Sometimes it helps me understand Scripture better when I try and read the stories as if I were one of the original audience. And when reading the gospel accounts, it is especially helpful to read these stories through the lens of a first century Jew.
And this is incredibly helpful in the case of Mark 5 to uncover a secondary purpose in recording these stories.
Jesus’ first stop after calming the storm was the land of the Gerasenes. These were Gentile people who worshiped pagan Gods. They were not of the nation of Israel. They were not Jews. They did not worship YHWH. This should be the first red flag.
You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own. Leviticus 20:26
The first person who meets them is a man with an “unclean” spirit who lives among the tombs. So not only was he possessed by an army of demonic/ unclean/ evil spirits, but he also lived in and around open graves full of rotting corpses.
Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days. Numbers 19:16
Gentile nation (X)
Unclean Spirit (X)
Contact with graves and dead bodies (X)
That’s three strikes already! But it gets worse: They were right next to a pig field.
And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meet or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. Leviticus 11:7-8
Herd of 2,000+ pigs (X)
It doesn’t get much more unclean than this for a good, orthodox Jew. But Jesus stands his ground and instead of taking the uncleanness on himself, he makes the unclean clean again.
Then he heads over to the other side where there are crowds pushing in around him. He is on his way to heal a sick little girl of the synagogue leader when he feels someone touch him and absorb some healing power. He discovers it was a woman with a bleeding problem.
When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean…and anything she sits on will be unclean… Whoever touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean until evening. Leviticus 15:25-27
This woman has been bleeding for 12 years! Imagine, not being allowed to touch anyone or have anyone sit with you for 12 years. And she had the audacity to touch a rabbi, a holy man! She would have been severely punished for this offense. But Jesus didn’t become unclean. In fact, he made the unclean woman clean again.
Finally, they get to Jairus house only to discover that his daughter has already died. There’s nothing that can be done, so they think. Then Jesus takes the girl by the hand and whispers softly to her.
Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days. Leviticus 19:11
But Jesus doesn’t become unclean. He replaces the unclean with the clean once again.
You see, to the Jew the cleanliness laws were set in place so that they could be holy, like God. But unclean always trumped clean. And unclean human always made a clean human unclean as well. That’s just how it worked. To become clean again there were a whole bunch of rites and rituals that had to be performed in the presence of a priest so that God could restore the clean state of the person.
How could a man come into contact with a graveyard, a man with an unclean spirit, a heard of pigs and still remain clean? How could someone be touched by a woman with a bleeding issue and still remain clean? How could anyone touch a dead body and not be pronounced unclean on the spot?
Who can make the unclean clean again but God alone? Exactly.