Year B – Proper 18 – Mark 7:24-37

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.  Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.  And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Summary – Two stories of healings are told in this passage.  The first is sometimes read as a story in which Jesus grudgingly saves a Gentile, or a story in which He changed His mind regarding what He was going to do in the situation.  However, those who wish to read it this way often read Jesus’ ministry as only being to the Jews, and overlook the fact that Jesus had passed out of Israel proper in going to Tyre and Sidon.  This region was on the coast of the Mediterranean sea and fairly far to the north.  If Jesus only ever meant to minister to Jews, why would He have travelled up there?  We see, then, some of the beginnings of the spread of the Gospel beyond Israel where it began.  In the second story, a man is healed of deafness and dumbness.

Insight – Many of us grew up in Christian homes, learning about God and the Bible.  The danger is that sometimes we can begin to think that we deserve God’s affection and love for us.  The story of Jesus’ talk with the Syrophoenician woman reminds us, though, that the Jews were the first to be ministered to by Jesus, and the first to learn of His person.  We who are Gentiles then, regardless of our family’s past belief in God, must remember with thankfulness that we have been grafted into the tree that is God’s family.  It is by grace that we have been grafted in, not because we were anything special!

Child Catechism – Why does God show grace to you?  Because He loves me.

Discussion – Why, in both stories, does Jesus try to keep His presence or His actions secret?

Prayer – Our Father in Heaven, we thank you that you have not kept yourself hidden from us, but have revealed yourself to all nations that we might worship you.  Give us humility in our faith, knowing that it is not of ourselves, but wholly of your grace.  Amen.

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