Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Mark 5

Verse 1

This chapter records the events regarding the Gerasene demoniacs (Mark 5:1-20), and the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:21-24,35-43), and the parenthetical miracle of healing the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34).


And they came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. (Mark 5:1)

Other side of the sea ... that is, the eastern shore of Galilee.

Gerasenes ... In the parallel accounts (Matthew 8:28-35; Luke 8:26-40), Luke has "Gerasenes" as here, and Matthew has "Gadarenes." The actual site has been identified as being on the south bank of the Wady-es-Semak on the eastern shore of Galilee, a place called GERASA, now a ruin, on a narrow rim of the lake, about 120 feet wide, at the base of a steep incline to the sea.[1] Gadara was the principal town of the area, so Matthew called the area "the country of the Gadarenes."

Verse 2

And when he was come out of the boat, straightway there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.

One's interpretation of this miracle will inevitably reflect his belief concerning demon possession and concerning the incarnation. Concerning the latter, the conviction followed in this commentary is that Jesus was indeed God come in human form, and yet possessing all of the attributes of God. Concerning demon possession, a more general statement is proper.


Trench called this miracle "the most important, and, in many respects, the most perplexing of all the cures of demoniacs";[2] and this is an appropriate place to give attention to this phenomenon which is mentioned in all the gospels. Demon possession may not be identified merely as mental disorders, or various kinds of sickness, because a differentiation between them is clearly made in the gospels. Furthermore, the conversations Jesus carried on with demons, their recognizing him as "Son of God Most High," and his addressing them as personal cannot be adequately explained as a mere accommodation on the part of the Lord to superstitions of his contemporary generation. The integrity of the sacred gospels as history must be set aside in any view that denies the reality of demon possession in the New Testament.

Are there difficulties in such a view? Indeed yes; but the difficulties derive from what people do not know, rather than from what they know: (1) It is generally supposed that no such thing as demon-possession exists on earth today; and, if that supposition is correct, it would simply mean that the power of Jesus Christ in destroying the works of the devil, which was his purpose in coming into this world (1 John 3:8), was effective and that Satan's demonic followers are not able to work the havoc upon human personality in this age, as formerly. The multiplication of such disorders in the times of Christ should, in such a view, have been expected as the demons recognized the holy Saviour and his purpose of destroying them. (2) However, it is by no means certain that the phenomenon has actually disappeared. Trench suggested that if one with apostolic discernment today should enter a madhouse "he might recognize some of the sufferers there as `possessed.'"[3] Cranfield thought that "There may be more truth here in the New Testament picture than has sometimes been allowed," and asks if perhaps "The spread of a confident certainty of the demons' non-existence has not been their greatest triumph."[4] He also pointed out that witch burnings were not due to taking the New Testament too seriously, "but they were due to failing to take it seriously enough."[5] So, take it either way: whether or not demon-possession still exists or not, the reality of it THEN is certain. In the unreasonable and atrocious crimes, abnormal bestiality, and senseless wickedness exploited on the front pages of newspapers every day, there is far more than a possibility that satanic possession is the cause of at least some of it.

[2] Richard C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1943), p. 162.

[3] Ibid. p. 176.

[4] C. E. B. Cranfield. The Gospel According to St. Mark (Cambridge: University Press, 1966), p. 75.

[5] Ibid.

Verse 3

Who had his dwelling in the tombs: and no man could any more bind him, no, not with a chain; because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been rent asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: and no man had strength to tame him.

Mark stressed the unnatural strength of this troglodyte, using two entire verses to stress it; but Matthew supplied the significant fact that his ferocity had closed the area to human traffic, and Luke the equally significant fact that he was naked. Such a human monster had no doubt cast a terror over the entire village. See Zechariah 13:1,2.

Verse 5

And always, night and day, in the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out, and cutting himself with stones.

Such a bloody, noisy, physically powerful degenerate was a troublesome handicap to all who lived in the area.

Verse 6

And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped him.

The demon-possessed seem always to have been able to recognize Christ. The man's worshipping Jesus is a reference to his falling down before him; and, in view of the man's behavior after he was healed, it must also have included (on the man's part, if not the demon's) an adoration of the Lord spiritually. The effect of his possession was that of splitting the personality, making it impossible, in each instance, to distinguish between what was done by the demon and what was done by the man.

