Archive for September 10th, 2012

Text:  Mark 7:  24-37

As at the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the man now hearing not to tell anyone.  Did He use reverse psychology so that the man would start to spread the news all over?  No, that’s deceitful and in Jesus’ mouth there was no deceit. 

Why does Jesus want the man to keep his healing a secret?  Many people thought Jesus’ ministry was all about physical healing.  Jesus’ great deeds, like signs, point to Him and His identity.  In Mark chapter 1 after Jesus heals many and He’s becoming well-known, He goes off to pray by Himself. The disciples come looking for him, “Everyone is looking for you.”  Jesus responded, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”  He tells them the purpose of His arrival:  to preach, to preach the reign of God, to preach good news to the poor, to bind the wounds of the broken-hearted, to forgive so by that forgiveness gives faith, faith that holds Him tight for healing of heart, soul and mind. 

After today’s lesson at the end of chapter 7, beginning in 8:31, 9:31 and 10:34 Jesus tells the disciples, the religious leadership will, “… condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” The focus, clear and unmistakable is the Cross and the Resurrection.  The focus of  physical healing alone would get everything out of focus.  See so-called faith healers on TV. The ones I have heard never preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for sin-soaked men and women, nor point to the Sacraments, but they do point themselves and their ministries.  Jesus points us to Golgotha, this is why He came out to point us in the right direction to the Father through the Son:  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  All those whom Jesus healed were nowhere to found at the foot of the Cross, even the disciples were not there. He came out, so that in Him, bearing the marks of Cross, risen, in Him we are found.

 Marks tells that He crossed the border into Tyre and Sidon.  These were pagan, Gentile cities. This is a mighty big border for a devout Jew as Jesus to cross.  Syrophoenician meant a descendant of the Philistines.  Yes, and a woman and here is a  mother with a demon-possessed daughter. Jesus said before in chapter 7 that all the man-made spiritualities, religious rites and rituals we invent, can not cleanse the dirty soul and heart. Even keeping “my nose clean” won’t cleanse the heart. He pointed out that it is what comes out of the heart which defiles a man: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

The human heart is broken, bent in upon itself, so it breaks the Law of God.  The Syrophoenician woman is not part of the covenant of Israel.  Jesus knows this.  She kneels at His feet and begs for her daughter.  She is praying.  She won’t let go of Jesus.  She heard His Word.  She looks out to Him.  But initially He does not look out for her.  “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus came first for the lost house of the children of Israel.  But her faith does not let Him go.  But even the dogs, literally pet dogs,  eat the crumbs from the children’s table. For this statement your daughter is well. In Greek the word “Statement” is literally “word”.  For this word, the word of faith, which you have heard, your daughter is well.  Her daughter needed the Word of God as well in the darkness of her soul. 

Both the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus had this in common:  it was for the Jew as well. This preaching angered their fellow Jew, angry enough to kill them.  “He’s saying we are sinners as well!  The nerve! Gentiles, yes, are sinners!  But not us!” Like in Church life, “I don’t want to go to church, that’s where all the good people go”.  And Christians can give off that attitude.  Pharisaic attitude is alive and well.   Now with the Syrophoenician woman, it becomes clear. The bread of God’s Word is needed by all, Jew and Gentile. The is why He came out.  “… the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”   Sin is an equal opportunity employer and the wages of sin is death and we insist on working for such lousy wages.  Many churches rant on about “inclusivity”.  “All have sinned” is mighty inclusive!  “All who believe”, likewise and likewise, as He died and rose for all.

He crossed a mighty big border. But He had done that already: He was born.  Still, this was not the biggest border He would cross: it  was the Cross. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. James encourages to show no partiality, because the Lord of glory, our Lord Jesus Christ showed no partiality upon the Cross and risen from the dead, to preach the Gospel into all creation. His Word is still needed by all in all lands and hearts foreign to the truth of the Gospel, dying to hear:  you are forgiven.  All fed bread from our tables and the Bread of Life from His Table.  In the Book of Common Prayer of the 17th century, the Anglican fathers prayed this prayer which captures the essence of the lesson of eating the crumbs under children’s table.  It is called the “Prayer of Humble Access”:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

The Lord, though, finally did not give crumbs to the Syrophoenician woman, nor us but Himself.  It is for this Word, He the Word, He freed a Gentile woman’s daughter of  a demon and stuck His finger into deaf man’s ear and touched the man’s tongue. This points us to the real hearing He unstops our ears for His Word, freeing us from the darkness.  He is  the light of world.  Put on the armor of light. Be opened!  Not be open to  everything that you hear because all is not good. Be opened, like cupping the hands on a hot day at a stream for a cool drink. He fills us according to His Word. At the end of the lesson the folks say He has done all things well.  Jesus’ polling numbers were off the chart.  At the Cross, He maybe had a favorable rating of 1%, when the Roman Centurion, a Gentile, declared, This was the Son of God.  It is on the Cross, the Lord made all things well, stamped forgiven, redeemed, so loved. 



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