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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  

Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Jesus Changes Everything

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

For the last study this year the focus is on asking God to teach us to turn to Him first when we need healing and restoration.


Dec. 03

Jesus Calls


Dec. 10

Jesus Teaches


Dec. 17

Jesus Rules


Dec. 24

Jesus Saves


Dec. 31

Jesus Heals


Jan. 07

Jesus Provides


Jan. 14

Jesus Corrects



Jesus brings healing to our lives.


Mark 5:22-24,35-43





We Can Approach Jesus With Our Needs (Mark 5:22-24)

We Can Trust Jesus When Things Go Wrong (Mark 5:35-40)

We Can Have Hope Because Jesus Has Authority Over Death (Mark 5:41-43)


In Mark’s action-packed Gospel, the Gospel writer displayed Jesus as having ultimate authority. In Mark 4:35-41, he showed Jesus’ power over nature as He calmed the storm. Then, he showed Jesus’ power over demons (5:1-20). In this passage, Jesus finally made it to the other side of the Sea of Galilee after the storm. There He encountered a demon-possessed man and set him free from many demons who tormented him. When the demons left the man, Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs, leaving a visual demonstration of the destructive nature of the demons. As the story ended, Jesus was not welcomed in the region and the people begged Him to leave (v. 17). As Jesus returned to the other side of the sea, presumably near Capernaum, He raised the child of a synagogue ruler, demonstrating Jesus’ power over sickness and death (vv. 22-24,35-43).

The passage under consideration today is what is called a “sandwich structure.” Mark began the story of Jairus’ daughter who was sick (vv. 21-23), but he interrupted that story with a woman who had an issue of bleeding. Jesus stopped when the woman touched His garment and was healed (vv. 24-34). Only then did Mark resolve the story of what happened to Jairus’ daughter (vv. 35-43). Though both these stories emphasized Jesus’ power to heal, they also demonstrated His power over death. Both of the people in need in the story were female. By touching either of the females Jesus would have been rendered ceremonially unclean according to Jewish customs because one had a flow of blood and the other was dead (Lev. 15:25-28; Lev. 22:4; Num. 19:11). Both of the females were powerless to fix their own problems. Both stories illustrate that Jesus has the power to heal.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Steven Curtis Chapman flew to China in 2004 with strict orders from his wife not even to look at any orphaned children. They had already adopted two from China, and one within the year. However, his heart was taken by a little orphaned girl named Maria. Within seven months she was a part of the Chapman family. She quickly won the hearts of the family and became the most spirited of their six children. Their lives would change suddenly on May 21, 2008, when Maria’s brother accidentally struck her with a car in the driveway, killing her. Few can feel the emotional pain that their family experienced from this tragic event.

Steven Curtis Chapman said, “We didn’t know how we were going to take the next breath.” He also stated, “I’d go to where nobody could hear me and scream until my voice was almost gone.1 Suffering and death of this magnitude would make even the strongest of believers ask questions of God. Whenever death or sickness invade our lives, we hurt.

Most people have felt the desperation of sickness. Sickness carries with it physical pain and emotional suffering. Sometimes it carries with it relational isolation and spiritual torment. Sickness raises many questions about God in the heart of the afflicted. Why would God allow me or my loved one to get sick? If God is able to heal, then why hasn’t He done this for me or my loved one? Did I do something wrong that God is punishing me for by making me sick? If I cannot trust the Lord to heal me, then can I trust Him with any other area of my life? Today’s session will examine a man who experienced both the sickness and death of a child. He found that Jesus could bring healing.

1.  Brad Schmitt, “Steven Curtis Chapman: Grief over daughter ‘unfixable,’ ”  The Tennessean, May 29, 2015, http://www.tennessean.com/story/ entertainment/ 2015/05/29 / steven-curtis-chapman-grief-daughter-unfixable/ 8183569.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.









We Can Approach Jesus With Our Needs (Mark 5:22-24)

22 One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and begged him earnestly, “My little daughter is dying. Come and lay your hands on her so that she can get well and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him, and a large crowd was following and pressing against him.

  1.   What are some home remedies you rely on when you’re sick?

  2.   When have you been extremely concerned about a health situation in your life?

  3.   Why do you think many of us only turn to God when we are desperate, after we have exhausted every human possibility for relief?

  4.   What are some human possibilities we typically pursue before turning to Jesus with our needs?

  5.   Why do you think it is a natural reaction to desperately look for any and all possible ways to alleviate a loved one’s suffering?

  6.   During times of suffering, why should we include Jesus, first and foremost, as a source for help and healing?

  7.   What is the setting for this week’s study? (see “The Setting”  on pg. 1.)

  8.   Who was Jairus and what do we know about him? (see Digging Deeper and Adv. comm., pg. 4, “Among the crowds  .  .  .  )

  9.   What did Jairus do when he saw Jesus? Why do you think Jairus reacted in such a manner when he saw Jesus?

10.   How would you describe the difference between Jairus’ reaction to Jesus and the leader of the synagogue in Luke 13:14?

11.   Contrast what Jairus risked by coming to Jesus and what he would have risked by not coming to Jesus? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “The risk for Jairus  .  .  .  )

12.   How would you compare Jairus’s persistence with that of the woman with the issue of blood? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, " What would have happened  .  .  .  )

13.   What did Jairus say to Jesus (v. 23)?

14.   What does Jairus’s statement imply in his asking Jesus to heal his daughter?

15.   According to verse 24, how did Jesus respond to Jairus’s request?


Lasting Lessons in Mark 5:22-24:

1. Jesus is approachable for all those who have needs.

2. Humbling ourselves before Jesus is important to be heard by Him.

3. Faith is a requirement for healing, but we must also seek His will concerning physical healing.



We Can Trust Jesus When Things Go Wrong (Mark 5:35-40)

35 While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue leader’s house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?36 When Jesus overheard what was said, he told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” 37 He did not let anyone accompany him except Peter, James, and John, James’s brother. 38 They came to the leader’s house, and he saw a commotion—people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 They laughed at him, but he put them all outside. He took the child’s father, mother, and those who were with him, and entered the place where the child was.

  1.   What makes it possible to trust Jesus when things go wrong?

  2.   According to verse 35, what message did the people from the synagogue leader’s house tell Jairus?

  3.   How did Jesus respond to the what He heard the people tell Jairus (v. 36)?

  4.   How would you describe the hopelessness of the people with Jairus? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, The people from Jairus’ household  .  .  .  )

  5.   What two commands did Jesus give Jairus? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Jesus eavesdropped  .  .  .  )

  6.   Why do you think Jesus only allowed Peter, James, and John to come with Him? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, Jesus prevented anyone  .  .  .  )

  7.   How would you describe the scene at Jairus’ house? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, As Jesus and the disciples  .  .  .  )

  8.   Based on verse 39, what did Jesus say to the crowd of mourners at Jairus’ house? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Jesus asked what might have  .  .  .  )

  9.   How was Jesus’ statement that “The child is not dead but asleep.” was received by the crowd? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “The mourners in the crowd  .  .  .  )

10.   What did the crowd’s unbelieving laughter at what Jesus said to them, cost them? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Their unbelief kept them  .  .  .  )

11.   What was Jesus’ challenge to Jairus despite the circumstances?

12.   How can we express trust in God even when things go from bad to worse?

13.   What are some things we can do to help us strengthen our trust in God in times of need?

14.   How did Jewish customs for expressing grief differ from expressing grief in our culture today? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Today we have several sayings  .  .  .  )


Lasting Lessons in Mark 5:35-40:

1. God’s timing and our timing may not be the same.

2. When things go wrong, we must keep trusting in Jesus step by step.

3. Faith is a necessary requirement to see the glory of God.



We Can Have Hope Because Jesus Has Authority Over Death (Mark 5:41-43)

41 Then he took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum” (which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, get up”). 42 Immediately the girl got up and began to walk. (She was twelve years old.) At this they were utterly astounded. 43 Then he gave them strict orders that no one should know about this and told them to give her something to eat.

