Reflections on Mark 5:21-43, Day 55 NT Study

I participate in a few ongoing book studies and book club. One of which is a private online community whereby the challenge is to read the New Testament (NT) in one year. I’m sharing in this post a personal reflective insight specific on Day 55, Mark 5:21-43. I made a few edits to expand the narrative a little bit and to fit the essay into a blog post.

The Bible Project: New Testament In One Year, Day 55, Mark 5:21-43 (NIV)

“When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this, they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.”

There is so much to digest on this day’s passage study. Mostly, when people want to do a deep study of Jesus’ ministry, they go more towards Matthew and John or even Luke before they read Mark. I find Mark’s narrative style as fascinatingly insightful.

Mark’s accounts of Jesus’ healing and miracles and the casting of demons during his ministry and the emphasis on concealing Jesus’ identity as Messiah and Christ are evidentiary thematics. The Book of Mark is not a long read in comparison to the other gospels, although the author’s narrative is filled with action and his literary voice shows a sense of immediacy. How this book ended is a whole other literary exploration.

I read the Book of Mark a few times, but every time I go back to read it again I would always have this reaction, ”Whoa! Pause. Pause. What just happened?”

Menstrual Disorders

The story of the bleeding woman who was already suffering for 12 years and the young girl who just died and was literarily regarded as probably just 12-years-old is a good study of contrast. But first, the obvious similarity between the two is that they were both females. Their story conveys a similar religious belief that cast them as impure and thereby anyone who got into physical contact with them will be rendered ceremonially unclean. The difference was that the 12-year-old was depicted as unclean when she died. The Jews believed that touching a dead body defiled a living person.

Are we punishing women for having periods?

Did the Mosaic Law on purity help the overall being of women or did its implications push for the continuing neglect of women’s health and overall well being?

A menstruating woman during that time was regarded as still unclean for seven more days even after the flow has stopped. Women during this time were marginalized for being a woman. Let that sink in for a moment. Imagine what it’s like for the bleeding woman who suffered for 12 years.

Then, imagine the number of people she touched while she was making her way into the crowd for Jesus. Would they run away and do a ceremonial bath if they knew? What would they do to the woman? Maybe stone her to death? Imagine how people would have reacted if they had prematurely found out Jesus was touched by her. Understanding these scenarios put a context to the woman’s terror and horror when Jesus asked who touched His garment. But what boldness! She took a life and death risk. To me, it was undeniable that her knowledge of who Jesus was for her and her understanding of His providence was what motivated her to seek healing (or more like a new life). What an inspiring faith!

In contrast, the 12-year-old girl was beloved by her father. The father advocated and pled for her healing.

The bleeding woman was alone, abandoned. Is it not incredible that Jesus would address this woman as daughter? I am blown away!

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark‬ ‭5:34‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

And I wonder, given the society’s religiosity and cultural norms, would the girl’s father have this sense of advocacy and drive for her daughter when she begins her monthly bleeding? What if she develops a menstrual-related condition such as the bleeding woman’s affliction, will he cling to the religious beliefs and join others in the eventual marginalization of her being? What is Jesus telling us in the crossover of these two stories?

What is a menstrual cycle?

What is clear to me is seeing a pattern of the consistent narrative of Jesus’ ministry of shaking the status quo. He uses metaphors and direct examples of how, we as a society, should treat each other. It’s breathtaking, how constantly and consistently Christ has revealed how the narrow understanding of God and his precepts pulls people apart. And how hardened religious beliefs and societal demands and high moral expectations and kept humans, too, from developing a keen insight of God’s intention of unity and overall message of love.

I’m taken at how meticulous, insightful, and purposeful Christ’s revelations of how-tos with regard to love and treatment of each other.

In the different areas of today’s modern day society, how has the treatment of women changed?

How do people from different culture respond to menstruation? The people during the ancient world used women’s monthly period and menstrual-related conditions to subjugate and oppress girls and women, do you think a version of this is still happening today?

Menstrual Taboos Among Major Religions

In your study of Jesus Christ while he was on earth and your understanding of his ministry and messages pertaining to love and unity, what insights have you formed about how women should be regarded in society? In terms of the culture of interpersonal relationships among all genders, what do you think Christ endorses based on how he broke social protocols and cultural and religious norms of his time? What do upside-down leadership and selfless service mean in Christ’s ministry? How does that translate to practical living?

It should be easy for people now because we have the Bible, one would think. We see the characters, read between themes, and etcetera. But, we still get it wrong. And sometimes we get it wrong in a big way. Understandably so, especially in cases where the Bible has already taken the form of a God to us and when it’s utilized like a remote control for our personal understanding.

Thankfully, God’s transforming love and grace endure. Faith is not blind obedience or acceptance. Faith in Christ comes from knowledge, understanding, insights, and trust in Him and in His ministry.

Additional Readings

Menstruation and Sexual Intercourse: A Biblical and Scientific Review

Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Christian’s Reconstructions of Biblical Gender

Understanding the Bible: A Personal Perspective

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