Verse 7

And crying out with a loud voice, he saith, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God? I adjure thee by God, torment me not.

Son of God Most High ... This name of God Most High is very ancient, appearing in connection with Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), Balaam (Numbers 24:16), and in the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:8). The Hebrews did not invent or evolve monotheism, that being the original view of the Father, even prior to Abraham.

I adjure thee by God, torment me not ... This petition of the demon seems here to have been predicated upon God's prior promise that the demonic world would be vanquished at some time certain in the future, hence his invoking God's name in the request. "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" as in Matthew, carries the same implication. It will be noted that Matthew mentioned two men in this connection; but Mark and Luke restricted their accounts to the more ferocious and prominent of the two. A glimpse of God's ultimate plan of destroying evil surfaces here in the demonic knowledge that such a destruction is in store for them and that an appointed time for it has already been determined. See Acts 17:31, also Zechariah 13:1,2.

Verse 8

For he said unto him, Come forth, thou unclean spirit, out of the man.

There is no evidence that the unclean spirit had the power to resist Jesus' word here; therefore, we must disagree with Barclay who alleged that Christ failed twice to cast out the demon before finally succeeding.[6] It must be remembered that Mark did not set down "in order" the things Jesus did. Besides, Christ did not repeat the command, once being sufficient. By the demon's request to enter the swine, that evil being confessed the necessity of his obeying Christ's command. Certainly, it is puerile to suppose that Christ asked the demon's name in order to procure power over him! See under Mark 5:9.

Verse 9

And he asked him, What is thy name? And he saith unto him, My name is Legion; for we are many.

What kind of believers are those who represent Christ as attempting here, by interrogation, to discover the demon's name, in order to be able through such knowledge to cast the demon out? Can they really mean that God in Christ needed to ask anything like that? No. Christ asked THE MAN his name, not because the Lord did not know it, but because he sought thereby to bring the man back to a sense of his own identity, an identity the demon had usurped as shown in the reply.

My name is Legion; for we are many ... The confusion of the singular and plural pronouns here is further indication of the fission which the demon had inflicted upon the man. A legion was four or five thousand men; and, although no truth may be certain in such a reply from such a source, it is at least in harmony with the idea of multiple possessions in some cases, Mary Magdalene being another example (Mark 16:9).

Verse 10

And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.

He ... them ... The same confusion in the evil spirit prevailed here, as if he cannot make up his mind where he is one or a Legion! It has been suggested that the speaker was the leading demon speaking for all the rest, but the view is precarious. Of course, we do not have the exact words of the petition, only Mark's account which gives it indefinitely.

One thing is clear. The demons were fearful of having to depart the dwelling they had usurped in the wretched creature before the Lord, and they pleaded not to be sent away.

Verse 11

Now there was there on the mountain side a great herd of swine feeding. And they besought him saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

Whereas "he" besought the Lord in Mark 5:10, it is "they" who do the beseeching here, making it sure that the demons were the ones pleading.

Great herd of swine ... Of all the lower creation, only the serpent and swine are revealed in Scripture as possessed of an evil spirit. As Taylor said, "The serpent is a symbol of intellectual cunning and the swine of gross uncleanness,"[7] suggesting that in both categories there is great temptation to the human family.

Verse 13

And he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered into the swine: and the herd rushed down the steep into the sea, in number about two thousand; and they were drowned in the sea.

We reject views like that of Barclay who thought that the cries of the man frightened the swine into their destruction, and that the Lord used this to "convince" the man the demons had left him; and also the view that the hogs committed suicide rather than allow the demons to possess them! Mark here stated that the demons entered the swine, and there is no reason for dissociating their immediate destruction from that evident cause of it.