  1.   How would you explain that we can have hope that Jesus heals?

  2.   How would you explain that Jesus was not defiled by touching the unclean but rather made those He touched clean? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, Jesus made a controversial move  .  .  .  )

  3.   According to verse 41, what did Jesus say to Jairus’ daughter?

  4.   What happened next (v. 42)?

  5.   What expression did Jesus use to refer to the girl when He commanded her to get up that Jairus had used when he first approached Jesus. (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “Mark alone recorded the  .  .  .  )

  6.   What does verse 42 tell us about the situation? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, For the benefit of his  .  .  .  )

  7.   Why do you think Mark told us in verse 42 that the “little girl” was twelve years old? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “Though the girl was  .  .  .  )

  8.   How did that small gesture show that Jesus had compassion? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, Jesus knew the pain  .  .  .  )

  9.   Who were the “they”  who were utterly astounded? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, Jairus, his wife,  .  .  .  “)

10.   What did asking the girl to get up and walk and requesting food for her demonstrate to those witnessing the event? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “Jesus encouraged the  .  .  .  )

11.   Why do you think Jesus told the people in the room to refrain from sharing the miracle? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “Jesus gave the people  .  .  .  )

12.   How do you think know that Jesus has the power over sickness and death affect the way we live?

13.   What are some things we (believers) can do to improve our faith in Jesus’ ability to help us in our times of need?

14.   What are some things that cause us to become fearful about any calamity, since we (believers) know that Jesus has authority over the worst possible outcome?  Why do you think we do that ?


Lasting Lessons in Mark 5:41-43:

1. Jesus has complete authority over death.

2. Because of Jesus’ authority over death, we can have hope even in times of death.

3. We should stand in amazement at the power and authority of Jesus Christ.



  We are physical beings subject to the limitations and ailments common to the flesh.  And inevitably—unless Jesus comes first—we will die.  Nevertheless, we can—and should—approach Jesus with our physical needs because we believe He can make a difference.  We can—and should—trust Jesus even when things, at least from our perspective, seem to be going wrong.  The Lord is not controlled or overwhelmed by them.  Even if death comes, it is not the end.  We have hope in Him because He has proven by His own resurrection that He has authority over death.  If healing in the fullest sense is “to be made whole,” then He can—and will—make us whole over death by giving us eternal life.  Do you believe that?

(1) For whom do you need to pray for healing from some physical ailment?  (2) Are you praying with the kind of faith that earnestly believes the Lord can make a difference and will make the person whole if not in this life, in the life to come?  (3) What comfort does that give you?  When it comes to rating yourself from the perspective of these questions, how do stack up?  On a scale of 1 (next to nothing) to 10 (going all out), how would you rate yourself on each of these three questions?  If your rating on each question is not what would please you and the Lord, what do you want to do about improving your rating?  Or do you want to improve your ratings?  If you really do, ask God’s Holy Spirit to guide you in the direction and with the action you need to take to really improve your response.  He will help you if you are really serious about improving! What do you want to do? 

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  Mark 5:22-24,35-43:

Mark 5:22-25 (KJV)

22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, 23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. 24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him. 25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,

Mark 5:35-43 (KJV)

35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. 37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. 38 And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. 39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. 40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. 41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. 42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. 43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.


New King James Version:  Mark 5:22-24,35-43:

Mark 5:22-24 (NKJV)

22 And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live." 24 So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him.

Mark 5:35-43 (NKJV)

35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue's house who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?" 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not be afraid; only believe." 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. 39 When He came in, He said to them, "Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping." 40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, "Talitha, cumi," which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.


New American Standard Bible (1995 Update):  Mark 5:22-24,35-43:

Mark 5:22-24 (NASB)

22 One of the synagogue officials named Jairus *came up, and on seeing Him, *fell at His feet 23 and *implored Him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live." 24 And He went off with him; and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.

Mark 5:35-43 (NASB)

35 While He was still speaking, they *came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?" 36 But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, *said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid any longer, only believe." 37 And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They *came to the house of the synagogue official; and He *saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39 And entering in, He *said to them, "Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep." 40 They began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He *took along the child's father and mother and His own companions, and *entered the room where the child was. 41 Taking the child by the hand, He *said to her, "Talitha kum!" (which translated means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). 42 Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded. 43 And He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this, and He said that something should be given her to eat.



(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” The Pulpit Commentary,” “The Believer’s Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)


Lesson Outline — “Jesus Heals” — Mark 5:22-24,35-43




We Can Approach Jesus With Our Needs (Mark 5:22-24)

We Can Trust Jesus When Things Go Wrong (Mark 5:35-40)

We Can Have Hope Because Jesus Has Authority Over Death (Mark 5:41-43)


Advanced Bible Study Commentary:  Mark 5:22-24,35-43:

I.  We Can Approach Jesus With Our Needs (Mark 5:22-24):  Jesus returned from the area on the other side of the Sea of Galilee where the Gerasenes had begged Him to leave (Mark 5:17,21). Unlike in the Gentile territory, Jesus received a warm and enthusiastic greeting in the Jewish area. “A large crowd gathered around him while he was by the sea” (v. 21). They had gathered to hear His teaching that forced Him to get into a boat to accommodate the crowds (4:1). As He returned, they all wanted to press around this teacher who was doing miraculous things.

Among the crowds that day was a man named Jairus. Jairus was one of the synagogue leaders. These were laymen who had administrative rather than priestly responsibilities in the local synagogue. A synagogue required at least ten Jewish men, but in a town such as Capernaum that would not have been a problem to find ten Jewish men who were committed to the study of the Scriptures. Sometimes the title of synagogue ruler was honorary, given to the most prominent members of the congregation with no administrative duties assigned. Jairus set aside all dignity and formality as he came, saw, and fell. His attitude toward Jesus contrasted sharply with other synagogue rulers (Luke 13:14) and especially the scribes and Pharisees. Something had happened that had caused Jairus to welcome the arrival of Jesus. He fell at his feet. This was an admission of Jesus’ authority and was an act of desperation or even worship.

What had caused Jairus to welcome Jesus? Jairus told Jesus that his little daughter was dying. Later the story reveals that the girl was twelve years old (Mark 5:42), which would make his reference to her as “little daughter” seem strange, especially in a world where women grew up fast and married early. However, anyone who has had a sick child knows how that expression could reflect the angst and concern that Jairus had for his daughter.

Ironically in this setting, the woman with the issue of blood had suffered for twelve years (Mark 5:25), or from the time of Jairus’ daughter’s birth. Jesus would in one day redeem the life of the woman with the issue of blood and redeem the death of Jairus’ daughter.

Jairus came to Jesus knowing full well the implications of his daughter’s sickness. She was about to die. That is why he begged him earnestly. Luke revealed the nugget that this was Jairus’ only child (Luke 8:42). He begged Jesus to heal his only daughter by falling face down before Him and begging Him to heal his little girl. Jairus was desperate, so he approached Jesus with his need. Some people are not approachable. They have a way of turning people away with a sarcastic comment or with a disdainful look. They seem uninterested in hearing or helping. Jesus did none of those things. Jesus was approachable. He was approachable for a synagogue ruler who had much and a woman with an issue of blood who had little because she had spent everything trying to get well (Mark 5:26). One was well-respected in society and the other was considered unclean in society.

Yet both of them felt that Jesus was approachable and took risks to come to Him for healing.

The risk for Jairus was minimal. Though some rulers of synagogues disrespected Jesus (Luke 13:14), others invited Him to speak and interpret the Scriptures (4:16). With Jesus’ ministry base in Capernaum and the huge crowds that pressed to see Jesus, Jairus risked only the chance that Jesus would do nothing for his daughter. On the other hand, the woman with the issue of blood risked it all by pressing through the crowd as an unclean woman to touch the hem of His garment. When she touched Jesus, He would be considered unclean also according to Jewish ceremonial laws. However, both Jairus and the woman felt in their hearts that Jesus was approachable.

