Thursday 10 February 2011

Bible Book:

"But she answered him, 'Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.'" (v. 28)

Mark 7:24-30 Thursday 10 February 2011


Jesus was debating with the religious leaders about what wasclean and unclean. He was challenging their interpretation of thelaw of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and by doingso was also starting to question the distinction between Jew andGentile (non Jew).

This is the only time when Mark draws attention to a Gentile beinghealed, but it is also an uncomfortable read. Jesus travelled toTyre which lay outside the borders of Galilee and Herod'sjurisdiction. It's possible he did so to escape the increasinglydemanding crowds as his fame and popularity grew. However, eventhough he tries to keep a low profile, a Phoenician woman fromSyria learns of his presence and seeks his help.

Her request is little different from many of those we've alreadyheard about. However Jesus' response to her seems very harsh andnot what we would expect. The term "dogs" was one that Jews wouldhave regularly used to describe Gentiles. Its use by Jesus wouldnot have been a surprise to those who originally heard it, in thesame way that words used to describe different racial groups are nolonger acceptable to us today even though they were perfectlyacceptable to use just a generation ago.

Perhaps the more striking aspect of this story is that Jesusappears to change his mind. His encounter with a woman, and aGentile woman at that, seems to make him reconsider his opinion,perhaps to question his own tradition as he had been urging othersto do earlier in this chapter.

Many of those who read Mark's account, both Jew and Gentile, willhave agreed with Paul, that the gospel brings salvation "to the Jewfirst, and also to the Greek [Gentile]" (Romans1:16). The Gentiles would have been heartened that there wereplenty of gathered fragments left over from Jesus' ministry to theJewish people for them too. Yet our faith takes us further, to abelief that Christ is for all, and that none have to wait to knowGod's grace.

To Ponder

To what extent does it challenge our image ofJesus to think that he could change his mind?

Are there situations where we put the banquet ofthe Church first and leave scraps for others to feed on afterwards?How can we best avoid this?

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