Salvation by Faith Alone:
A Look at Mark 5:21-43
By Doros Zachariades
In his book The Miracles of our Lord, Dr. Charles Ryrie makes this important observation about the healings and miracles that Jesus performed:
The main purpose of the miracles was to teach, to reveal…[but] the miracles also remind us of the consequences of sin—sickness, blindness, death—and of the power of the Lord to do something about those consequences. That is why many of His physical cures illustrate so well the spiritual salvation He secured when He died and rose from the dead (emphasis added).1
The miracles of our Lord are indeed representative of the spiritual deliverance we receive when we place our faith in Him for our eternal salvation. In addition, Jesus’ commendation of the faith of the individuals who were healed, also clearly demonstrates the means of that deliverance. In many instances, Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well [literally, has saved you]" (Mark 5:34).
A Touch of Faith
In Mark 5:21-43, two miraculous accounts are found together: the healing of the woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years and the raising of Jairus’s twelve-year-old daughter.2 A dynamic tension-filled incident unfolds with the flow of the accounts. It begins with Jairus seeking Jesus and falling at His feet (v 22). He pleads for the Lord to go with him to heal his little girl.
Suddenly Jesus’ attention is drawn in another direction as the crowds are pressing in around Him (vv 24, 30). As the ailing woman reached out her hand and touched the hem of His garment, Jesus sensed power leaving Him. He turned to ask who had touched Him.
At this point it must have been difficult for Jairus to see a seemingly insignificant matter thwart his hopes for his daughter’s well being. The woman—who had been miraculously healed—identifed herself. Jesus’ next words to her confirm that it was her faith that had made the healing a reality—words that would ring true to Jairus in the not so distant future.
William Lane’s comment is noteworthy, "It was the grasp of her faith rather than her hand that had secured the healing she sought. Her touch brought together two elements—faith and Jesus—and that had made it effective."3
As the scene shifts from this miraculous event, tragic news reaches Jairus that his daughter has died (v 35). Here is a masterful example of pastoral care from the Good Shepherd Himself. I imagine Jesus putting His hand on Jairus’s shoulder and looking into the eyes of Jairus to express love and hope. Our Lord’s words encourage Jairus in his despair and underscore clearly the sole condition for the upcoming miracle—and by explicit illustration—how one is justified before God and eternally saved.
Jesus says to Jairus, "Do not be afraid; only believe" (v 36). That’s right, "only believe." In other words, Jairus was to have faith alone! Nothing else is needed, as nothing else can help. Jesus meant what He said—just believe.
In the face of Jairus’s specific problem—his daughter’s death—ritual, ceremony, prayers, and works of any kind were out of place, especially since Jesus called for faith alone and nothing more. Faith alone is the way since it is only the Lord that saves.
What makes this case all the more exciting is the close parallel to our spiritual salvation from eternal condemnation. Just as the twelve-year old girl is raised from the dead, so in our spiritual salvation we are raised from spiritual death (Eph 2:1, 5, 8). Both are accomplished through the grace of Christ by faith alone.4
As faith was the instrumental means of physical deliverance in several of the healing miracles that Jesus performed, so faith is the vehicle through which our eternal deliverance or justification before God is obtained.5 The cherished doctrine that we defend in the evangelical tradition—justification by faith alone—has its roots firmly planted in the teaching and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ryrie, after all, was absolutely right. The miracles clearly depict the power of the Lord while reminding our hearts of the grace of the Savior.
1Charles C. Ryrie, The Miracles of our Lord (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1988), 10,11.
2The fact that this young girl was born when this woman’s illness began is significant. The Lord fittingly chose to heal both on the same day. He is the Lord over disease and death. He saves the young and the old. And He saves all by faith.
3William L. Lane, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Mark, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 193.
4The illustration should not be pressed too far, but it is a parallelism nonetheless. The daughter was saved from death (illustrating regeneration); Jairus exercised faith (illustrating means). A connection cannot be made which argues that one can believe for another to be saved. The point is that faith and faith alone was the condition of the girl’s salvation from death.
5See Matthew 15:28; Mark 9:23;10:52; Luke 7:9; 8:25; 9:41; 17:19; John 11:40; Acts 3:16; 4:9-10.