8 February 2016

Mark 7:24-30

“[Jesus] said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s good and throw it to the dogs.’” (v. 27)

Psalm: Psalm 32


This is a striking story. It shows:

  • the amazing release of God's power that comes because of an outsider's faith
  • that God's kingdom is available this very moment to absolutely everyone
  • Jesus' humanness as he had things to learn about his Father's (God's) kingdom in the cut and thrust of meeting different people and especially outsiders.

Tyre lies northwest of Galilee and was a predominantly Gentile, non-Jewish area. The woman was non-Jewish. As a woman her views were considered by orthodox Jews of the time to be discountable. However, she is the only character in Mark's Gospel who wins an argument against Jesus. (The learned religious authorities are always outwitted by him.)

At this point in his ministry Jesus obviously considered that he must prioritise the Jews in his healing, teaching ministry. This is highlighted in his pointed rebuff of her, that "the children be fed first" and not wasted on the dogs (verse 28). From our perspective this is a shocking rebuff coming from Jesus. But it would have accurately reflected the contemporary orthodox male Jewish attitude, and would have been thought of as quite normal.

It is quite 'normal' for us to think that our group's views: religious, political or social are correct, and that somehow our views guarantee us priority in God's kingdom and enable us to judge who is in or who is out. We can be quite comfortable with a 'them' and 'us' attitude.

The massive shock in the passage is that Jesus 'let's go' of his 'correct' thinking and broadens his perspective. The healing, loving embrace of God's kingdom goes way beyond human ideas of 'correct thinking'. It is for anyone who asks for it. Those who ask, are in. Those who are prepared to be touched, the touchable ones are in. Humans, however hard they try, cannot control who is in, or who is out by 'ideas patrolling'.

Jesus understood this, as he learned from his meeting with the outsider Syrophoenician woman. But we can find this a very hard truth to understand.

To Ponder

  • Recall a time when you were convinced you were right, or your ideas correct and after a conversation with someone realised there was a whole new perspective which changed your heart and broadened your mind. What was the occasion? What did you learn?
  • The woman is humble, she knows her low social and religious status, but she has an inner authority, which makes her very courageous. Where do you get your sense of authority from? Describe an occasion when your sense of authority enabled you to be courageous.
  • Do you see Jesus' meeting with the Syprophoenician woman as a low point or a high point in Jesus' ministry? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.