Here is a great difficulty in the eyes of some; but it is a difficulty founded on prior disbelief of demon-possession and the power of the incarnate God in Christ. The destruction of the swine was necessary in order that Christ might thereby show what is the true intent and purpose of Satan. If people desire to know what Satan is and what he will do to them who permit his evil domination, let them behold the example of these swine. Look what Satan did to the family of Job in a single day; solely because he had God's permission to do it. From the gates of Paradise to the present hour, Satan has had one invariable purpose, that of the total destruction of man. The example of the swine is an instructive example of Satan's perpetual intent. But what about the property issue? Christ did not destroy the swine; the demons did. Christ's permission of such a thing is no more than God's permission of all natural disorders like earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, droughts, and tornadoes, etc., which kill millions of people (not swine alone); and yet all thoughtful persons find no difficulty reconciling this with God's love and justice.

Verse 14

And they that fed them fled, and told it in the city and in the country. And they came to see what it was that had come to pass.

The swineherds roused the countryside with the result of a great throng of people who gathered around the Lord, his disciples, and the man from whom the legion of demons was cast out.

Verse 15

And they come to Jesus, and behold him that was possessed with demons sitting, clothed and in his right mind, even him that had the legion: and they were afraid.

This contrasts with the picture Mark gave of the man before the demons were cast out. What a tragic picture he presented: naked, bleeding, furtive, dwelling in tombs, constantly crying out, etc. Behold the change. He is clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus! This shows what Christianity does. "It clothes the naked, moderates the madness of passion, and many a man with a ragged coat and an empty pocket before conversion now has a purse and two coats."[8]

And they were afraid ... Such a powerful demonstration of God's power instilled fear in a whole community.

Verse 16

And they that saw it declared unto them how it befell him that was possessed with demons, and concerning the swine.

Ah ...! There was the little detail about those missing swine. If that community had only had the grace to have raised a fund to reimburse the owners and to rehabilitate the healed man, there might have been a happier ending to this story; but they were so blinded by the secular loss that, instead, they asked the Son of God to leave the community!

Verse 17

And they began to beseech him to depart from their borders.

This was a rash prayer, but Jesus answered it by departing and never setting foot in the area again; however, he did not leave himself utterly without witness, as the next verses disclose.

Verse 18

And as he was entering into the boat, he that was possessed with demons besought him that he might be with him.

One can appreciate the feelings of the man whose life had been so distraught by the powers of darkness, and whose feelings of love and gratitude toward Jesus caused him to desire constant fellowship with the Lord. Those who have tasted the blessing of the Lord desire to be ever in his company and partakers of his companionship.

Verse 19

And he suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go to thy house unto thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and how he had mercy on thee.

On occasion, Jesus forbade the beneficiaries of his miracles to speak of them; but here it was commanded, the reason as discerned by Dummelow, was that "It was a Gentile area, and there was no danger of any popular excitement."[9] Also, it would appear that the necessity of providing some witness of the truth for the unfortunate village whose leaders asked the Lord to depart might have had something to do with it.

It is of the greatest significance that Jesus here referred to himself as "the Lord" who had done for the man "great things" and "had mercy upon" him.

Verse 20

And he went his way, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men marveled.

Attempts to get rid of Jesus in all ages have generally been as futile and ineffective as were those of the village of the Gerasenes. "Decapolis" means "the ten cities" which lay in the area, nine of them east of lake Galilee; and it must have been a very effective witness indeed which was provided by that erstwhile terror of the tombs who went up and down the area extolling the power and mercy of Jesus, whom he also, no doubt, identified as "Lord." No wonder it is said that "All men marveled."

Lessons from this miracle include: (1) Jesus came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and here was an outstanding example of it. (2) Jesus must choose for all men the area of the service they will render to his name; the man here was denied his request and given another assignment. (3) Men frequently need to begin at home the work of bringing others to Christ. (4) Men should beware of permitting purely secular interests to dominate their thinking. This wretched village made a choice which probably resulted in the eternal death of many of their citizens.


