Mark 5:22

One of the leaders of the synagogue, whose name was Jairus, came and, as soon as he saw Jesus, threw himself at his feet


actions are multivalent
carrying a number of intentions
stimulating as many interpretations

acts make different differences
whether it was then or is now
how relationships relate

to kneel may be supplication
irony cannot be ruled out
identity of status is also in the mix

shaking hands and standing firm
a hug or upraised fists
all carry their threat and fun

in the midst of ambiguity
we can jump to a projected conclusion
more fruitfully we await further clarity


Crowds are a culture condensed. There is always a pecking order and in the midst of the milling about a privileged one makes it to the eye of the crowd. Jairus is recognized and all eyes refocus from Jesus to Jairus.

Here is the leader of the local synagogue. His very name means, “he who enlightens or sheds light”.

Jairus is here to help focus the roiling energy of the crowd. Perhaps there will even be a battle of enlightenment.

Expectations are raised about the significance of this moment.

What is the crowd to think when Jairus does the unexpected and reverses roles? Jairus, the brightest of us all, on his knees? What is this about?

We might not be as surprised if we were reading this in the Greek as there is an awkward introduction of Jairus. There is already something awkward at work. The original language does not refer to Jairus as one of several synagogue leaders but simply a person with a particular function therein. This sentence is often reordered to make up for the unusual separation of Jairus from his identifier, “one”.

We expected a clarification of the story and found ourselves thrown off kilter. Jesus is back—Hooray! Jairus is on his knees—What!

With eager ears, we are straining to hear what Jairus is going to say. It must be something of great import to have brought him forth and to begin so dramatically and yet quietly. Perhaps he doesn’t really want to be out here with the synagogue disrupter.

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