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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kim Taylor

Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 7:24-30 bible study (February 19, 2024)

February 19, 2024:  Monday morning Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark 7:24-30

In this season of Lent may your heart be filled with gratitude for the wondrous gift of Christ's forgiveness of our sin and may we all enter into every day with humble hearts filled with thanksgiving for our Savior.

This is an exciting time in our lives.  The temperatures have already modulated, or at least it now feels like desert spring is on the horizon, the gem show is finished, the national rodeo championships will soon play out after our country's largest non-mechanized rodeo parade happens this coming Thursday, and, of course, the season of Lent will bring the world to an early celebration of Easter this year on March 31st, and if you have school age children, there are senior trips, dances, rodeo vacation break, and spring break only a short distance away, with proms on the horizon.  Life is good, and in spite of aging and some health issues in my own life, I have been blessed with a large family of eight children and a host of other people who consider our home their home, from sixteen and seventeen year old friends of our children to adults with whom we have become very close, who may in the near future need a home as well.  Out of the life of Christ, and in today's reading from Mark, we come to know that the hospitality of the heart and home is a Christian's way in the world of brokenness and sorrow, anger, and hopelessness.  We all need to allow the Christ in our lives to guide us in ways which may be new and challenging, and which we may discover are often amazing blessings and opportunities. I know that this may feel like a strange lead-in to today's Gospel reading, which on the surface feels almost like a begrudged and harsh healing, but it is not at all.

Remember from last week's study that Jesus had just set all of the purification "laws" and food "Laws" on their nose.  And, in the process, had created in Israel quite a stir, and plenty of anger on the part of the religious leaders and conservative Jews.  In effect, Jesus had set aside the much-practiced rules that had their basis in the heart of the Torah, and of course, by their place as "laws" for living, which were binding if a person was to have any hope of being right with God.  So, we should not be surprised to find that Jesus has departed from Galilee for a place where he can find some real quiet and peace from the ever-present onslaught of masses of Jews looking to gain healing from Him.  He is off to Phoenicia, the land that separated Israel from the sea, and nearly encircled Galilee.  Though an original part of the promised land of the Hebrews, the tribes of Israel were never quite able to break the Phoenician people's hold on that land.  Their two natural harbors on the sea were well protected from the inclement weather of the Mediterranean, with both harbors becoming the centers for world trade due to their calm waters.  We can only imagine how much the Romans loved these two harbors of Tyre and Sidon. So, Jesus departs for the region of Tyre and Sidon to escape the likely repercussions of the Jews for His teaching on their man-made "laws".  In the area of Phoenician land, Jesus is much less known, protected from Jewish interference and persecution, and will not be in circumstances which endanger His life, and the life of His Disciples. In effect, Jesus moves from the Father's first choice for his redeeming grace and forgiving action, to the Father's second choice for the Son's work, the Gentiles.

A woman pleading with Christ for his help
The Faith of the Syrophenician Woman

I know that Christ's interaction with the Syrophoenician woman seems hostile, but that in her desperate humility she gains the favor of Christ's healing for her daughter.  Jesus names her the dog!  But here we have an example of why understanding language usage and context for it is so important.  The word that Jesus uses for dog is not the brutish dog who wanders around taking food from children that it doesn't deserve. Instead, Jesus uses the word for dog that indicates the welcome lap dog favorite of a family who is welcome to receive what has been rejected by the family's children, and to receive the blessing that it brings to life itself.  I suspect that Christ's tone of voice was gentle, and perhaps even a bit playful with this woman who had come to Him for assistance and healing.  As a person of some Greek heritage her pattern of talking with Christ, in spite of her desperation for her daughter, would be filled with some degree of good-natured banter, as she sought to gain His favor and blessing.  And Jesus was ready to give it!  Who would Jesus turn away?  In the Gospels we discover that the Savior turns no one away who comes seeking Him through faith.  This, of course, means that the Holy Spirit works Her gift of faith in the lives of people who have only heard of Jesus, and have not yet been touched by His Life and Sacrifice.  It also means that God was always prepared for the eventuality that the Son would not be received by His own people, who were to be a light to the world, including the Gentiles.  When that didn't happen, or even look like it might ever happen, Christ moved on to those who surrounded His family, the Gentiles.  He healed the Gadarene demoniac, moved the heart of the Samaritan woman at the well, and also this Syrophoenician woman's daughter.  He set aside all the purity "laws”, and, moved to offer the good news to all who people who the Jews considered unclean too.  Let's face it, Christ came to undo the injustice and harm of the misled good intentions of the Jews for a good relationship with God and turned to the open hearts of the non-Jews.  That is most of us by the way.  Feels great, doesn't it? This is really the central lesson of this Gospel reading for us today.  The Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ, is ours too, by the Savior's choice.

God bless you today. In Christ's love and hope, Pastor Kim

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