Going Deeper 09.03.2021

The Gospel reading for Pentecost 15... Mark 7:24-37

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Many opinions exist as to why Jesus would utter what amounts to being an ethnic slur: "it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs."  This derogatory term was a common one among the Jews, who referred to Samaritans and other Gentiles as being lowly "dogs."  The fact of the matter is that the Jews were filled with a deep disdain for others not of their race.  Was Jesus also a racist?  So, it would seem in this text.

But as we do with all difficult texts, we consider the context, and one of the main themes throughout Mark's Gospel is Jesus demonstrating in word and in deed that God's Kingdom was to be inclusive, not exclusive.  In Mark's narrative, Jesus spends very little time in and around Jerusalem, and instead works His way further and further north, into Gentile territory.  And along the way He reaches out to heal, feed, and interact with the kinds of people His disciples would have disdained.

I believe that what Jesus says here is a way of getting the point across to His disciples... who until the Spirit fills them at Pentecost, failed to learn this lesson.  I think it is quite possible that Jesus may have had a smile and a wink when He uttered these words.  Jesus came to fulfill the promise made to Abraham early in Old Testament history, that through his descendants all the nations of the world would be blessed.  Up to this point, the descendants of Abraham had become increasingly exclusionistic in how they viewed others.  Jesus came to set things straight. 

Jesus continues to seek to set things straight through His Body, the Church.  The healing of all relationships was at the heart of His mission.  In reconciling us to God through grace, Jesus opened the door to the reconciling of all relationships.  We still have a lot of work to do.

Healing with You,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"