The significance of this wonder lies in the identity of the principals. Jairus was a ruler of the Jewish synagogue in Capernaum, a prominent and respected leader of the people, and who, according to Trench, was part of "the deputation which came to the Lord pleading for the heathen centurion (Luke 7:3)."[10] Only about forty years had elapsed since the deed itself when Mark composed his gospel. He may not have been an eyewitness of the miracle, but he had worked closely with the apostle Peter for years, and Peter was an eyewitness. Furthermore, he had heard the apostle preach hundreds if not thousands of times; and the elementary integrity which must be assigned both to Peter and to Mark make any doubt of this miracle an act of the will, not of intelligence. All of the gobbledegook which has come out of the critical schools regarding Mark's "sources" has been subjectively fabricated in the laboratories of unbelief and can never be made to fit the fact that Mark needed no source except that of having heard the apostle Peter preach the same thing over and over for three decades, until, it may be assumed, Mark knew it all by heart. Since Peter was an eyewitness, there was simply no room for any "traditions" to have grown up, no time for any admixture of foreign elements, and no opportunity for any corruption of the narrative. We are here face to face with historical truth.

So much for the eye-witness and the narrator; what about the person raised from the dead? The prominence and power of Jairus, and the fact of his having been widely known in Capernaum by at least thousands of people within a time limit of not over forty years before Mark wrote make it absolutely impossible that any fictitious element could have been injected into this historical event without bringing a deluge of criticism and refutation. The rapidly spreading faith was opposed by countless powerful and determined enemies who would have seized upon any excuse to charge the apostles and gospel writers with fraud; but it is a singular fact that history has produced no such denials. It must be assumed that Jairus' contemporaries, his fellow-rulers of the synagogues of Israel, most of whom did not accept Christianity, knew of this record in the Christian gospels, as well as of the repeated preaching of it for forty years; but they did not contradict it, the truth of it being so widely known, and so utterly beyond all denial, that they could not demean themselves by any attempt to refute the truth. It is agreed by all the world that Mark wrote his gospel prior to 70 A.D., and perhaps as early as 60 A.D.; and the nature of it is such that had there been any element of untruth or inaccuracy in it, it could never have gained credibility. But it did gain credibility, a credibility which has been maintained for more than nineteen centuries. No lie could have done that.

Verse 21

And when Jesus had crossed over again in the boat unto the other side, a great multitude was gathered unto him; and he was by the sea.

The other side ... means the western shore of Galilee; and the scene would have been the sky-sea-land theater in which the pulpit was a boat, not far from the city of Capernaum. In a sense, Capernaum was the ordinary residence of Jesus. As Bickersteth noted:

Matthew (Matthew 4:13) tells us that he had left Nazareth, and was now dwelling at Capernaum, thus fulfilling the ancient prophecy with regard to Zebulun and Naphthalim (Luke 4:16-31). Matthew (Matthew 9:1) calls Capernaum his own city. Christ ennobled Bethlehem by his birth, Nazareth by his education, Jerusalem by his death, and Capernaum by making it his ordinary residence.[11]

Verse 22

And there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue Jairus by name; and seeing him, he falleth at his feet.

One of the rulers ... Every synagogue was managed by a board of presbyters, or elders."[12] His willingness to fall upon his knees before the Son of God emphasizes the heartbreak which was crushing his soul. There can be no doubt that many of his peers despised him for thus humbling himself before the Lord, but what blessing rewarded his pathetic plea.

Verse 23

And beseecheth him saying, My little daughter is at the point of death: I pray thee that thou come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be made whole, and live.

My little daughter ... She was, according to Taylor, not only Jairus' only daughter, but his only child. He based this conclusion upon Luke's use of the word meaning "only begotten."[13]

At the point of death ... Matthew quoted Jairus as saying, "She is even now dead" (Matthew 9:18); and Luke recorded that "she was dying" (Luke 8:42). Sure enough, here is a pseudocon! Richard Trench observed that:

When the father left the child, she was at her latest gasp; and he knew not whether to regard her now as dead or alive; and, yet having not received certain knowledge of her death, he was perplexed whether to speak of her as departed or not, expressing himself one moment in one language, and at the next in another. Strange that a circumstance like this, so drawn from life, so testifying to the reality of the things recorded, should be urged by some as a contradiction![14]

[13] Ibid.

[14] Richard C. Trench, op. cit., p. 195.

Verse 24

And he went with him; and a great multitude followed him, and they thronged him.