What would have happened if Jairus or the woman in the story would have persisted in pride and refused to approach Jesus? Jairus expressed such faith—Come and lay your hands on her so she can get well and live. He did not ask if Jesus could heal his daughter. Rather, he asked if Jesus would heal his daughter. Jairus’ word for “get well” is also the word for “be saved.” It occurs again in Mark 5:28 as the woman with the issue of blood longed to be made well and in 5:34 where the woman was told by Jesus that her faith has saved her. What Jesus did for their bodies He could also do for their spiritual lives.

II.  We Can Trust Jesus When Things Go Wrong (Mark 5:35-40):  After a brief episode where a woman with a twelve-year battle with bleeding came to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment (Mark 5:24-34), Mark returned to the story of Jairus. The story of the woman did impact the story of Jairus, because as Jesus stood and spoke with the woman about her healing and commended her faith, Jairus got some terrible news. The slow push of the crowd, the “distraction” of the woman, and Jesus’ commendation of her faith all pressed the timeline backward for Jesus to arrive and heal Jairus’ daughter. Some from the synagogue leader’s house came to announce that his daughter had died.

The people from Jairus’ household assessed the situation and asked a deflating question, Why bother the teacher anymore? Some have seen in this question a note of sarcasm. Others believed that their words were the expression of bitterness that Jesus had not arrived in time. Though it’s difficult to decipher a person’s intention without tone and inflection, the probable reason for the words were despair and realism. Death is final and Jesus’ healing power could be utilized elsewhere because death had the ring of finality for Jairus’ daughter. Precious time had been lost, and in the mourners’ eyes so had Jairus’ daughter.

Jesus eavesdropped upon the terrible conversation between the synagogue ruler and members of his household. He heard their despairing question, and Jesus took command of the situation. He gave them two commands. First, Jesus encouraged Jairus not to be afraid. The opposite of faith is fear, and Jesus did not want the ruler to lose faith and lapse into a fearful state. When people face sudden grief it often causes them to lapse into moments of fret, anxiety, worry, and fear. Jesus encouraged Jairus not to travel down that road. Instead, Jesus said, only believe. As long as Jairus continued to believe, the hope of a miracle,

even one as large as raising a child from the dead, was possible. If Jairus had listened to the mourners and dissuaded Jesus from coming to his home, he probably would have never seen his daughter alive again. The Greek for “only believe” denoted continuous action, meaning that Jesus asked Jairus for more than a single act of belief but steps of continuous steady faith as they journeyed to his daughter. Jesus knew His power, and He encouraged Jairus to believe in Him as well.

Jesus prevented anyone from coming with Him except Peter, James, and John. This is the first time Jesus separated these three disciples from the others, but it would not be the last time. He would do so again at the transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and the Garden of Gethsemane (14:33). On another occasion Jesus had a private conversation with these three disciples plus Andrew concerning the signs of the end (13:3). Though Jesus had twelve disciples, He did not feel the compulsion to always be with all twelve when He taught them. He would get into smaller groups on important occasions to teach them, and possibly these were the ones that Jesus had confidence would “only believe” (5:36). The fact that Jesus prevented everyone else from coming strengthens that point.

As Jesus and the disciples arrived at Jairus’ home, they saw a commotion. He had dismissed the crowd around Him to travel to the home of Jairus, and when He arrived another crowd had already gathered there. Since Jairus was a prominent Jewish leader, it is not unreasonable to think that the crowd had time to begin gathering at his house and to estimate that the crowd would have been quite large with such a heavy grief as the loss of a child. The weeping and wailing of the mourners was probably great as they spotted Jairus in the crowd with Jesus.

Jesus asked what might have been viewed by the mourners as a heartless question. He asked why they were making a commotion and weeping. He followed His question with a shocking statement—The child is not dead but asleep. Sleep was then as it is now a euphemism for death. Today we have several sayings for death. “He kicked the bucket.” “He is pushing up daisies.” “She’s gone.” “We lost her.” Somehow these expressions seem softer than death. Death seems so final and so fatal. But no matter what you call death, it is still death. Jesus not only softened the sting of death using the language of sleep, but He also proved that He had authority over death. He was the ultimate healer and could heal even after death had made its claim on the little girl.

The mourners in the crowd began laughing at Jesus. We cannot read motives into the laughter, but it seems that it was a laugh of derision or a laugh of unbelief. Jesus felt their scorn and would not allow them to go further into the room where the child’s body was lying. Their unbelief kept them from experiencing one of the most powerful miracles Jesus performed, raising a young girl from the dead. Jesus sent the crowd outside of the house and took only His three disciples and the child’s father and mother into the child’s room. Jairus had put his trust in Jesus to heal his daughter, and now he was about to witness the ultimate reward for that trust. Jesus would do the unthinkable. He would do what none in that room had seen happen. A person who was

dead would come alive again. It would happen again at Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and at Bethany (John 11:38-44). Of course, it would also happen in a tomb in Jerusalem (Matt. 28:1-10), but on that occasion Jesus would be raised instead of or dering the raising.

III.  We Can Have Hope Because Jesus Has Authority Over Death. As Jairus received the news that his daughter had died, he somehow managed to keep trusting in Jesus. As mourners around him laughed at Jesus’ authority over death, Jairus allowed Jesus to clear the house and gather with a small group to view the daughter who had died. Jairus must have had a strong faith in Jesus, probably buoyed by the things that Jesus had done in the area of Capernaum. But nothing could have quite prepared him for what he would witness in the room were his daughter had died. He had either seen or heard about Jesus’ power over sickness, over demons, and over nature. But Jesus was about to demonstrate His authority over death.

Jesus made a controversial move as they entered the room with the girl. He took the child by the hand. Jairus, being a ruler of the synagogue, would have known the purity laws that ruled their people, and he would have understood that touching a dead body would have defiled Jesus by the ceremonial law. The Old Testament holiness laws taught that defilement could be transmitted from the unclean to render the person who touched them as unclean. The scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus robustly when He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15). When Jesus reached out and touched the leper (Matt. 8:3), He violated the purity laws again. The purity laws traversed the opposite direction with Jesus. When He touched the unclean, they became clean. Jesus was the source of holiness, and He was perfectly pure. With one touch that which was defiled became clean.

Mark alone recorded the Aramaic words of Jesus to the girl, Talitha koum! Since the people had returned from the Babylonian exile in 539 B.C., Aramaic had been the language of the common people in Palestine. Jesus probably did most of His preaching and teaching in that language as well, and Jairus’ daughter would have spoken Aramaic also. For the benefit of his Greek-speaking readers, Mark translated the phrase as follows: Little girl, I say to you, get up! Though the girl was twelve years old and technically not a “little girl,” Jesus used the same expression as Jairus had used in his first request for Jesus to heal his “little

daughter” (Mark 5:23). Jesus knew the pain of this father who had lost his daughter. Jesus’ tenderness and yet power at the same time truly was a witness to His role as a compassionate Savior.

The girl immediately rose from her deathbed. Mark, probably using Peter as a source, witnessed that Jesus’ authority over death was so strong that it immediately released its claim on the girl when Jesus told her to rise. The girl responded to Jesus’ command with two powerful actions—she got up and began to walk. Though no tim etable is given for the length of time since she had died, it would be logical to think that a person who rose from death would not be in any shape to rise up or walk. But what Jesus did was not logical but supernatural. The little girl showed no lingering effects of death in her body. As Jesus had spoken to the mourners, it was as if the little girl were only asleep, taking an afternoon nap only to awaken more refreshed than she was before she went to sleep (v. 39).

Jairus, his wife, and the disciples were utterly astounded. This was probably a huge understatement of what everyone in the room felt at that moment. Jesus encouraged the parents to give their little girl something to eat. This demonstrated His concern not only for her physical life but also her well-being. However, it also could have shown that the girl was really alive because her body had returned to its normal functions. No doubt the mother and father would have been happy to do whatever they could for their child at this point!

