Jairus (Part 1): Mark 5:21-24

Jairus. A familiar face in the crowd?

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.

Mark 5:21-24

Shiptonthorpe, 30th June 2024

Jesus relationship with leaders of the Jewish community is always interesting. We rather assume that by default the leaders would have been antagonistic to Jesus. Clearly there were times when this was the case, and ultimately, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were responsible for the circumstances leading to his death. However, do you remember Jesus had something that feels rather like a clandestine meeting with Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin(i) in Jerusalem? You can read about it in John 3. The indications are that some leaders, some of the time, were interested in speaking to Jesus.  We saw in Mark 2 that some of the local Pharisees were close witnesses to Jesus teaching and healing activities. They were watching. They were sceptical. But they were not always openly hostile.

Jairus was leader of the synagogue in Capernaum, one of the most high profile leaders in the town which Jesus had, for the time being, made his home. In my mind I see the crowd parting as this senior member of the local community steps forwards to meet Jesus.

By our standards, Capernaum is a small town (about 1500 people). To me it is unthinkable that these two men had not met before. Jairus must have been very familiar with the healing and teaching ministry of this young rabbi, going on in his own town. We know that Jesus visited and was sometimes allowed to speak in synagogues. In public at least, it may be that Jairus would keep Jesus at a distance. It may be unlikely that he would publicly support Jesus’ ministry, but Jairus surely knew who Jesus was. This scene shows that he believes in the power of Jesus’ healing ministry. It is likely that when Jairus mentions his daughter, Jesus will know exactly who they are talking about. He will have have seen and perhaps even met the girl. Did these two men greet each other as strangers, or as friends?

Yesterday, in conversation, a friend of mine told me that he was agnostic. He is not sure whether or not he believes in God. However, he told me, if he was on a plane which was at risk of crashing, he would be the first to pray. He would try anything. Something similar is happening here. Jairus probably does not approve of Jesus, but in a desperate situation – his beloved daughter is dying.

Jairus’ daughter is sick. Very sick. Any animosity or differences which might have existed between the two were set aside. In a desperate and powerful gesture, Jairus, the synagogue leader, throws himself to the floor at Jesus’ feet. At this moment, Jairus would do anything, try anything. Anything at all. Even publicly throw himself at the feet of the celebrity preacher. Even publicly declare his confidence that Jesus, by laying his hands on his daughter, could rescue her from the jaws of death and restore her to health.

We will never know the truth of the relationship between Jesus and Jairus, but we do well to notice that confronted by desperation, Jesus does not turn anyone away. There seems to be no hesitation. Jesus goes with him. And where Jesus goes, the crowd follows.

You can read the second part of the story of Jairus’ daughter here.

(i) The Sanhedrin was the Council of Jewish Leaders in Jerusalem, responsible for interpreting and applying the Law

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

How Big was that Crowd?: Mark 5:21

This morning, I found myself wondering about crowd sizes. When Jesus got out of that boat, how big was that crowd?

Horsham, 27th June 2024

‘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.’

Mark 5:21

On this occasion, Jesus is returning from an eventful overnight trip across the lake. The trip started at the end of what had been a busy day, teaching and healing a crowd of people. At first, this looks like Jesus taking an opportunity to escape the crowds to get some rest and downtime. We know that he was very tired, and doubtless his disciples were too. In fact, he was fulfilling a divine appointment with a man on the far side of the Lake who believed himself possessed by a legion of spirits. After this encounter, the exhausted group came back across the Lake, heading for Capernaum. The disciples must have been looking forward to getting home and some well deserved rest. Might it not be discouraging to see a noisy and excited crowd on the shore waiting for their return.

In these days of social media and mass communication, in a culture where people can travel long distances relatively easily, politicians and event organisers are notoriously good at exaggerating the size of the crowd. For them, the high numbers in a crowd indicate success and status.

At this point, Mark says the crowd is large(i)This crowd is unlikely to number thousands of people. Some would have travelled a great distance to be there, but at a time when the entire population of Capernaum was probably about 1500 people, we might imagine this crowd to number at the most tens or hundreds, rather than thousands. Some are curious and interested in following Jesus and to hear his teaching. Some are intrigued by his unusual teachings. Some have heard of this young celebrity rabbi who has the power to heal. They come looking for healing, for themselves and for their friends and relatives. For many of them, the need is great and urgent, which means they will press towards Jesus. A group of even 100 such people would make a noisy and boisterous group, all trying to grab his attention. All, that is, except the few who are watching every move, hiding in the crowd, ready to pass information to the Roman or Temple authorities.

If our assumption about the number of people is right, it occurs to me as I imagine the scene that contact with this crowd is entirely avoidable. Jesus, and his by now surely exhausted group of disciples, could have quietly returned to a different part of the shore out of sight of people. Several of the disciples are, after all, local fishermen with an intimate knowledge of the coast. But he didn’t. Jesus knew that the people were there, and he went straight to them. He recognised their wide raging needs and expectations and he chose to meet them. When Jesus sees a crowd of people, he sees people in need, and his heart is moved by compassion (Mark 6:34). For Jesus and his disciples, this is not a time to rest. There are people here who Jesus needs to meet. Avoiding them is not an option. There is work to be done. Here is a lesson for the disciples, and as followers of Jesus, for us.

In this crowd there is a tall, well dressed man. He has a strong presence, and many of the crowd know who he is. People make way for him, giving him access to the front of the crowd as the boat approaches the shore. This is the leader of the Synagogue. He is such a well known and respected man in the town that we know his name, Jairus. Close by there is a poor woman who is very unwell, suffering from an issue of blood, rendering her unclean, unemployable and outcast to the Jewish community. It’s probable that these two would know each other and would have every reason to avoid being in the same place. Yet this morning, they have something in common. They both have a divine appointment with Jesus.

‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ (NIV)

Matthew 9:36

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

(i) The Greek word polys is generally translated as much or many, in this case implying a crowd of many people.

God looks at your heart: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Horsham: 12th June 2024

Some years ago, a Church based children’s worker called Trevor was leading some session at the Conference Centre where I was working. He was encouraging the young people to explore their relationship with God. He wanted them to realise that God knew them, and valued them as His people. He wanted them to understand that their age was no barrier to their faith. God knows and loves them. He sees their heart. Too often, we overlook the gifts and the faith of children. Too often we don’t notice, and therefore don’t celebrate His Holy Spirit working through a child.

Trevor led the group through the story of Samuel, at the point when he is sent by God to visit Jesse. God had told Samuel that he was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the new King of Israel. The first son, Eliab, is a fine, strong young man.  “Surely,” says Samuel, “his anointed is now before the Lord.” God says no. He also rejects all of the sons who follow. Surely, says Samuel, there must be another? Young David is not even presented to Samuel. He is assumed to be too young. Too insignificant. Whilst the brothers are part of the feast, David is out in the fields. He’s working. He’s looking after the sheep.

‘ “Send and bring him, for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him, for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.’

1 Samuel 16:11-13

The key point is this. We look at each other and we make judgments about each other. Our judgments are made on the basis of superficial impressions. We notice things like people’s anxiety, their behaviour, their attitude, their dress style, even their age, and we sub consciously make judgments about them. The message is that God is different. God looks past the visible exterior of our appearance, our gender, our skin colour, our age.

‘The Lord does not see as men see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’

1 Samuel 16:7

In order to make the point to the young people, Trevor and his team wrote out a short sentence on lots of pieces of paper and gave a copy to each child. At the end of the session, the children put their copy of the note in their Bible and went home.

The following morning, I was having a bad day. I felt that God was moving me on from my role as Director of the Christian charity where I had worked for nine years. I wasn’t ready or able to retire. Yet I couldn’t see the next step. I felt useless. I felt discouraged. I felt old.

I walked into the conference room in which the teaching had taken place. There on the floor was a folded piece of paper. I picked it up and read the note which had been intended for one of the children.

‘God looks at your heart, not your age.’

Powerful words. Words intended for a child. I was nearly 60. They were every bit as powerful to me.

Be encouraged.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK



My name is Legion, for we are many: Mark 5:1-20

‘My name is Legion – for we are many!’

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:1-20

Horsham. 9th June 2024
‘My name is Legion, for we are many’

This story deals with a very dramatic incident of demonic possession. Such a concept was ‘quite familiar to people in Palestine in the days of Jesus but quite alien to us.’ (Barclay, Loc 2543).

Most of us are not used to thinking of our world as being populated by demons. Some people feel more comfortable approaching this story as an encounter with a man who is suffering from some kind of psychological disorder. That’s fine. You can find your own place in that conversation, but  to understand what happened, we need to accept that to the people of Jesus’ day, demons were both real and ever present. 

It was widely assumed that demons were most likely to be found in dark, deserted places, so here, probably in the early hours of the morning, is a man emerging from the tombs. The place of the dead would be an obvious place for demons. Here is a strong man, dressed in rags, and given to bouts of violence. Local people would avoid him. They would doubtless have been fearful of his immense strength and also of the risk of contamination by the powers of evil.

If he were ill, I have been asked, rather than under demonic control, why would Jesus treat him as if he was possessed. A contemporary approach to mental health would rightly abhor an intervention based on that assumption. The answer is, I think, surprisingly simple. I believe that Jesus wants us to meet people at their point of greatest need, and here He is doing just that. The man utterly believes that he is possessed by not one, but huge number of demons. That, then, is the point at which Jesus meets him, and that is the condition from which Jesus delivers him.

If we prefer to take the alternative view, that this is a case of chronic psychological disorder rather than deliverance from demons, we are witnessing an extraordinary and supernatural healing which affirms the power of Christ to respond to psychological as well as physical needs.

Christ’s first direction that the demon should leave the man was, it seems, resisted. The spirits not only remains within the man, but they beg Christ not to torture them. This affirms that the demons are in fear of Christ (James 2:19). In many cultures, there is a belief that knowing the name of a person or a demon gives one a degree of control over them. ‘What is your name?’ says Jesus. Unable to resist such a question from the One who is the Son of God, the man, or the spirits within him, reply ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’ For me, there is something extraordinary and powerful in this name, reflecting the desperation and hopelessness of the man.


The Roman army was divided into fighting units. A legion comprised 6000 troops. They were a strong unit and an extremely powerful fighting force, and they were capable of great violence. Like this poor man, who believes himself to be possessed by a small army of demons, they were best avoided.

We might read think that the departure of these spirits is contingent on Christ permitting them to move to a nearby herd of pigs. However It is Jesus, not the spirits, who are in control. He has a plan for this man and for the demons. The dispatch of the demons into a herd of pigs enable the man to see that they have departed from him, and so he, and others around him, can know that he is free. In order to be healed and restored, he needed to know that he had been delivered.

The tenure of the spirits within the pigs is fleeting because they immediately fling themselves into the waters and are killed. The suffering man can be convinced that his torturers are gone, and so his mental health is restored. He is healed.

The panic of the herdsmen, and fear of the local people are understandable. The transformation of their neighbour, dressed and in his own mind, is undeniable. For them, the destruction of a herd of pigs is terrifying.  They can only understand these things in terms of the supernatural. No wonder they want this small band of men who have arrived from the far side of the Lake to leave.

Not for the first time, having witnessed his power, someone wants to physically remain with Jesus. The message to this man, as to all of us who encounter Christ, is to return to our people and tell them what he has done for them.

’20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.’

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK