It’s like when the guy who almost never speaks up in class, who usually answers in monosyllables or at most in phrases of two or three words, suddenly starts talking about something and won’t stop. Everybody else looks at each other asking the silent question, “What got into him?” That’s kind of what happens when it comes to the story of the Bleeding Woman. Mark, by far the shortest gospel, spends far more words on this episode than either Matthew or Luke.

When we notice something unusual in Scripture like that, we should ask, “What got into him?” Or more precisely, “What is it about this episode that draws so much attention from the author of Mark? What is there about the story that apparently emphasizes the larger story that Mark is telling?”

For answers, we start with the passage in question, compare it with the other two accounts, and expand our search from there. We’ll divide it into scenes again:

Scene 1

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

Setting; “The other side of the lake,” “by the lake.

Characters: Jesus, synagogue leader named Jairus, Jesus’ disciples

Conflict: daughter of Jairus is dying; father wants Jesus to heal her

Resolution: None in this scene.

Question(s)/Point(s) of interest:  Here and in Luke’s account Jairus is named, in Matthew he is simply a “synagogue leader.” Similarly, in Matthew the girl has died; here and in Luke she is dying. Here and in Luke we are told that the girl was 12 years old.

I have Scene 2

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering

Setting: On the way to Jairus’ house.

Characters: bleeding woman, Jesus.

Conflict: woman with chronic affliction believes touching Jesus garment will heal her

Resolution: She is healed

Question(s)/Point(s) of interest: Only Mark mentions that she had seen many doctors, that she spent “all she had,” and had grown worse.

Scene 3

2230 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ 

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Setting: On the way to Jairus’ house.

Characters: Jesus, his disciples,” bleeding woman.

Conflict:  Jesus’ apparent confusion, puzzlement of the disciples, woman trembling in fear.

Resolution: Jesus declares her faith had healed her, tells her to “go in peace.”

 Question(s)/Point(s) of interest:  Jesus does not say he healed the woman, but that her faith had! Why is the woman “trembling?” What makes her so fearful?
The length of this episode in Mark’s account, and the change of focus–from the bleeding woman alone in the previous scene, with her plus Jesus and his disciples in this one– accounts for splitting this encounter into 2 scenes here vs. 1 in Matthew.

Scene 4

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.

Setting: On the way to Jairus’ house.

Characters: Some people from the house of Jairus, Jesus, Peter, James, and John.

Conflict: News that girl has died, no reason to bother Jesus.

Resolution: Tells father not to be afraid, only believe.

Question(s)/Point(s) of interest:  Why was a crowd there? What was the significance of some “playing pipes.”

Scene 5

38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

Setting: At Jairus’ house.

Characters: Jesus, mourners

Conflict: Jesus tells crowd girl is not dead but asleep. Crowd laughs.

Resolution: None: transitional scene.

Question(s)/Point(s) of interest:  Very similar to Matthew’s account

Scene 6

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Setting: At Jairus’ house.

Characters: Jesus, girl’s parents, three disciples, child.

Conflict: Jesus enjoins secrecy.

Resolution: ?

Question(s)/Point(s) of interest:  Only Mark quotes the Aramaic: “Talitha koum,” and translates it.

You might want to make a list of the similarities and differences in the two accounts (I have mentioned most of them), and ask “What significance do these differences have?” “What do these differences reveal about the story each writer is trying to tell us?”

Next we will look at Luke’s account.