Jesus gave the people in the room strict orders not to tell anyone about what had happened in the room. This is known in theological studies as the “messianic secret,” a convention of Mark’s Gospel especially (Mark 1:43-45; 8:29-30). The most logical explanation for the messianic secret was to manage expectations of Jesus’ life as Messiah. The masses expected a great king who would overthrow the Romans. When they saw some of the miracles and heard what was happening, messianic fever began to swell in Galilee, thus raising the eyebrows of those in Jerusalem. By not telling what happened in the room, it deflected some of the hysteria that might have surrounded Jesus. Everyone knew the girl was now alive, but nobody except those in the room knew exactly how Jesus had done the miracle. For all they knew the girl could have merely resuscitated. However, those in the room knew what Jesus had done. Their hope came from Him.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

The Pulpit Commentary:   Mark 5:22-24,35-43:

Verses 22, 23

One of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name. He appears to have been one of the “college of elders,” who administered the affairs of the synagogue. The name Jairus, or “Ya eiros,” is probably the Greek form of the Hebrew Jair, “he will illuminate.” He fell at his feet, and besought him greatly; it is literally (πίπτει καὶ παρεκάλει), he falleth at his feet, and beseecheth him. We picture him to ourselves, making his way through the crowd, and as he approached Jesus, kneeling down, and then bending his head towards him, until his forehead touched the ground. My little daughter is at the point of death. St. Matthew says, “is even now dead;” St. Luke says, “she Jay a dying.” The broken sentences of the father are very true to nature. All the expressions point to the same conclusion, that she was in articulo mortis. In each narrative the ruler is represented as asking that Christ would hasten to his house. He had not reached the higher faith of the Gentile centurion, “Speak the word only.”

Verse 24

And he went (καὶ ἀπῆλθε μετ αὐτοῦ) — literally, and he went away with him — and a great multitude followed him, they thronged him (συνέθλιβον αὐτόν); literally, pressed close upon him, compressed him. This is mentioned purposely by St. Mark, on account of what follows. St. Matthew says (Matthew 9:19), “And Jesus arose, and so did his disciples.” Observe here the promptitude of Christ to assist the afflicted. St. Chrysostom suggests that our Lord purposely interposed some delay, by healing, as he went, the woman with the issue of blood, in order that the actual death of the daughter of Jairus might take place; and that so there might be full demonstration of his resurrection power.

Verse 35

Our Lord had lingered on the way to the house of Jairus, perhaps, as has already been suggested, that the crisis might first come, and that so there might be full evidence of his resurrection power. The ruler must have been agonized with the thought that, while our Lord lingered, the life of his dying child was fast ebbing away. And now comes the fatal message to him. Thy daughter is dead (ἀπέθανε); the aorist expresses that her death was now a past event. Why troublest thou the Master any further? (τί ἔτι σκύλλεις τὸν διδάσκαλον). The Greek word here is very strong. It is to vex or weary; literally, to flay. The messengers from the ruler's house had evidently abandoned all hope, and so probably would Jairus, but for the cheering words of our Lord, “Fear not, only believe.”

Verse 36

The words of the narrative, as they stand in the Authorized Version, are: As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. But there is good authority for the reading παρακούσας instead of εὐθέως ἀκούσας which requires the rendering, but Jesus, not heeding, or overhearing. This word (παρακούω) occurs in one other place in the Gospels, namely, in Matthew 18:17, “And if he refuse to hear them (ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν).” Here the word can only have the meaning of “not heeding,” or “ refusing to hear.” This seems to be a strong reason for giving the word a somewhat similar meaning in this passage. And therefore, on the whole, “not heeding” seems to be the best rendering. Indeed, it seems to cover both meanings. Our Lord would overhear, and yet not heed, the word spoken.


Verse 37

Here we have the first occasion of the selection of three of the apostles to be witnesses of things not permitted to be seen by the rest. The other two occasions are those of the transfiguration, and of the agony in the garden. We now follow our Lord and these three favored disciples, Peter and James and John, to the house of death. They are about to witness the first earnest of the resurrection.

Verse 38

St. Matthew here says (Matthew 9:23) that when Jesus came into the ruler's house, he” saw the minstrels (τοὺς αὐλητὰς),” i.e. the flute-players, “and the people making a noise.” This was the custom both with Jews and with Gentiles, to quicken the sorrow of the mourners by funeral dirges. The record of these attendant circumstances is important as evidence of the fact of death having actually taken place.

Verse 39

Some have regarded the words of our Lord, the child is not dead, but sleepeth, as really meaning that she was only in a swoon. But although she was actually dead in the ordinary sense of that word, namely, that her spirit had left the body, yet Christ was pleased to speak of death as a sleep; because all live to him, and because all will rise at the last day. Hence in the Holy Scriptures the dead are constantly described as sleeping, in order that the terror of death might be mitigated, and immoderate grief for the dead be assuaged under the name of sleep, which manifestly includes the hope of the resurrection. Hence the expression with regard to a departed Christian, that “he sleeps in Jesus.” Then, further, this child was not absolutely and irrecoverably dead, as the crowd supposed, as though she could not be recalled to life; since in fact our Lord, who is the Lord of life, was going at once to call her back by his almighty power from the realms of death into which she had entered. So that she did not appear to him to be dead so much as to sleep for a little while. He says elsewhere, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” Christ, by the use of such language as this, meant to show that it is as easy with him to raise the dead from death as sleepers from their slumbers.

Verse 40

They laughed him to scorn. He suffered this, in order that the actual death might be the more manifest, and that so they might the more wonder at her resurrection, and thus pass from wonder and amazement to a true faith in him who thus showed himself to be the Resurrection and the Life. He now put them all forth; and then, with his three apostles, Peter, James, and John, and the father and the mother of the child, he went in where the child was. The common crowd were not worthy to see that in which they would not believe. They were unworthy to witness the great reality of the resurrection; for they had been deriding him who wields this power. It is remarked by Archbishop Trench that in the same manner Elisha (2 Kings 4:33) cleared the room before he raised the son of the Shunammite.

Verse 41

The house was now set free from the perfunctory and noisy crowd; and he goes up to the dead child, and takes her by the hand and says, Talitha cumi; literally Little maid, arise. The evangelist gives the words in the very language used by our Lord — the ipsissima verba, remembered no doubt and recorded by St. Peter; just as he gives “Ephpbatba” in another miracle.

Verses 42, 43

Here, as in other miracles, the restoration was immediate and complete: straightway the damsel rose up, and walked. Well might the father and the mother of the maiden and the three chosen apostles be amazed with a great amazement (ἐξέστησαν ἐκστάσει μεγάλῃ). And then, for the purpose of strengthening that life which he rescued from the jaws of the grave, our Lord commanded that something should be given her to eat. It has often been observed that in the examples of his resurrection power given by Christ there is a gradation:

1. The daughter of Jairus just dead.

 2. The widow's son from his bier.

 3. Lazarus from his grave.

The more stupendous miracle is I pledge, when “all that are in their graves yet to come, of which our Lord's own resurrection is at once the example and the pledge, when “All that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.”

SOURCE:  The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 16: Mark & Luke; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

The Believer’s Commentary: Mark 5:22-24,35-43:

5:21-23.  Back on the western shore of blue Galilee, the Lord Jesus was soon in the center of a great multitude. A frenzied father came running up to Him. It was Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue. His little daughter was dying. Would Jesus please go and lay His hands on her so that she might be healed?

5:24.  The Lord responded and started for the home. A crowd followed, thronging Him. It is interesting that immediately following the statement of the crowd's thronging Him, we have an account of faith touching Him for healing.

5:35-38.  By this time, messengers had arrived with the news that Jairus' daughter had died. There was no need to bring the Teacher. The Lord graciously reassured Jairus, then took Peter, James, and John to the house. They were met by the unrestrained weeping characteristic of eastern homes in times of sorrow, some of it done by hired mourners.

5:39-42.  When Jesus assured them that the child was not dead but sleeping, their tears turned to scorn. Undaunted, He took the immediate family to the motionless child, and taking her by the hand, said in Aramaic, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." Immediately the twelve-year-old girl got up and walked. The relatives were stunned, and doubtless delirious with joy.

