Friday 01 March 2013

Bible Book:

"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.'" (vv. 28-29)

Mark 7:24-37 Friday 1 March 2013


This passage contains two stories of people being healed. Theyare connected because both of those healed are not Jews, butGentiles (non-Jews).

Jews and Gentiles were not comfortable neighbours. Jewish cultureand practices were radically different, and set Jewish people apartfrom those living around them. Pagan Gentiles worshipped othergods, and so were seen by Jews as idol-worshippers. To be incontact with Gentiles made strict Jews unclean, so they could notperform religious duties. A rabbi (a teacher of Jewish Law) whotaught about 50 years later said that "he who eats with an idolateris like unto one who eats with a dog".

Jesus is approached in private by a Gentile woman. This action wascertain to cause offence to any devout Jewish man. Jesus speaks asthough offended, as he rejects the woman's request that he help herdaughter. Not only does he reject her, but he refers to her as adog (verse 27). It is remarkable that after such a rebuff the womanpersists. She makes her almost witty reply about the dogs eatingthe crumbs under the table (verse 28) and Jesus changes hismind.

Because this whole conversation is cast in terms of food it pointsto other stories around it. Earlier Jesus has fed a great crowd ofJewish people (Mark6:33-44). In his insult to the woman, he says that the Jewishpeople (the "children") need feeding. After she has persuaded himto feed her with crumbs, Jesus travels deeper into Gentileterritory, and as he returns to Galilee feeds another crowd (Mark 8:1-9).Although Mark does not say so explicitly, the context suggests thatthe crowd is Gentile. Is Mark suggesting that Jesus recognised thespiritual hunger of Gentiles because of this woman's words?

The deaf and dumb man is also healed (verses 32-37). If feeding isused as a metaphor for hearing God's word, then here is someone whocannot hear and cannot be fed. But now Jesus 'feeds' him - aGentile man, and he hears and speaks. Just a few verses later thereis a contrast when Jesus finds his own Jewish disciples unable tohear and understand what he has to say to them (Mark 8:14-21).

To Ponder

  • What divisions in our society do we feel as deeply as thatbetween Jews and Gentiles in Jesus' time? Who would you find itdifficult to welcome into your personal space?
  • How are you fed by these stories? What is it that inspires andsustains you?
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