Mark 7:24-30

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.

She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But 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.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Mark 7:24-30

This is always a troubling text for me. At first glance (and at every subsequent glance), it seems to be contrary to everything that we have seen and heard from Jesus to this point.

We’ve already seen him in action in Gentile territory. Tyre is a coastal city in the province of Syria, the ancestral home of the Phoenicians. Jesus does good stuff in Gentile cities.

We’ve already seen him heal Gentiles, both men and women. He has already healed both children and adults. He has proven himself an equal opportunity blesser.

So what is going on in this story? There is no way to twist it or read it without Jesus coming across as an arrogant “my tribe is the best” Jew (nothing particularly against Jews in that line – you can fill in the blank with any team you want and make the same point.) He is both demeaning and disrespectful to a poor woman who only comes to Jesus because her daughter is suffering.

I don’t know what to do with this text. Except for maybe one thing….

What if Jesus said his lines with a smile on his face and a chuckle in his voice? What if the quickness of her wit in return was invited by the gentleness in Jesus’ tone? Because I make up that if Jesus would have been sharp and dismissive she might have retreated with her request.

We can’t hear tone of voice when we read such stories. That is the limitation of written material, regardless of the clarity of qualifying adjectives and adverbs. So we’re left with context and our own imaginations.

My imagination is that Mark tells us this story PRECISELY so that we react against it. Because our reaction is an internal remember that what Jesus said was, in fact, horribly dismissive, disrespectful, and arrogant – which means that we know full well, from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes – that it is always wrong to speak to others in a dismissive, disrespectful, and arrogant matter.

The story ends with Jesus applauding the woman’s courage and willingness to speak up, even to challenge, Jesus. The story ends with a healed daughter.  Hopefully we all learned a little something along the way.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, our tongues can be so cutting in how we talk with and about other people. Sticks and stones are one thing but words really can hurt us. In our thoughts and our actions, help us treat all people as we ourselves want to be treated. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

One Response to “Mark 7:24-30”

  1. Gordon and Darlene Says:

    Thanks again Rev. we look forward to each day.

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