This indicates that the crowd itself got into Jesus' way as he set out to go to the home of Jairus. There was no way that such a persistent throng of so many people could be quickly dispersed. Jesus' movement to go to the ruler's house precipitated a stampede, as we might say, with the inevitable result of delaying Jesus' arrival at the bedside of the child. Also, as the next verse shows, another instance of Jesus' miraculous power was to be unfolded en route.

The unique intertwining of these two miracles is a mark of originality emphasizing the authenticity of both. Who could have imagined such a thing as that which here took place? Sometimes when judges hand down rulings upon certain questions, they render other judgments at the same time upon lesser matters, or connected questions, sometimes of very great importance; such rulings being referred to as "obiter dicta." Taylor called this an "obiter miracle" of Christ,[15] referring to the healing of the woman which, in this context, reminds one of a double geode, one inside another.

Verse 25

And a woman who had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.

The gospels are so human, despite their divinity, that the interplay of human personality often reveals little touches or glimpses of pleasantry, or even humor. Mark gave here a rather brutal description of the experience this poor woman had received from many physicians. The doctors had taken all of the woman's money, prescribed many useless and ineffective remedies, none of which did any good; and all the while the patient only got worse! Notice however, that Luke, himself a good physician, gave the essential facts a little differently, not contradicting Mark in any way whatsoever, but with a different emphasis, saying "(she) had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed of any" (Luke 8:43). The inherent implication in Luke is that perhaps the physicians had done the best they could, but the malady was beyond their power to heal. He omitted the reference of Mark to the sufferings the poor woman had endured through the application of outlandish remedies, and the implication, though not clearly stated in Mark, that the physicians had made the woman worse. The difference in the professional and lay viewpoints in these gospels is clear enough; but their records nevertheless coincide perfectly.

Verse 27

Having heard the things concerning Jesus, came in the crowd behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I touch but his garments, I shall be made whole.

Having heard the things concerning Jesus ... The woman might have been a citizen of Caesarea Philippi;[16] and, if so, this indicates the widespread knowledge of the mighty works of Jesus.

Touched his garment ... God had commanded Hebrew men to wear a border on their garments, "the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue" (Numbers 15:38), the same being a reminder that they were God's people. As Turlington said, "She shared the ancient view that the healer's own person was potent and that his clothing, or even his shadow, could serve as bearers of his power (see Acts 5:15; 19:12)."[17]

If I touch ... I shall be made whole ...; Mark 6:56 and Matthew 14:36 have the statement, "As many as touched were made whole," the same being one of the profoundest statements in Scripture. For sermon outline on this, see the Commentary on Matthew, p. 221.

[16] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 659.

[17] Henry E. Turlington, The Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1946), Vol. 8, p. 310.

Verse 29

And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her plague.

Imperfect as the woman's faith was, it proved enough; and herein is a mighty encouragement for all. If our redemption is dependent upon our full knowledge of all the truth concerning Christ and his holy religion, none of us shall ever be saved. A little faith, even though it be imperfect, acted upon is better than great faith unsupported by consistent deeds.

Verse 30

And straightway Jesus perceiving in himself that the power proceeding from him had gone forth, turned him about in the crowd, and said, Who touched my garments?

Who touched ...? Evidently, from the ensuing remark of the apostles, many had jostled him; but someone had touched in a far more meaningful manner. Of course, Jesus knew already who had touched, had already judged her faith, and had by his own volition healed her. We should not fall into her superstition by supposing the tassel did it! Nor should we fall into the guilty error of ascribing ignorance to Jesus as the reason for his asking the question. Was God asking for information when he inquired, "Adam, where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9), or when he asked of Cain, "Where is Abel thy brother?" (Genesis 4:9). The reason for the question was resident in the fact that Jesus desired to bestow upon the woman a greater blessing than mere healing. He would not permit her, in a sense, to steal a blessing, but would provide it for her openly, and before all.

My garments ... shows that the woman did not touch merely one little place on Jesus' clothes. The big pseudocon that makes a point out of "tassel" in one place and "fringe" in another is exploded by the truth here that this woman did a lot of touching!

