An astounding dichotomy takes place in chapters 5-6; the story within a story of the hemorrhaging woman’s faith, the poignant lesson in faith for the synagogue ruler Jairus, his wife, Peter, James, and John. Mark draws a sharp contrast here. Faith and offense, belief and unbelief, healing of major illness and minor sickness…all these paint us a picture of the dichotomy Mark draws to our attention. Why?
I think the theme of faith found chapters 5-6 is related to the central theme of Jesus as Son of Man and Son of God that we find throughout the Gospel of Mark. In chapter 5 we find a very divine Jesus doing miraculous things. In chapter 6 we find the human carpenter Jesus, member of a small village community. Why the difference? For me, I think there is a direct link between the faith portrayed by the different main characters in each chapter.
In chapter 5, the faith of the synagogue ruler Jairus is such that he debases himself and risks his position in the community by falling down on his face before Jesus in the very public place of Capernaum’s harbor, begging Jesus to come and heal his daughter. His faith is such that he believes Jesus can do this; he risks all for his own daughter’s welfare. This is the kind of faith we are asked to take up; a sacrificial faith foreshadowing Christ’s own. This faith is well-placed, Jesus indeed works a miracle of healing for the twelve-year-old, a young lady likely just short of her Bat-mitzvah (coming of age ceremony). This faith contrasts sharply with the faith of the “many who heard him” in his own home synagogue-those who Mark reports “took offense at him” and among whom he could do no healing. Their witness in Mark’s story screams “don’t change anything, keep everything the way it is, don’t rock the boat, you are only our carpenter!” They don’t want their lives changed-or more correctly; they don’t want their perceptions of Jesus to be enlarged beyond “the carpenter, the son of Mary;” if they did, their lives might be changed.
Take the faith of the hemorrhaging woman…a faith so incredible that she believes she only need touch his cloak to be healed. A woman who for 12 years could not participate in any way shape or form in the community of which she was a part because of her condition. She who should have been an adult participant in all aspects of the community who by laws of cleanliness would have been shut away from it, never to be touched by another human being. Her faith is so strong that she risks sneaking out into the crowd to get close enough to touch the hem of his cloak. This kind of faith contrasts sharply with the few community members Jesus is able to lay hands on and heal in his hometown.
There is rich theology here too deep to be mined in this paper. In brief, this tells me faith is tied to active belief. Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman actively believe that Jesus can and will heal. And he does: “Daughter…your faith has made you well…” (5:34). Similarly, “He took [Jairus’ daughter] by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!”… Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around” (5:41-42). Conversely, characters in Jesus’ hometown take offense at him, actively dis-believe him, and utterly reject him. This faith is actually faithlessness; their consequence being “he could do no deed of power there…” (6:5).