Some of the great moments of history, those that stick with us in positive ways, those that show us new and better ways to live, are incidents that break down the accepted boundaries that get drawn between us as fellow humans. In our own nation’s history, The suffragette movement, the Birmingham Campaign, Pee Wee Reese with his arm around Jackie Robinson…those are just a few of the triumphant moments that have shaped us.
Jesus certainly was one who violated accepted cultural and religious boundaries during his ministry. He has ministered to those labeled unclean and unworthy with such regularity it becomes the action we expect as we read the gospels.
Then we come across a section like the text we’ll read this Sunday: Mark 7:24-37.
Jesus breaks from the script in a radical way. A pitiful character of a woman with a tormented daughter literally begs Jesus to help her…and he seems to deny her request, citing the ethnic and religious boundaries that separated them. He even compares her to a dog in excusing himself.
Needless to say, this has puzzled Bible readers from the time we’ve had it.
How would you feel had you received a response like she got? Some suggest it was all about timing, salvation had to come through the Jews, and Jesus knew she’d get her turn in due time. Some believe this demonstrates Jesus’ full humanity, where he had to learn that he had blind spots of cultural prejudice. Others think this was all done with a wink and a smile as Jesus tried to get this woman to press through in faith. Why do you think Jesus did this?
Imagine how you would feel after going home and finding your loved one healed. What do you suppose her thoughts about Jesus were at that point?
In the next verses, 31-37, how is the man who couldn’t hear or speak in a similar situation as the Syrophoenician woman? What stands out as unusual in this account? What do you make of the way Jesus addressed this man’s problems?
This study will give us a lot to think about, I think. Hope to see you Sunday!