Verse 31

And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

The disciples were incredulous that any single touch would have been identified by Jesus in such a press as that which enveloped them all, and their words here appear to have been a little petulant, as if they had said, "Look, you cannot be serious about identifying a `touch' in such a manhandling as all of us are confronted with here!" No disrespect was intended by the disciples' remark or by Mark's record of it.

Verse 32

And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.

Jesus was not looking for "the person" but for "the woman" who had done it. He already knew not only the sex, but the history, the faith, and the intention of the one whom he had already consciously healed.

Verse 33

But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done to her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

The woman saw instantly that nothing was hidden from the Master, and, fearful that he might be displeased with her actions she fell in worship at his feet and poured out the entire story of her twelve years of wretched sorrow, spent resources, frustrated applications to physicians, and of her desperate resolve to find at last in Jesus the healing of her shame. It is a matter of the utmost discernment and tenderness with regard to human sensibilities that Jesus had not required such an outpouring of the inmost secrets of her life while her pitiful condition still sat upon her; but, at a moment after she was fully restored to health, the Lord permitted the confession then. How beautiful: how tender, how so like Christ, and unlike men, is the tender regard of the Lord for this woman. Her condition was one with overtones of great sorrow. As McMillan said, "Not only was there a depressing physical problem, but such a condition would also have prohibited her participation, in any full sense, in the religious rites of Judaism (Leviticus 15:25-30)."[18]

Verse 34

And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

Far from being displeased with her, the Lord reassured her, bestowed upon her the benediction of his peace, and the assurance of her continued wholeness. He also directed her thoughts away from any superstition to the effect that touching a fringe had healed her. Her healing was founded upon his own sovereign will and upon her own faith in the Lord of glory.

Verse 35

While he yet spake, they come from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Teacher any further?

What is to be made of such a message as this? Perhaps some of Jairus' fellow-rulers of the synagogue had been embarrassed by one of themselves appealing to the humble Prophet of the poor; and there seems to be a kind of calloused argument here to the effect that: "Look, she's already dead, and we all know that this Teacher cannot raise the dead; why bother (with) him any further?" Whether or not this was exactly what they had in mind, that was certainly the attitude of their class. It is as though they had said, "We are already proceeding with the funeral," which from Mark 5:38 it is plain they were actually doing!

Verse 36

But Jesus, not heeding the word spoken, saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Fear not, only believe.

Fear not ... is capable of wide meaning here. It meant do not fear for thy daughter's life; do not fear the scorn of your peers; do not fear that our purpose has been thwarted by this delay in healing the woman.

Only believe ... meant that Jairus was instructed to retain his faith as the only alternative open to him in that situation and has no implications whatever regarding a soul's salvation by "faith alone" If Jairus had taken the course suggested by his peers, it would have been to abandon faith and bury his daughter. Believing in Jesus was thus his only acceptable alternative.

Verse 37

And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.

This marked a new milestone in Jesus' ministry; already the abilities of these three had earned for them a closer relationship with the Lord. That relationship, however, was not predicated merely upon ability, but upon the role each of these would have in the future spread of Christianity. James would set the grand example by being the first of the apostles to die for the faith; Peter would preach the first sermon; John would be the last witness and write the fourth Gospel. Other instances in which these three were singled out for greater intimacy with Jesus were in the transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane. The probable task assigned to the other apostles was that of controlling and dispersing the multitude.

Verse 38

And they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue; and he beholdeth a tumult, and many weeping and wailing greatly.

One is surprised to find so quickly the presence of the hired mourners who were raising such a tumult in the house of Jairus, which might be explained by supposing some further delay necessitated by the dispersal of the multitude, during which Jairus had returned home and initiated this phase of the funeral himself; but this is denied by the fact that Jairus evidently remained with Jesus. This leaves open the possibility that advance preparations had been made to become effective on the daughter's death, or the additional possibility suggested under Mark 5:35, namely, that Jairus', peers were proceeding with the customary funeral activities, the latter being the view accepted here.

Verse 39

And when he was entered in, he saith unto them, Why make ye a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleepeth.

