Sunday 06 September 2015

Bible Book:

Mark 7:24-37 Sunday 6 September 2015

Psalm: Psalm 146


Is Jesus intolerant, racist, xenophobic? Surely that's notpossible? But when Jesus refers to Gentiles as dogs (the Jews are'children') then he is repeating the racist negativity that markedcontemporary Jewish attitudes towards non-Jews. We must face up tohow Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels - this is how he iscommunicated to us, however difficult that might be.

It is argued that Jesus was perfect, sinless (though this isnever stated in Jesus' story), he was never wrong and never didanything wrong. The difficulty with having made up our minds firstand then trying to explain away anything that doesn't fit - when wesay 'Jesus didn't really mean that' - is that we miss out onengaging with Jesus as a fully-rounded personality. He wasdifficult, tetchy, angry, even rude, like anyone else.

Jesus did not want to meet this woman, he was on retreat. Heuses a casual racist slur to persuade her to stop bothering him,telling her that she is unclean, outside, unwelcome. She was notpart of his target audience. But, like the best characters, she hassomething to say, something new, and the same old script is notgoing to work. She has what he most sought, often lacking amongsthis own people, even his closest followers - faith. She apparentlyhas no malice, but must be speaking with a twinkle in her eye -'yes we are dogs, but we are grateful for any crumbs we can gethold of'. He is changed by this encounter, he will no longer standin her way, he has been challenged and gives her what shewants.

As so often happens in the story, he bumps into someone elsealong the way, while he is still in Gentile territory. There is nomention of 'dogs', but a detailed account of a healing. Jesus urgesthe inevitable crowds to say nothing. This crowd also departs fromthe script and shows appreciation for this foreign healer-prophet.Intolerance is over, returning to his own people, he is generousand compassionate (Mark 8:2).

To Ponder

  • How do you cope with the tension between explaining andexplaining away difficult verses in the Bible?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus had a fully-rounded humanpersonality?
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