Faith of the Syro-phonecian woman

This is written by Matt Coombs. He is the curate at St Mary's and oversees small groups.

Mark 7:24-37

Jesus honours a Syro-Phoenician woman’s faith
24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 'First let the children eat all they want,' he told her, 'for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs.'

28 'Lord,' she replied, 'even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.'

29 Then he told her, 'For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.'

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Jesus heals a deaf and mute man
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spat and touched the man's tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, 'Ephphatha!' (which means 'Be opened!'). 35 At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosed and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. 'He has done everything well,' they said. 'He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'

Reflection

So…this is a bit awkward. If you like to think of Jesus as a sort of white, middle class, meek and mild sanitised hippy this will surely have made for uncomfortable reading.

Here, we see a sincere foreign woman looking for help from Jesus. He responds apparently insensitively to her suffering as he insults her and likens her to a dog (a common Jewish directed towards gentiles). Before finally delivering her daughter of the demons when he is impressed by her response.

In Middle Eastern culture, dogs were almost as despised as pigs. They were never kept as pets and, if tamed at all, were used as dangerous half-wild guard dogs.

This is incredibly insulting.

When we read the Bible we can't picture everything that is happening in the scene. We don't necessarily pick up on tone, body language, winks, glances, nods.

Jesus was always being followed by and was training his disciples. They would have been nearby, the fact that Mark records this story suggests it was a significant moment. Perhaps he learned something from this encounter, and perhaps he hopes that we will learn something from it too.

The woman doesn't seem particularly put out about being called a dog. She knew that as a Gentile, she was considered by Jews to be less than human. Jesus, being Jewish, was crashing through all manner of religious and cultural boundaries by even conversing with her. But it's in his flagrant disregard for the rules that he's rewarded with the two magic ingredients he can work with: humility and faith.

If we can also come to Jesus in humility (fully acknowledging the stuff we do that creates barriers between us and him) but also faith (confidence that Jesus loves us and is powerful enough to overcome those barriers), then we too can experience his healing power in our lives no matter who we are or what we've done.

This is a story of grace, faith and power.

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