Not dead but sleepeth ... The Lord certainly did not mean these words as a denial that the daughter's death had actually occurred; but it was his customary language regarding death (see John 11:11). In context, it also meant that he intended to raise her to life again. The attitude of the professional mourners shows conclusively that the maiden's death had indeed occurred and had been confirmed. McMillan is correct in seeing in this ambiguous reference to the child's being "asleep," "a specific purpose of creating uncertainty in the minds of those who were not directly associated with the resurrection."[19] It was the raising of Lazarus, at a later date, that precipitated the crucifixion; and too great a confirmation and publication of this miracle could possibly have interfered with the divine schedule of the Lord's death. It was not the time to confront the religious hierarchy with a miracle they could not deny; nor was this the place. It would occur in Jerusalem, not in Capernaum, and at the time of the fourth Passover, not upon this occasion in the home of Jairus. In line with this was the instruction recorded in Mark 5:43.

Verse 40

And they laughed him to scorn. But he, having put them all forth, taketh the father of the child and her mother and them that were with him, and goeth in where the child was.

Laughed him to scorn ... The scorners were put out by Jesus, the spiritual implications of this being profound and perpetual. The scornful of all ages succeed only in shutting the door of opportunity against themselves. It must have been a matter of remorse to some of those ancient scorners that they missed the one opportunity of all the ages to have witnessed the resurrection of the dead! Their conduct here denies any other status to them except that of hired performers at a funeral. Scornful laughter is never the behavior of broken-hearted friends and relatives. Jesus' questioning of the din they were raising also supports the same conclusion.

Verse 41

And taking the child by the hand, he saith unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee arise.

Mark here recorded the actual syllables that Jesus used in this calling of the little girl back to life. The words are Aramaic, supposed to have been the language Jesus used; and from Peter who was present in that inner room, Mark remembered the very words that Christ used.

Spiritual implications of this wonder are plentiful, as of all the signs and miracles of the Lord. To every maiden at the dawn of womanhood, the words of the Saviour echo across two millenniums. "I say unto thee arise!"

Verse 42

And straightway the damsel rose up, and walked; for she was twelve years old. And they were amazed straightway with a great amazement.

It is a strange coincidence that the age of this child corresponded exactly with the twelve years of sufferings endured by the woman, suggesting some connection here that is not apparent to us. All commentators are intrigued with it, but none has the solution. As McMillan said:

It is tempting to speculate on this seeming coincidence. Surely, however, if the woman with the hemorrhage had been Jairus' wife and the mother of the girl, it would have been mentioned somewhere in the story.[20]

Verse 43

And he charged them much that no man should know this: and he commanded that something should be given her to eat.

That no man should know this ... It has been pointed out that there was no way to prevent public knowledge of a funeral in progress having been broken up by Jesus. From this, it is clear that Christ intended merely that Jairus and the other witnesses of it should make no announcement of it, thus leaving Jesus' earlier statement that the child was not dead to remain fixed, to some degree at least, in the popular mind concerning the incident. That they indeed cooperated in this charge of Jesus is seen in the fact of there being no great clamor, nor any extraordinary efforts of the hierarchy to put Jesus to death.

This remarkable wonder is, in reality, one of a triad of resurrections performed by Jesus and recorded in the New Testament, the others being the raising of the son of the widow of Nain, and the resurrection of Lazarus. Gradations appear in the triple events: (1) Jairus' daughter had been dead only a short while. (2) The son of the widow had been dead longer, though not buried. (3) Lazarus had been dead four days and nights. Also (1) the name of Jairus' daughter is not known. (2) No name is known except that of the village where the wonder occurred. (3) The names of the subject, of his sisters, and of the village where it occurred are all given. There was a widening circle of beholders. (1) There were apparently only six people present besides the daughter. (2) An entire village, though a small one, witnessed it. (3) The great Jewish capital with a multitude of the hierarchy saw Lazarus raised.

This chapter, here concluded, is one of the great storehouses of God's word. Three of the Saviour's mightiest wonders are recorded in it; and one cannot resist the conviction that here we stand within the heart and citadel of truth. Imagination cannot conceive of such events as these being invented or contrived. Across centuries of receding ages, they beckon to us that we might behold and love him who came to give his life a ransom for many. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Mark 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.