5:43.  The Lord forbade their publicizing the miracle. He was not interested in the popular acclaim of the masses. He must resolutely press on to the cross.

If the girl had actually died, then this chapter illustrates the power of Jesus over demons, disease, and death. Not all Bible scholars agree that she was dead. Jesus said she was not dead but sleeping. Perhaps she was in a deep coma. He could just as easily have raised her from the dead, but He would not take credit for doing so if she were only unconscious.

We should not overlook the closing words of the chapter: "He... said that something should be given her to eat." In spiritual ministry, this would be known as "follow-up work." Souls that have known the throb of new life need to be fed. One way a disciple can manifest his love for the Savior is by feeding His sheep.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

The Moody Bible Commentary: Mark 5:22-24,35-43:

5:21-24.  As Jesus arrived on the west side a large crown gathered welcoming Him. A synagogue official, Jairus, approached Him. Synagogue officials were responsible for the administrative details of the synagogue, such as determining who would pray and read Scripture in services. This position was looked on with honor. Jairus fell at His feet begging for help. His little girl was near death. If Jesus would come and lay [His] hands on her she would be healed. Jairus had observed this before (cf. 3:1). Jesus departed with Jairus with a large crowd following.

The Fulfillment (5:35-43)

5:35-37.  A group arrived from Jairus's house with sad news. His daughter had died and he should not trouble the Teacher anymore. Nothing could be done. Jesus ignored their words but gave two present-tense commands to Jairus: Do not be afraid, and only believe, or "keep on believing." If Jesus could heal Jairus's daughter of illness, could He not also do something about her death? Jesus took along Peter, James, and John to observe the miracle, possibly as part of the special training these three in His innermost circle should receive.

5:38-40a.  At Jairus's home, an assembled group was weeping and wailing. Jesus told them to stop, for the child has not died, but is asleep. By this figure Jesus taught death is a temporary condition, much like sleep. The crowd's repeated laughter indicated that most of these people were insincere. They were simply there to do a job.

5:40b-43.  Jesus took Jairus, his wife, and his three companions into the room where He took the girl by the hand. He said to her in Aramaic, Talitha kum! which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" "Talitha" might have been an affectionate term for "girl." The phrase, I say to you, shows Jesus' authority. Someday He will call all people from the grave (cf. Jn 5:28-29). The girl arose and began to walk around. The age of the girl, 12 years, and the length of time the woman suffered the physical infirmity are the same. The notation of 12 years probably emphasizes the difference between the woman and the girl. The former had 12 years of misery, the latter 12 years of happy childhood. The occupants of the room were completely astounded, but Jesus issued two directives. First, He ordered them to not make known what had happened, for that might attract additional people for the wrong reasons. His second directive displayed His compassion for the little girl. He encouraged her parents to give her something to eat.

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.



Jairus (ji’ ruhss) (v. 22)—Greek form of Hebrew personal name Jair meaning, “Jah will enlighten.” Synagogue official who came to Jesus seeking healing for his twelve-year-old daughter (Mark 5:22). Before Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house, however, the little girl died. Jesus reassured Jairus and entered the house with Peter, James, and John. Taking the girl by the hand, Jesus restored her to life, showing His power over death.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee



The Synagogue In The First Century

By David E. Lanier

David E. Lanier is professor of New Testament, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina.


HEN JESUS WALKED THE EARTH, the synagogue was not the highly developed institution we know today. In fact, the term synagogue originally denoted a gathering for any purpose, religious or secular1 and did not refer to a building. The gatherings could have been in public or private buildings, even at the city gate. Only later did the term synagogue refer to a building devoted to worship and prayer. In fact, archaeologists have not uncovered any buildings dating to Jesus’ time that would have been used exclusively for synagogue worship.2

Though its origin is shrouded in the midst of antiquity, basically the synagogue was a community of people who gathered at a common location—either in private homes or in public buildings.  There leaders would share news and legal notices and read Scripture to remind the people of their obligations to keep the Jewish festivals and observances. Weddings and funerals were held there. Visiting travelers would be lodged and hospitality extended; sometimes guilds were permitted to show and sell wares. Children were educated in the ways of the community and taught to read and write.3 Adults not able to travel to Jerusalem for the festivals gathered for prayer and worship, especially on Sabbaths. These gatherings served the full gamut of community needs, including: political meetings, social activities, minor courts, manumission of slaves, sacred and secular meals, as well as religious and liturgical functions.4

These gatherings were viewed neither as a threat to the temple services nor as extensions of them. Synagogues helped the Jewish people maintain their cohesiveness as a distinctive people and in time would constitute the primary Jewish institution after the destruction of the temple in AD 70, with specifically dedicated buildings and trappings.

Synagogues and The New Testament

At the time of Jesus, the synagogue was the “address of the Jewish community” and was the target of anti-Jewish attacks by pagans in the Diaspora (in Alexandria, Dor, and Caesarea Maritima).5 In the Book of Acts, the Lord used synagogues mightily to propagate the new Messianic faith called Christianity.6 In synagogues Jesus and Paul taught about the kingdom of God.

Jewish sources tend to focus on the public reading of Scriptures (the Law and the Prophets) as central to these gatherings. For these writers, the emphasis was neither on saying prayers nor on singing hymns and psalms (which also occurred in pagan worship settings) but on the public reading of the Law (the Torah) and Prophets and offering an explanation in the Aramaic vernacular.7 The Jews understood they had received the Scripture from the one true God. Their monotheistic religion distinguished them from pagans with their multifarious gods and goddesses.

One does not find in the Gospels an exhaustive record of all synagogue activities, only those that fit each evangelist’s purpose. The Gospel that was written first, Mark, indicates the synagogue met for teaching (Jesus, 1:21-22; 6:2), preaching (Jesus, 1:39), healing (Jesus, vv. 23-26,39; 3:1-5), and punishing offenders (13:9).8 Mark mentions the “chief seats” (12:39, NASB) and the “ruler of the synagogue” (5:22,35-36,38, RSV). Of Mark’s eight references, five associate synagogues with the Sabbath.9 The “ruler of the synagogue” maintained order, selected prayer leaders, Scripture readers, and preachers. He kept up the building and supervised the 10 elders necessary to hold synagogue meetings.10

Matthew’s Gospel mentions Jesus in the synagogue teaching (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; and 13:54), preaching (4:23; 9:35), and performing miracles (4:23; 9:35; 12:9-13). Matthew also mentions prayer (6:5), almsgiving (v. 2), and flogging (10:17; 23:34). Only one of Matthew’s references mentions the Sabbath in connection with the synagogue (12:9-10). Just as Mark, Matthew mentions the “official” (Matt. 9:18,23, NASB), the “chief seats” (23:6, NASB) including “the chair of Moses” (23:2, HCSB). The only new unique material introduced in Matthew’s Gospel concerns prayer and almsgiving.11

Luke – Acts is the richest New Testament source for first-century synagogue life, adding several details to Matthew and Mark. Luke tells us that a “Godfearer” (a Gentile who worshiped God but who had not undergone circumcision and become a full Jew), a Roman centurion, actually donated the funds to construct a synagogue (Luke 7:5). Luke’s Gospel also lets us know that synagogue worshipers publicly (4:17-21) and that synagogues had an attendant (v. 20). The attendant was a minor synagogue official, assistant to the ruler. He was a minor synagogue official, assistant to the ruler. He was responsible for keeping the premises, maintaining the Scripture scrolls, supervising the education of the children, and even carrying out the corporal punishments in disciplinary cases (Matt. 10:17; 23:34).12 Of the Gospel of Luke’s 10 references to the synagogue, 7 refer to the Sabbath and 1 refers to Jesus’ warning about judicial tribunals at synagogues punishing His followers (Luke 12:11). Luke also mentions the “chief seats” (20:46, NASB) and the “ruler of the synagogue” who protested Jesus’ violation of the Sabbath (13:14,RSV).13

In his second letter Luke offered additional glimpses into activities that occurred in synagogues in the first century. For instance, Stephen was opposed by a synagogue of freed Jews, “the Freedmen’s synagogue” (Acts 6:9, HCSB), made up of Diaspora Jews from Cyrenia, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia. In Acts 9:2, Saul used the synagogues of Damascus as a base of operations against the church. After his conversion (v. 20) Saul preached in the synagogues that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. The synagogues figured prominently in Acts 13:5, with Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark preaching on the island of Cyprus. In Acts 13:14-15, at Antioch of Pisidia both the Law and the Prophets were read, and the “leaders of the synagogue” (v. 15, HCSB) asked Paul to present a “message of encouragement.”

In Acts 13:42:-43, Paul and Barnabas spoke to the Jews and “devout proselytes” (Gentiles) who had just worshipped in the synagogue in Antioch. Further, Paul and Barnabas taught with great success in the synagogue of Iconium, although their message led to division and controversy (14:1-5). In Acts 15:21 at the Jerusalem Council, Peter proclaimed, “For since ancient times, Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, and he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath day” (HCSB). This verse tells us that the Law was read, that synagogues were spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, and that meetings occurred on the seventh day of the week. In Acts 17:1-4, Paul preached in the synagogue at Thessalonica over three Sabbaths, leading to converts and controversy. He preached with greater success in the synagogue in Berea, resulting in many converts (vv. 10-14). In Athens he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearers, then went to the marketplace to reason with the pagans (vv. 16-17).

In Acts 18, Paul preached in the synagogue at Corinth, reasoning every Sabbath and persuading both Jews and Greeks. Crispus, the ruler of the Corinthian synagogue, believed in Jesus together with his entire household (vv.1-8). At Ephesus, Apollos preached boldly in the name of Christ in the synagogue, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ (vv. 24-28). Also in Ephesus, Paul spoke boldly in the synagogue over a period of three months.

Paul referred to the judicial nature of the synagogue in Acts 22:19 while giving his personal testimony to the Jews in Jerusalem. He said, “In synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in [Jesus]imprisoned and beaten” (HCSB). Before Felix in Caesarea, Paul said, “They didn’t find me disputing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple complex or in the synagogues, or anywhere in the city” (24:12, HCSB), a reference to the political activism that sometimes occurred in the synagogue. Finally in Acts 26:11, Paul testified before Agrippa, “In all the synagogues I often tried to make [the believers] blaspheme by punishing them. Being greatly enraged at them, I even pursued them to foreign cities” (HCSB).

Thus the picture Luke gave throughout the Book of Acts is quite diverse. We see that the hospitality network called the synagogue was used both for and against the fledgling Christian movement: in teaching, boarding, judging, punishing, reasoning, and mounting political and religious action.

Extrabiblical Information

Jesus, His followers, and those in the early church would have been familiar with the Mishnah, which was a collection of Jewish oral teachings and traditions that were eventually compiled in written form. The Mishnah offered additional glimpses into synagogue life. It affirmed that the synagogue was considered an important institution.14 It also showed that while synagogue attendance on the Sabbath was not a requirement, Jews did hold Sabbath services both in the morning and afternoon.15 Comparing the Mishnah with the New Testament, descriptions of synagogical activities are almost identical, except the New Testament included exorcism and healing. Two primary synagogical functions not mentioned in the New Testament are reading the Torah and teaching children (although Jesus obviously encouraged both). The New Testament also does not mention mourning the passing of prominent personages, political gatherings, and rendering legal decisions. The offices of prayer leader and translator also are not mentioned, nor are the various appurtenances (such as Torah covers and candles) that later accompanied synagogue meetings.16

The synagogue was never in conflict with the temple; instead it supplied an outlet for the reading of the Law and Prophets for those not able to go to the temple. The “Temple and synagogue existed side by side in harmony and with a clear division of function. The Jew went to the Temple to seek forgiveness for his sins; he went to the synagogue to offer his personal supplications and to listen to expositions of sacred literature.”17

When Titus in AD 70 destroyed the temple, the synagogue became the premier institution for preserving the uniqueness of Jewish religion and culture. Although the depiction of the synagogue given in the New Testament is fragmentary, enough details remain to show that it was an important Jewish institution that Jesus and Paul frequented and that God used to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.             

1.   C. L. Feinberg, “Synagogue” in The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, ed., vol.3 (Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press, 1980), 1499.

2.   Howard Clark Kee, “The Transformation of the Synagogue after 70 CE: Its Import for Early Christianity,” New Testament Studies 36 (1990): 9.

3.   Bernard J. Bamberger, “Synagogue” in The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia in Ten volumes, Isaac Landman, ed., vol. 10 (New York: Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Co., Inc., 1948), 130.

4.   Lee I. Levine, “The Nature and Origin of the Palestinian Synagogue Reconsidered,” Journal of Biblical Literature 115.3 (Fall 1996): 430.

5.   Ibid., 431.

6.   C. L. Feinberg, “Synagogue” in The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, ed., vol. 3 (Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press, 1980), 1501.

7.   Levine, 432.

8.   Sylvan D. Schwartzman, Hebrew Union College Annual 24:1 (1952-53): 117-118. Schwartzman notes that healing and flogging offenders were not common occurrences inside synagogue meetings. See page 125.

9.   Ibid., 117.

10. William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 701.

11. Schwartzman, 118-119.

12. W. White, Jr., “Synagogue” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Merrill C. Tenney, gen. ed., vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 564. Schwartzman, 125, questions whether the flogging was carried out in the synagogue itself. But compare Matthew 10:17 and 23:34.

13. Schwartzman, 121.

14. Ibid., See also The Mishnah, Berakoth 7;3 (p. 8); Terumoth 11:10 (p. 66); Bikkurim 1.4 (p. 94); and Erubin 10:10 (p. 135).

15. Schwartzman, 122, n. 31; See also The Mishnah, Megillah 3.6 (p. 205); 4.1 (p. 205-206).

16. Schwartzman, 127-128. In offering information about synagogues, the Gospels are correct as far as they go; it was simply not the purpose of the Synoptists to give exhaustive descriptions of the synagogue and its functions.

17. Geoffrey Wigoder, The Story of the Synagogue  (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 11.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 33, Number 4; Summer 2007.


By Rodney Reeves

Rodney Reeves is Pastor of Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Arkansas.

THE TRAGIC DEATH of a Palestinian incites bizarre rituals. Hundreds of mourners cram into crowded streets. Women wail and lift their hands, looking at the camera of western reporters with contorted faces expressing deep anguish and grief. Men rally in public to vent angry sorrow, shouting chants of consolation and vowed revenge. Some beat themselves; fanatics bludgeon their bloody heads with dull machetes. Contrast that familiar scene in the Middle East with the orderly, dignified funerals in North America, and the difference between two cultures becomes even more apparent.

The first-century Mediterranean world was just as diverse. The Romans cremated their dead; the people of Israel buried their dead. The Romans erected monuments to memorialize the deceased; the Jews avoided such extravagant expenses, choosing to honor their dead through loud, public lamentation.1 Mourning rites that were for one culture strange and detestable were recognized as honorific and customary by another people. Rituals are the public expressions of peculiar social customs that derive from unique religious convictions. Therefore, the way people mourn their dead reveals what they believe about God, life, death, evil, and the world. The Jewish emphasis on ritual purification in pursuit of holiness, coupled with their strict monotheism, may explain why the Jews developed certain funerary rites that were different from their neighbors.

