9 September 2018Mark 7:24-37
Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (v. 29-30)
Psalm: Psalm 146
I wonder how you respond to Jesus’ initial rejection of the Canaanite woman? This is a difficult passage, but a good introduction to our reading for the week. The woman is apparently rejected for being a foreigner – but she speaks up for herself and in the end gets the healing she seeks. For much of this week we are going to be reading a story in which the non-Jews, the foreigners, do their best to respond to God and it is the Jew (and a prophet no less) who constantly does the opposite.
This passage is difficult for us because we no longer have the expectations of the original readers. The people in the Early Church who first read this passage faced questions around whether someone who was not a Jew could join the Christian church and, if they could, what that meant they had to do. If that was your issue, imagine for a moment reading a story in which Jesus first rejects, but then responds, to someone who is not a Jew. If we focus on the rejection, we get one image of Jesus, but if we focus on his careful attention and willingness to change his mind in response to her, we get a very different image.
For any good Jew would know that the Old Testament is full of Jewish people of faith who dared to disagree with God when it seemed that God was acting or was going to act in a way that they did not understand. Examples would be, Abraham (Genesis 18:16-33), Moses (Exodus 3-4) Elijah (1 Kings 19) Jonah (chapter 1) and Jeremiah (chapters 12 and 20). All of these stories are quite difficult if we look only at the picture of God given at the start of the argument, but they also communicate something very important about what faith is like in a difficult world where we do not always understand what is going on.
- What image of faith emerges from these stories?
- Why do you think Jesus tried to keep the deaf man silent?