Kalos panta pepoieken

“He has done everything well.”

Proper 18B/Ordinary 23B/Pentecost 16

24From 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, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He 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.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Com·mu·ni·ty: a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

Can also be called:

  • Group
  • Body
  • Set
  • Circle
  • Clique
  • Faction

a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

  • Kiwanis
  • Rotary
  • New Jersey Education Association
  • Neighborhood Watch
  • Parent-Teacher Organization
  • Teamster’s Union
  • The Community of Jesus Christ
  • The Church of Jesus Christ

What, then, is the church?  The simplest answer is one which has already been made clear from scripture.  The church is the people of God.  The word “church” in the New Testament is a Greek word that means an assembly or congregation that has been called out for some purpose.  The distinctive thing about the assembly is that the church is God’s assembly, called together by God.  The people of God are joined together in community to do God’s will – work towards the Kingdom of God.  We find Jesus during his ministry proclaiming the Mission of God.  We find Our Savior demonstrating what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God in unexpected ways and with unexpected people.

Our reading from Mark 7 is about the healing of a Gentile girl and a deaf man.  It demonstrates God’s power at work and how the kingdom of God will include everyone.  In Jesus’ day, people born with physical impairments would be considered outside the community.  Their illness, birth defect, nationality, sex or disease would be seen as a consequence of sin and they would be outside the community.  Jesus is challenged by a Syrophoenician woman asking for healing for her daughter.

Jesus’ response is less than charitable. He dismisses and insults. Mark’s Jesus here uses the Greek word for “dog” in the diminutive, but this does not mean Jesus is calling her a “cute little puppy.” A colloquial translation today might be: “little bitch.” Jesus seems unsure of the relationship between the Gentiles and the Kingdom of God.

If we take a step back and look at Mark’s profile of God’s kingdom throughout the Gospel, we find that it is something surprising and unexpected. The seeds are cast indiscriminately (Mark 4:1-20); it sprouts up without cultivation (Mark 4:26-29); it appears insignificant but becomes monumental (Mark 4:30-32). Those expected to perceive it properly turn out to be ignorant, slow, and hard of heart (Mark 4:35-41; Mark 6:52). The Kingdom of God plays by nobody’s rules but God’s, breaking into the world in the least likely of places, like howling demoniacs, bleeding women, and dead little girls. We have even previously been introduced to Jesus’ lack of control over God’s Kingdom. In Mark 5:24-35 the woman who touches Jesus’ garment causes power to zap out of him, without his own control over it.

Here, in chapter seven, we see Jesus himself among those characters in the Gospel of Mark not fully living into the reality of what the Kingdom of God is like. Jesus suddenly seems reticent to distribute God’s kingdom to a woman who is a gentile. He opts instead for an epithet.

While this depiction of Jesus may seem to propose certain Christological problems, I’m not sure that Mark was thinking about it this way. This is not the only part of the Gospel where Jesus and God are not in lockstep. In the Garden, for instance, Jesus asks for a different path (Mark 14:36). The remarkable thing in this text in chapter 7 is how the woman corrects Jesus. She turns Jesus’ words around and bends the dog metaphor to her advantage. Jesus recognizes this immediately and dismisses the demon from her daughter.

The challenge of Mark’s gospel, embodied so powerfully in this story, is to perceive a God who is active, breaking into the world, and in a way that does not conform to the norms of human institutions, be they religious, social, or political (to the extent that such things can even be separated from one another).  God is bringing the Kingdom into the world.  A Kingdom that includes all people even women, even gentiles, even Greeks.  All are welcome into the community of God

The second healing has similarities to the woman with the possessed daughter.  Friends brought the deaf man to Jesus and begged him to lay hands upon the man with the speech impediment.  Jesus sees beyond this man’s infirmity.  He sees his value as a child of God.  Jesus takes the man away from the crowd and puts his fingers in his ears, then spits and touches the man’s tongue.  Raising his eyes to heaven, Jesus says, “Be opened.”  Immediately, the deaf man could hear and speak clearly.  Jesus has not only released him from the bondage of his affliction, but has reunited him with his community as well.

Whenever Jesus heals, whether t is a demon-possessed girl, a man with leprosy, a bleeding woman, or a deaf man, he heals not only the body but the fracture with community as well.

The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed beginning with the reading of Isaiah until the healing of two people in Tyre and Sidon is about drawing everyone into community.  A fellowship with God and other believers.  That is our mission to invite others into the body of Christ.  Invite others into the church.  Invite others into a relationship with the one who heals, forgives and loves.

Commentaries provided by Micah D. Kiel, David Lose, Scott Hoezee and Amy C. Howe