For example, the Jewish mourner did not erect a memorial for the deceased since the place of the dead was unholy. The tomb was death’s domain. Contact with the dead brought defilement (Num. 19:11-16).2 Graves were only visited during the prescribed days of mourning, usually seven days (Gen. 50:10; 1 Sam. 31:13). They never became places of pilgrimage for the mourner. On the contrary, tombs were whitewashed during pilgrimage festivals in order to warn travelers not to come in contact with the dead, risking defilement (Matt. 23:27). “The dead – even the greatest most devout men in Israel – are not in any way adorned with a halo.”3 In fact, Israel tried to avoid any appearance of developing a cult of the dead. Israel’s belief in one God precluded the deification of the deceased. Since Yahweh is the giver of life (Ps. 104:29-30), the Israelites were not required to appease the wrath of another “god” of death. Acts of mutilation and disfigurement practiced by Israel’s neighbors were strictly for bidden (Lev. 19:28; 21:1-5; Jer. 41:4-7). Such mourning rites were designed to make the subjects of the “god of death and destruction” unrecognizable, avoiding any further punishment.4 Rather, those who belonged to Yahweh were taught not to fear the power of the world of the dead, but to trust God (Isa. 28:15-18).

The focus of Jewish public expressions of loss centered on the mourner rather than the grave. The first acts of mourning began immediately at the news of the death of the loved one (2 Sam. 1:1-11), often in the presence of the deceased (Gen. 23:2-3), with loud cries of anguish and weeping (Luke 8:52). Usually, in a violent act of disrobing, the bereaved would immediately shed their clothes by tearing them from their body. Then they would put on the typical garments for mourners (Gen. 37:34; 2 Sam. 3:31). Sackcloth, a coarse material, was worn as an undergarment around the waist (2 Kings 6:30). The outer garments were torn and unkempt (2 Sam. 3:31). Sometimes the mourners would accentuate their disheveled appearance by refraining from washing,5 refusing to anoint their heads with oil (2 Sam. 14:2), lying in the dirt or ashes (2 Sam. 13:31), dirtying their feet by removing their sandals (Ezek. 24:23; Mic. 1:8), or even by stripping off their outer garments and wallowing in the dust (Ezek. 27:30). Dirty face, dirty feet, dirty hair, dirty clothes – the Jewish mourner epitomized what was unholy and undesirable about death. “The mourning-rites [sic] express the humiliation and pain at having got into close touch with death.”6

Since death defiled the family it affected, mourners could not eat unclean food prepared by unclean hands. The necessary preparations of the body for burial rendered the entire household unclean.7 After the family washed the corpse, anointed the body with spices, and wrapped the deceased with strips of cloth, they fasted during the time of mourning. The uncleanness of the house of the dead prevented food from being prepared there. This condition prompted friends of the family to bring food, called “mourning bread,” to the grieving family at the end of the week in hopes of encouraging the mourners to finish their season of sorrow (2 Sam. 12:20-23;8 Jer. 16:7; Ezek. 24:17,22).

Customarily, the family buried the deceased on the day of death (Matt. 27:57-59; Acts 5:6,10). The corpse was placed on a bier and carried to the place of burial by men, followed by the mourners (Luke 7:11-14). Loud cries of anguish accompanied the procession (Matt. 11:17). Grieving families shouted, “Alas, my brother!” or “Ah sister!” (1 Kings 13:30; Jer. 22:18, RSV), as they followed the bier to burial. The shrill cries of loud wailing, compared to the call of a jackal or ostrich (Mic. 1:8), could be heard throughout the community, causing others to join the funeral procession (Luke 7:12). Professional mourners led the processional, using standard songs of lamentation to help the family grieve over their loss. “The mourners praise the qualities of the dead man and bewailed his fate, but it is a most striking fact that the examples preserved in the Bible never have a religious content.”9 Special laments were composed for important people, dignitaries, and royalty (2 Sam. 1:17-27). The dirge was sung to a halting or crippling beat, usually accompanied by several flutists (Jer. 48:36; Matt. 9:23).10

Most professional mourners were women (Jer. 9:17-20). Some were skilled in singing, others in composing timely laments; certain women were trained to wail, intoning particular chants designed to facilitate the grief process. Jeremiah referred to these “mourning women” as professionals who were skilled in “wailing for us, that our eyes may shed tears, and our eyelids flow with water” (Jer. 9:18, NASB). Musicians were also hired to play familiar songs of mourning. The flute seemed to be “the preferred instrument of mourning because of the succession of high and deep tones (Jer. 48:36).”11 Of course, most Jews could not afford the extravagance usually associated with the funeral of royalty (1 Kings 14:13,18). Nevertheless, a proper burial was considered to be indispensable to maintaining the honorable status of the family (Jer. 16:4-12). Therefore, according to Jewish tradition, “even the poorest in Israel should hire not less than two flutes and one wailing woman.”12 On the other hand, a dishonorable death (beheaded, strangled, crucified, stoned, burned) precluded any public lamentation. Instead, the grieving family was encouraged to mourn privately without recognition (Jer. 16:5; Zech. 12:12-14; Matt. 27:57-61).13

As the procession made its way to the tomb, the mourners stopped occasionally and made lamentation over the dead. Seven times the procession would stop at these “halting places,” signaling to the mourners the times to observe appropriate acts of grieving.14 Upon arrival, the corpse was removed from the bier and placed in the tomb. Then the mourners followed the family back to their home to offer consolation to the grieving family. Usually, friends of the family formed two lines (not less than ten each) outside the door of the house and the family passed between the rows of people as they entered their home.15 As they walked by, friends offered words of consolation to the bereaved.16 After returning to the house, the grieving family continued to burn incense for the entire week of moruning.17 Also customarily, the family slept on the floor without a mattress for as long as they mourned the loss of their beloved.18

Jesus’ raising of the synagogue ruler’s daughter was part of a series of episodes that relate to mourning, death, and impurity (Matt. 9:14-34). Before He was asked to raise the synagogue ruler’s dead daughter (v. 18), Jesus responded to the query of the Baptizer’s disciples, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” (v. 14, NASB), with the declaration that the time for mourning and fasting was over (v. 15). The advent of Jesus’ ministry called for something new (vv. 16-17). The narrator informed the reader that “while He was saying these things to them” (v. 18, NASB) a desperate father made a novel request: raise my daughter from the dead by laying hands on her (v. 18). Raising the dead was a rare miracle in the story of Israel’s salvation (see 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:17-37). And, up to this point in Matthew’s narrative, Jesus had not performed such a task. Furthermore, by submitting to the father’s request – toughing a dead body – Jesus would defile Himself. Nevertheless, Jesus consented to the unusual request and headed for the man’s house. But before He made it to the house of death, Jesus was apparently defiled by the touch of an unclean woman (Lev. 15:25) – an action on one would have known about if Jesus had not purposely made it public (Matt. 9:20-22; see Mark 5:30-33). The contact between Jesus and the unclean woman, however, had the opposite effect: the woman was made clean by touching Jesus (Matt. 9:22).

By the time Jesus, the disciples, and the father arrived, the professional mourners had already started the funeral. Matthew characterized the sights and sounds of mourning as “the noisy crowd” (v. 23, NIV). When Jesus suggested that their actions were premature – the girl was not dead, only sleeping – the professional scoffed at Him because they viewed His actions as pretense (v. 24). That the narrator described the gathering as a rather large “crowd” of mourners accompanied by several flutists (vv.23,25) indicates that the synagogue ruler was no poor citizen of Israel.

The mourning women were inside the house where family members were grieving over the death of their beloved. In the presence of the bridegroom there would be on mourning (v. 15); therefore, Jesus ordered the crowd out of the house (a command that could only be carried out with the father’s permission). Then Jesus went back into the house of death. Mark recorded that He took with Him James, Peter, and John, as well as the girl’s father and mother (Mark 5:37,40). With the touch that causes the unclean to become pure, bringing death to life, Jesus took the dead girl by the hand, “and she got up” (Matt. 9:25, NIV). The house of death became the house of life; contact with the unclean brought purity rather than defilement; mourning turned into laughter. Later that day, the crowds marveled, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel” (v. 33, NIV).

1Josephus, Against Apion, 2.26.

2The domain of death was so unholy that priests were not allowed to participate in the preparations of the corpse for burial nor in the funeral procession to the grave (Lev. 21:11; see also Sanhedrin 2.1, Mishnah, trans. Herbert Danby [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933]).

3Hans Walter Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, trans. Margaret Kohl (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), 103.

4Ibid., 105.

5Mishnah Berakoth 2.6.

