Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
Text: Mark 7.24-end " Going outside our comfort zones"
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Share together a time when someone from completely outside your circle of Christian friends changed your whole perspective on the Christian Gospel by challenging the views you held. What difference did that change make to you?
A Window on the Text
Here are two stories which come in a section of the gospel that focuses on the missionary journey of Jesus with his disciples into Gentile territory. Today Tyre is in southern Lebanon and was heavily attacked by the Israeli army in July 2006 who were trying to root out members of the ‘terrorist’ organisation Hezbollah.
Jesus is staying in a household where a woman, desperate for her daughter to be released from an oppressive spirit, comes to him and begs for help. Jesus’ response comes as a shock to the reader. He uses the derogatory term ‘dogs’ in reference to Gentiles. This reflects his upbringing and conditioning as a Jew and the priority given to Israel’s salvation over that of Gentiles. We now wait to see whether he can overcome this barrier and come to see the woman in a different light.
The woman is not deterred by his response and points out that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs. Jesus responds by assuring her that her daughter has been set free from the evil spirit. There’s no touching, just words and the woman leaves (v 27-29). The matter is now crystal clear, salvation is inclusive not exclusive. It embraces the whole of humanity.
This miracle is brought together with another, this time a deaf and dumb man and this time hands on with the use of touch and spittle. One cannot help but see how this might have impacted Mark’s audience who were in need of having their tongues loosened to share the gospel message in the face of persecution. Both miracle stories highlight Jesus’ authority over all forms of sickness. It ought to give us confidence that the risen Lord can heal today.
Responding as a community
- How do you feel about the idea that a woman was the means by which Jesus was challenged to see that God’s mission was inclusive of Gentiles? Where would you draw the line in such an encounter and at what point might you say that Jesus had sinned?
- Some people say that the issue of humanity’s salvation (i.e. forgiveness and peace with God) has been dealt with in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and that it covers all people irrespective of their response – it is not restricted. The argument goes that the gospel message we are called to proclaim is making known this good news and encouraging people to embrace all that such salvation has to offer humanity. How would you interpret the universal scope of the gospel? Is it only available to those who repent and believe?
- In what ways do you feel under pressure not to share the Good News with others? What are the fears, concerns that cause you to say little about God’s love and salvation in Christ? How are barriers to sharing the Good News overcome?
- What lessons can we learn about the expression of the church’s healing ministry from this passage?
- Consider the idea that for us to be fully healed we need to see people as unique human beings loved by God and bearing the dignity of God who longs for nothing but fullness in their lives.
Light a candle and place it in the circle.
Name silently or aloud those individuals or peoples who are often regarded and treated as if they are beyond the reach of God’s love and salvation in Christ.
Pray by name for those you know in need of healing.
Conclude with the grace together.
For an account of the place of women in 1st century society and church see http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/jul1992/v49-2-article7.htm.
- Read Heidi Husted’s short article entitled ‘When the gospel goes to the dogs’ at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_23_117/ai_65014576/
- Karen Keely’s ‘The crumbs under the table: bread enough for all’ http://www.thewitness.org/article.php?id=1119
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion