Musing on Mark 7, 24 to the end
More outrageous behaviour from our saviour! Was Jesus really so rude?
This weeks reports tell of Jesus venturing north from Capernaum into the region of Tyre for a secret holiday. The people of this area were formerly bitter enemies of Israel. It seems there is nowhere he can escape from the publics’ attention, though, for He is sought out by a non-Israelite/non-Jewish woman who comes to him seeking healing for her daughter. No Jewish rabbi would allow himself to talk to any women other than a close relative let alone a woman who is 100% Gentile, a foreigner, a pagan, a worshiper of idols (Matthew describes her as a Canaanite, which is a description of her religious beliefs, not her ethnicity). Outrageous behaviour at the time. And pretty brave of the woman to approach a foreigner, a Jew, a former enemy, of a different religion, too. She must have been desperate.
(So many come to Jesus only when things get desperate it seems – are we any different?)
But what shocks us more I suspect is that Jesus appears to be really rude to her! She’s seeking help and he’s calling her a dog! Outrageous…..or is it?
If you’re an advocate for the ‘plain meaning of scripture’ you can’t escape the fact that Jesus seems to be rude. Was he tired? Had he had a bad day? Is it in order so we can see him as human? Is he playing ‘devils advocate’ (ironic considering the problem) by repeating the commonly held view of Jews of Gentiles?
Does this conflict with what we know of Jesus nature, his character and how he relates elsewhere to people who come to him in need?
Of course the one thing we can’t hear is Jesus tone of voice. Jesus is reported as getting angry and aggressive with the injustices of the Pharisees, he is reported as being deeply sad at peoples hurt, but chiefly he is reported as being loving, merciful and gracious….and even funny. Do you ever think of Jesus as laughing? Of enjoying a joke with his disciples? Of teasing?
If Jesus intended to show this woman and her daughter mercy and love, what tone of voice would he say these words in? Was this banter? Was there a smile on his face?
Or should we just focus on the outcome – that Jesus will drive out evil whoever he tries to hide in?
Perhaps the lesson is that, as no-one is excluded from receiving Jesus love and mercy if they seek it, we should exclude no-one from our prayers?
Derek -who is taking a break from writing down his musings for a couple of weeks. Back at the end of the month.