saying, “I am the parent you need.” I know when my girls reach for my hand when we are walking somewhere, I know that they know everything will be ok.  This is the Parent who will walk with you by the hand every step of the way, even during the darkest night.


Remember one day this little girl would die again. One day the bleeding woman will die. So these miracles are great for the moment, but useless on its own, really, because who can save us from the chronic pain of hell and true eternal death? That’s the bigger issue. We are all hopeless causes in that sense.

But these stories teach us something more. Remember Jesus said that He felt “power going out of Him”? There was a glimpse of the cost of His grace. He loses something so she could gain. But we know the cost was even greater for our salvation don’t we? 2 Cor. 13:4 Paul says Jesus was crucified in weakness, so we can have power.

The worst thing for a child is to lose his parent’s hand in a crowd or some place. Yet what Jesus experienced was worse. He lost His Father’s hand, so we could have it. When He died, no one came to hold His hand because that was what we truly deserved. No one was there to speak tenderly to Him. That really is malpractice. We should have died. We were the unclean, yet He became sin, crucified outside near the city trash, excluded so we could be included. Orphaned, so we could be adopted. It’s all upside down. He took our place for our sin. He goes into the tomb so we can rise out of it. He lost the Father’s hand so we could know, if he has us by the hand, he will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever forsake us.

This past week I was thinking about when Jenny was pregnant with Abbie and I was laid off from my job. We were living with my in-laws and I was semi-depressed, wondering if I would ever find a job. Lord, how are you going to provide?  We had our baby shower the week before and my dutiful wife started organizing the closet with clothes by months. She had a “0-3,” section and “6-9” and so on.

I chuckled and said to Jenny and to the one in her belly, “See little one…way before you’re born, things are provided for you!” And almost in the next breath, the Lord hit me like a ton of bricks. “See my little one…way before you’re born, I have provided for you! I have set my love upon you, went all the way to the cross and the tomb so I can get you out of it, lost everything I had so you can have me. Will I leave you now? I have you by the hand.”

Listen, why would you want to hurry someone so loving and tender and wise like that?[15]He loves so completely. Jairus just wanted a healing, but he ends up seeing a resurrection. We will get far more than we ever imagined when we follow Him, but in His time. He makes everything beautiful in His time. So surrender your google calendar today, actually, put all of you into His hand. Let Him take you by the hand. Soon we too will wake up and behold His face.

[1]Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 161). Grand Rapids,

MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.



[4]Brooks, J. A. (1991). Mark (Vol. 23, p. 93). Nashville: Broadman& Holman

[5]Hiebert, D. E. (1994). The Gospel of Mark: An Expositional Commentary (p.

140). Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.

[6]Edwards, J. R. (p.162).

[7]Edwards, J. R. (p.166).

[8]Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death

of the Son of God (p. 61). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

[9]Gire, Ken (2011-01-04). Moments with the Savior (Moments with the Savior

Series) (pp. 162-163). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


[11]Keller, T. J. (2013).Sermon, “The Timing of Jesus,” preached April 9, 2006.

The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian

[12]Cook, G. (2012, January 31). Squash or Oak? Retrieved June 6, 2014, from

[13]Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon. Ibid.

[14]Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon. Ibid.

[15]Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon. Ibid.


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