6J. Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture, vol. 1 (London: Oxford University Press, 1926), 494.

7Mishnah Pesahim 8.8.

8David’s actions puzzled his advisors since he acted as if the time of mourning were over, but in reality, it had just begun.

9Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, Social Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965), 61.

10Mishnah Shabbath 23.4.

11E. Jacob, “Mourning” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 454.

12Mishnah Ketuboth 4.4.

13Mishnah Sanhedrin 6.5-7.4.

14Mishnah Megillah 4.3; Mishnah Ketuboth 2.10.

15 Mishnah Berakoth 3.2.

16 Mishnah Megillah 4.3.

17 Mishnah Berakoth 8.6.

18 Mishnah Taanith 4.7.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 1997

DEATH  A First Century Understanding

By Bill Patterson

Bill Patterson is the director of missions of the Green Valley Baptist Association, Henderson, Kentucky.


FTER LEAVING NAZARETH, Jesus made His new home in Capernaum, a village on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 4:13; 9:1).  From there He often traveled about—preaching and healing.  While in Capernaum, He stayed in the home of Simon Peter.  When in Capernaum in early 2017, I measured the distance from the ruins of what is thought to be Simon Peter’s home to ruins of the ancient synagogue of Capernaum—only 38 steps.  We know that Jesus often attended that synagogue and even preached in it (Mark 1:21; 6:1).

The Heartache

According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and headed toward His hometown, Capernaum.  As He did, Jairus, a leader of a synagogue, maybe the one at Capernaum, met Him and implored Him on behalf of his daughter, who was at the point of death.  If Jairus was indeed from Capernaum, Jesus likely knew him and maybe even his daughter.  His knowing Jairus would have made the situation of Mark 5:22-43 more heart-rending.

In agony, Jairus came to Jesus and begged Him to heal her.  Jesus began walking toward Jairus’s home but an event delayed their arrival (Mark 5:25-34).  Before reaching their destination, the word came to Jairus that it was too late.  Jesus replied, “The child is not dead but sleeping” (v. 39, ESV).  Matthew, Mark, and Luke clearly state the child had died. 

Jesus spoke that way to indicate her death was not final.  He treated the certainly of her living again as if it were already accomplished.  In both this case and the situation with Lazarus (John 11), Jesus made the point that death is temporary, not final.

Of course we know the rest of the story, how Jesus made the professional mourners and flute players exit the home.  He entered, along with Peter, James, and John (Mark 5:37,40).  Jesus took the girl by the hand and said, “Talitha kumi,” a phrase usually interpreted, “Little girl, I say to you arise” (v. 41, ESV).1  Of course, to the amazement of all, she did!  In the Gospels Jesus stopped every funeral He attended by raising the deceased!

Imagine the relief and joy of Jairus and his wife.  Imagine their praise to God!  But also, imagine what the parents felt before their daughter rose.  How did they view death?  They hurt due to the loss of their daughter, but what did they believe would happen to their deceased child?  The Old Testament indicated old age was the reward of the righteous; thus their daughter dying as a child must have added to the parents’ grief.  How did the people of the first century view death?

The Varying Views

The truth is, a wide variety of beliefs existed.  Some people may have thought like the Epicureans or Stoics.  Some held one of the various Roman views.  Seneca, the Roman stoic, believed that death is giving back to nature what is due, a final fate that all shared.2  That fatalistic view of life beyond the grave prevailed in the Roman world.  Reflecting this fatalistic view, numerous unearthed tombs revealed Latin abbreviations for the common phrase, “I was not, I was, I am not, I do not care.”3

Epicureans believed body and soul ceased to exist at death.  Apparently following that influence, some first-century Christians in Corinth also doubted a resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12).  The apostle Paul countered their thinking with clear teaching that Christ rose and Christians will, too (vv. 20-23;50-58).

Not only did many views of the afterlife exist among Romans and Greeks, but Jewish teachers also varied in their views.  In Solomon’s day people knew dead bodies decayed.  But what about the spirits?  Many believed the spirits floated in a nether world.  King Saul used a medium to call Samuel from the dead (1 Sam. 28:4-25).  Two generations later, Solomon said all come from dust and all return to dust and who knows if the spirit rises upward? (Eccl. 3:20b-21).  Two hundred years after Solomon, Isaiah wrote that spirits of the departed still have awareness beyond the grave (Isa. 14:9-11).  Over the years the Jews held differing view about the body and the spirit’s existence after death.

The Reassuring Solution

That variation in views revealed itself in the divide between the three leading sects of Jews in Jesus’ day—the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes.  Some writings found along with the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate the Greeks may have influenced the Essenes.  Some writings found along with the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate the Greeks may have influenced the Essenes.  Centuries before Christ, Plato had taught the  pre-existence and immortality of the soul.  Josephus wrote that the Essenes were like the Greeks in their beliefs in the immortality of souls.4  While different from the resurrection of the body, the views of Plato and of the Essenes did at least offer some consolation to families of the deceased.

Jesus’ teachings about the resurrection of the body differ greatly from the Platonic view of the immortality of the soul, Jesus’ raising Lazarus (John 11:17-44), the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17), and Jairus’s daughter back to life show He can cause a dead body to live.  These three lived again—likely for many years—but each died again.  Jesus’ own resurrection points, however, to life beyond the grave, to an eternal existence.

Concerning Scripture, the Sadducees of Jesus’ day believed only in the Pentateuch.  Since those five books (Genesis through Deuteronomy) contain only glimpses of the resurrection, the Sadducees believed in the annihilation of body and soul.5  Fortunately, “this doctrine is received but by a few.”6  Just think how hopeless Jairus and his wife would have felt if they had believed that way.

Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees believed in an existence beyond the grave for both the spirit and (eventually) the body.  Some Sadducees tested Jesus about life beyond the grave (Matt. 22:23-33).  They thought they had a fool-proof argument when they posed to Jesus a situation about a lady who had married seven times.  In heaven which man would be her husband?  Jesus answered that they knew neither the Scripture nor the power of God.  He went on to say that in heaven we exist continually, but, like the angels, without marriage.  He cited Exodus 3:6, a book in the Pentateuch (believed by the Sadducees), where God revealed Himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Jesus stated that God is not God of the dead but of the living!

The apostle Paul used the Pharisees’ and the Sadducees’ conflicting views of the afterlife to his advantage.  He skillfully turned a trial that may have ended in his death into a battle between the two parties concerning whether there will be a resurrection (Acts 23:6-10).

Most common people believed like the Pharisees.7  Martha’s statement, for instance, (John 11:24) that she knew Lazarus would live again—one day, in the resurrection—shows that she believed in an eventual afterlife.

Jesus’ resurrection came to be so important to the disciples that it became the center of their teaching and preaching (Acts 2—3; 5; 10; 13; and 1 Cor. 15).  Our world, like that of the first century, has mixed questions and beliefs about death and life beyond the grave.  Jesus’ words and resurrection gave people in His day—and in ours—the victorious answer!                                  

1.  The phrase may have referred to a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl used to cover the cleansed bodies of the deceased until burial. That is, Jesus may have been saying that the Law, represented by the five knots tied into each tassel of the prayer shawl and standing for the five Books of the Torah, should release its hold on this little girl and allow her to rise.  Yuval Shemesh, Israeltied guide, unpublished comments, Feb. 13, 2017, Jerusalem, Israel.

2.  Seneca, Natural Questions VI

3.  D.E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary. Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 471.

4.  Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 18.1.5; The Wars of the Jews 2.8.11.

5.  Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 18.1.4; The Wars of the Jews 2.8.14.

6.  Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 18.1.4; in The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, trans. W.Whiston (Peabody: Hendrickson Pub., 1987), 477.

7.  Ibid.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2017-18.




(15, 183)  What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found:  How many times was Peter delivered from prison by an angel?  Answer Next Week:  

Last Week’s Question: What king of Israel, who reigned only seven days, killed himself by burning down the palace with him inside?  Answer: Zimri; 1 Kings 16:18-19.