Capernaum in Galilee served as a home base of sorts for Jesus during His ministry, and that is likely where He returned after healing the Gerasene demoniac. The Gerasenes region, like most of the area in which the Decapolis sat, lay on the east side of the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee. Thus, when Mark 5:21 notes that Jesus “crossed again in the boat to the other side,” the text is telling us that Jesus moved westward, back to Galilee. The verse also tells us that having crossed over, our Savior once more found Himself in the presence of “a great crowd.”
While in the midst of this crowd, “one of the rulers of the synagogue” came to Jesus (v. 22). In the first century, the ruler of the synagogue was a Jewish layman who was in charge of maintaining the building and organizing such things as the schedule of synagogue services. Some synagogues had more than one ruler, so it is possible that Jairus, the ruler mentioned in the text, was one of several men who served the same synagogue. Yet, as it was more common for a synagogue to have only one ruler, it is more likely that Jairus was one of the broader class of people who could be described as synagogue rulers, each of whom had rule over only one synagogue.
In any case, Jairus knew who Jesus was as soon as He arrived back in Galilee. No doubt word of our Lord’s ministry had spread such that many would have heard of Him “through the grapevine.” But it is also possible that Jairus was a personal acquaintance of Peter, who lived in Capernaum, and knew Jesus because he knew Peter. We do know for certain that Jairus came to Jesus because his daughter was critically ill and about to die (v. 23). Matthew’s parallel account has Jairus saying that his daughter was already dead when he met Jesus (Matt. 9:18), but that is likely due to Matthew’s preference for shorter accounts of the events in Jesus’ life. For brevity’s sake, he reports in Jairus’ first encounter with Jesus what was ultimately true of the girl, namely, that she died before our Lord could get to her (see Mark 5:35).
As we see in our text, Jesus went with Jairus straightaway to address the need (v. 24a). This shows our Savior’s remarkable compassion. Even though a large and surely noisy crowd surrounded Him, Jesus still had time to address the needs of one man. We can be confident that He hears our individual needs even though millions cry out to Him.