Jairus and the Hemorrhaging Woman

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Jesus (Healings), New Testament


Why is the story of Jairus interrupted by the hemorrhaging woman?


It could be that the event happened just that way, but it is also a literary technique used by the gospel writers to enhance both stories, providing larger insights and lessons. The "story within a story" is called an intercalation or a "sandwiched" story.

It becomes clear when they are told together that they belong together. There are too many verbal links to suggest otherwise. The daughter was twelve years old and on the brink of her womanhood. The woman had been hemorrhaging for twelve years and had become unclean and cast off because of her womanhood. The disparity in status and stature of the main characters cannot be overlooked. They are exact opposites. One was important and influential, a ruler in the synagogue; the other was an outcast with no standing in the community. Jairus was named; the woman was not. He had a family, a place in society; the woman had "lost all that she had." (She's probably homeless.) But there are some similarities, too. They both humbled themselves by falling at Jesus' feet. They both had a great need. Jairus asked that Jesus come and lay his hands on his daughter; the woman wanted but to touch his clothes. They both believed that Jesus was the one to help them, but they came from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Both threw caution to the wind -- Jairus made a spectacle of himself. She slithered along, trying to remain unseen.

Separately they are both interesting stories, but a whole new one emerges at the point where these two lives intersect. When the woman touched Jesus' clothes, she was healed instantly. Jesus immediately felt it, and asked, "Who touched me?" The disciples thought he was being silly; the woman thought she was caught. And Jairus? We wonder what he was thinking. He wanted Jesus to get to his house as fast as possible. The crowd is jostling along. And suddenly Jesus stopped! Did Jairus care who had touched Jesus?

Time passed; the woman stepped forward and confessed, in fear and trembling for what had happened to her. Jesus responded with great affection and tenderness, calling her "Daughter," verbally linking her with that daughter whose life was hanging by a thread. He did not condemn her behavior or chastise her in any way; rather, he acknowledged her faith and said that it had healed her, saved her, and made her well. It was a life-transforming moment for her; she could return to normal society. At that moment came the news to Jairus that his daughter had just died. It was too late; Jesus didn't get there in time.

How might an important person react to the news that an interruption by some unkempt, homeless person turned out to have fatal consequences for his child? We can only speculate. Jairus is not given an opportunity to respond. Instead, Jesus turned to him and said, "Don't be afraid; just believe." At that moment Jairus was offered a choice -- fear, anger, sadness, or belief. He had just witnessed the faith of the homeless woman and seen its powerful results. Jesus asked him to take the same strong stand. He could learn from the woman's healing. Perhaps her experience made it possible for him. Jairus led Jesus to his house, and Jesus restored his daughter's life. Like the woman before her, the daughter was healed, saved, made well.

In putting the stories together, Mark shows that there is no limit to the good that God can do. One is not healed at the expense of another. Those choices do not have to be made -- either/or, one wins/the other loses. Jesus demonstrated that God is present and caring for everyone – rich or poor. One is not more important than the other. God is no respecter of persons and His saving powers are available to all – in spite of whatever the material circumstances seem to be.

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