“The Others”

On September 9, Pastor Jim preaches on Mark 7:24-37.

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

What the heck is going on in this passage? Is this the Jesus we know and love? Read the text again. A woman is desperate to help her little daughter who had “an unclean spirit.” Though not a Jew, her desperation leads her to seek out the rabbi Jesus. He takes one look at her and knows she’s not a member of his tribe. She was in every sense an “other.”

Though she begs, he refuses, saying that helping her would be like taking food from the children of God and throwing it to the dogs. Yikes! Try saying or tweeting that another human being is a “dog” and see what happens. The Greek word Mark uses is “κυναρίοις,” pronounced “kunariois.” There’s only one translation for this word and it’s “dogs,” specifically the kind that run wild in the streets, rooting through garbage: feral, flea-bitten, purple-gummed, orange-toothed mongrels.

The woman is quick. She points out to the rabbi that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs. It’s interesting. She uses the word “κυνάρια /kunaria,” which sometimes is translated “puppies” or “little dogs.”

Prompted by her response he tells the woman to go and that the demon had left her daughter. What gives?

One of the most fascinating things about Scripture is its ability to shake us. It’s not all nice stories about sheep and sowers and rainbow-framed arks with giraffe heads sticking out the top. The Bible is filled with stories and sayings that can surprise and sometimes bewilder us. How is God’s Spirit moving in Mark 7:24-29?

We’ll think together about this on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

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