Jesus—His Life and Message: Miracles (Part 16)

July 25, 2017

by Peter Amsterdam

Raising the Dead (Part 2)

An account of Jesus raising a young girl from the dead is documented in all three synoptic Gospels, unlike the account of His raising a widow’s son from the dead, which was only recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Mark’s is the most detailed, followed by a shorter version in Luke and an even more abbreviated version in Matthew. I’ll refer to Luke’s version here. In all three, a second miracle features into the telling of the young girl’s raising, and that second miracle will be covered here as well.

These events are described as occurring upon Jesus’ return from the east side of the Sea of Galilee, after He had cast out the demons from the possessed man in Gerasenes, in the Decapolis.

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.1

Jairus was a man of social standing within the town. As a ruler of the synagogue, he was responsible for the financial and physical well-being of the synagogue, representing the Jewish community to the outside world, and regulating and selecting people to lead worship activities, such as the reading of the Torah, prayer, teaching, and so on.2 So desperate was this important man that he fell to his knees as a sign of submission, earnestly begging Jesus to heal his daughter who was at the point of death. Kneeling before Jesus was a significant act for one of such a high position. This shows that not all Jewish leaders were in opposition to Jesus.

Mark’s Gospel adds some details as to what Jairus said to Jesus:

He fell at his feet 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.”3

You can sense the desperation he felt, just as we can in other instances where those seeking healing came to Jesus:

A leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”4

Wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.5

Jesus immediately went with Jairus. It’s at this point that the second miracle unfolds.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.6

We’ve already been told that there was a crowd waiting for Jesus, and as He started off toward Jairus’ house, that crowd followed Him. Luke tells us that the large crowd pressed up against Him. Mark describes it as the crowd thronged about him. The Greek word translated as thronged means to press on all sides, showing that as Jesus was making His way to the house, He was undoubtedly coming into physical contact with anyone who was close to Him.

Within this crowd was a woman in a very sad state. For twelve years, she’d had a discharge of blood. The repercussions of the woman’s affliction went beyond the physical discomfort of the illness, also negatively affecting her life and social standing. The Law of Moses stated that during a woman’s monthly menstruation, she was ritually unclean. A prolonged discharge of blood was also directly addressed:

When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.7

What this meant was that for the twelve years she had been continually bleeding, she was considered ritually unclean. Anything she sat on or lay on became ritually unclean. Anyone who touched her or her bed or a chair she sat on became unclean and had to wash their clothes and bathe. This severely curtailed her interaction with others, basically shutting her out of fellowship and keeping her from participating in Jewish religious life, thus making her basically a social outcast.

Besides suffering physically and socially for twelve years, we’re also told that she had spent all her money consulting with and paying numerous doctors in the hopes that they would be able to heal her, but to no avail. Mark’s Gospel adds that she had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.8

She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.9

Different Bible translations speak of her touching the hem of His garment, the tassel of His robe, and the edge of His cloak. Some Bible commentators consider that this might refer to the fringes or tassels which Jewish men were required to have on the four corners of their clothing. In the book of Numbers we read:

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.’”10

The woman with the issue of blood wasn't the only one within the Gospels who touched the fringe of His garment and found healing:

Wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.11

When the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.12 

This woman had heard reports that Jesus healed the sick,13 and when He came to her town, she inconspicuously blended into the crowd in order to come behind Him and touch the edge of His garment, in the hopes that she would be healed—and she was, immediately! Twelve years of bleeding and social isolation was instantly over.

Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”14 

The woman had tried to be anonymous, perhaps feeling that because she was ritually unclean, it would be better for her to simply touch His garment unnoticed. However, Jesus noticed it immediately. In response to Jesus’ question and the crowd’s denial, it made sense for Peter to point out that all kinds of people were touching Jesus due to the crowds walking with Him. Jesus knew, though, that this was no normal touch, since He had sensed that power had gone out of Him. Luke’s Gospel talks about the power Jesus possessed—the power of God and the Holy Spirit. Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.15 For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!16 The power of the Lord was with him to heal.17 All the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.18

When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.19

We’re not told why she was trembling. Perhaps she was afraid of what Jesus would do, or that He might be angry that He was now ritually unclean because she had touched Him. Falling down before Him was an act of respect and of begging for His mercy. She explained her motivation for touching Jesus, and testified that as soon as she did, she was completely healed. Such a public declaration by a woman would have been uncommon in those days.20

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”21 

Calling her “daughter” was a respectful and affectionate manner of addressing a woman, regardless of age or relationship. Jesus commended her, telling her that it was her faith that had healed her. She became well when she touched the fringe of His garment because she had faith that Jesus could heal her, and she manifested her faith by her actions—coming to Him and getting close enough to touch Him.

Jesus bidding her to go in peace was a way of telling her that her relationship with God was fully restored, since she was no longer ritually unclean and thus could attend synagogue, enter the temple, and offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, which she hadn’t been able to do for twelve years. The peace referred to here was not an internal subjective feeling; it was a state that existed between the woman and God, because of her faith. Such assurance for a woman who had been ceremonially unclean for twelve years would bring great comfort and encouragement.22

After this healing, the focus shifts again to Jairus’ daughter.

While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.”23 

Jairus exhibited faith by letting Jesus carry on to his house.

When he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.24

The Gospel of Mark adds a few more details, telling us that when Jesus arrived, He saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.25 Matthew’s Gospel adds that when they arrived at the house they saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion.26 Mark also adds that Jesus sent all of the mourners outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.27

The traditional mourning had begun at Jairus’ house. Author Robert Stein explains:

In typical Semitic style, there is a great outpouring of grief. Jairus’ leadership position in the community would have guaranteed “much” weeping and wailing. Professional mourners would often be hired to assist in such mourning. Matthew 9:23 mentions flute players being present. [Jewish writings state] “Even the poorest in Israel should hire not less than two flutes and one wailing woman [in such circumstances].”28

The only ones in the room with the dead girl were Jesus, three of His disciples, and the girl’s parents.

Taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.29

Mark’s Gospel includes a few more details:

Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.30

Since Jesus earlier said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping,” some commentators interpret this as saying that the girl wasn’t dead, but rather was in a coma. However, since the people in the house were weeping and wailing, it’s clear that they understood that she was dead—probably because she was no longer breathing. Jesus took the dead girl’s hand and commanded her to arise. Taking her hand rendered Him ritually unclean, but that mattered little to Him; restoring her life was infinitely more important.

Immediately the girl’s life was restored as her spirit returned. This verse teaches that the spirit is the part of a person that survives death, and that with death a separation of the body and spirit occurs.31 She immediately responded to Jesus’ command and rose. Jesus commanded that they give her some food. In Mark, we’re told that she walked around. All these points show that the girl had been fully revived. The parents were amazed, as were most likely all those who had been mourning. We can only imagine the surprise of those who had laughed at Jesus when they saw the girl restored to life.

Jesus told the parents not to tell others what had happened. This is difficult to understand, as the house was full of mourners who knew the girl had been dead, and in addition they most likely told the crowd that had accompanied Jesus to Jairus’ house, so many people would know that the girl had been raised from the dead. Bock offers this explanation:

Jesus knows that he is headed for a different kind of ministry than people will want from Him. Excessive focus on His works of power will undermine the type of commitment he will ask from people. … There will come a time when His miracles will go public, but their publicity need not be encouraged since they are not at the heart of what Jesus is doing. … The call to silence makes clear that Jesus does not regard such acts as the center of His ministry, but as only the evidentiary periphery.32

At the heart of each of these miracles was faith. The woman who had been ill for so many years and tried so many cures had the faith to seek out Jesus and to touch His garment. Jairus had faith to ask Jesus to come cure his daughter, and even though there was a delay and he found out his daughter had died before Jesus arrived at his house, he believed what Jesus had told him: “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.”

The message is that we should have faith based on the greatness of the one in whom we have faith. Jesus demonstrated the power bestowed upon Him as God’s Son through various supernatural signs, including miracles of healing and reversing death, casting out demons, and nature miracles.

(This topic will continue in “Raising the Dead, Part Three”)


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

General Bibliography

Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Biven, David. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Holland: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.

Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.

Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Carson, D. A. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987.

Charlesworth, James H., ed. Jesus’ Jewishness, Exploring the Place of Jesus Within Early Judaism. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997.

Chilton, Bruce, and Craig A. Evans, eds. Authenticating the Activities of Jesus. Boston: Koninklijke Brill, 1999.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

Evans, Craig A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

Evans, Craig A., and N. T. Wright. Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Flusser, David. Jesus. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1998.

Flusser, David, and R. Steven Notely. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Guelich, Robert A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 1–8:26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

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Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.

McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.

Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1960.

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Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

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Stein, Robert H. The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.

Stott, John R. W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

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Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.

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Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995.

1 Luke 8:40–42.

2 Stein, Mark, 265.

3 Mark 5:22–23.

4 Mark 1:40.

5 Mark 6:56.

6 Luke 8:42–43.

7 Leviticus 15:25 NIV.

8 Mark 5:26.

9 Luke 8:44.

10 Numbers 15:37–40 NIV.

11 Mark 6:56.

12 Matthew 14:35–36.

13 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment (Mark 5:27).

14 Luke 8:45–46.

15 Luke 4:14.

16 Luke 4:36.

17 Luke 5:17.

18 Luke 6:19.

19 Luke 8:47.

20 Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, 798.

21 Luke 8:48.

22 Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, 799.

23 Luke 8:49–50.

24 Luke 8:51–53.

25 Mark 5:38.

26 Matthew 9:23.

27 Mark 5:40.

28 Stein, Mark, 273.

29 Luke 8:54–56.

30 Mark 5:41–42.

31 Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, 805.

32 Ibid., 805.