Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Sermon Addendum: Mark 7

 This week's sermon was from Mark 8, as we looked at the feeding of the 4,000. You can go back to yesterday's post to watch or listen if you're interested. 

What I feel like I should catch up on here is Mark 7, which I skipped over entirely. Why? Well, I know that some preachers can be interesting while staying in the same book of the Bible for 3 years; others have multiple opportunities to preach, so they can keep one series on the same book for a long time and do other portions of Scripture at other times.

I can't. Truth be told, I get a bit bored my own self, because one of the aspects of sermon prep that I love is background study, and after awhile, you've studied the background and there's not much else to dig out. Unless, of course, you have the budget to load up on an entirely new pallet of resources. Who doesn't love more books?

Still, Mark 7 has some important points. At the end of the chapter, there are two key moments of Jesus teaching and healing among the Gentiles. He's in the region of Tyre and then in the region of the Decapolis, and it is from the Decapolis that the crowd for the Feeding of the 4,000 came.

The first is the oft-discussed encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman, where we have to wrestle with Jesus appearing to be unnecessarily harsh with a person in need. After all, He initially turns down the request, then seems to call her a dog. At the very least, He accepts her self-designation as somewhat less than a child. Usually, we see this as a discussion of priority in Jesus' mission: He goes first to the people of Israel, she is a Gentile and therefore comes after the children of God. Yet we also see that Jesus readily performs this miracle (and in a parallel passage, commends her faith in a way that never does an Israelite!), so perhaps the bigger point is that neither she, nor any of the Greeks, are a dog. 

They are all children of God.

Then Jesus moves down to the region of the Decapolis (Ten Cities, all around the Sea of Galilee) where He encounters a deaf man who has difficulty speaking--usually considered a deaf-mute, but it just reads slightly odd for that to me. Jesus heals the man after taking him away from the crowd. Jesus sticks His fingers in the man's ears, spits (where, we don't know), and then touches the man's tongue.

And the man is healed. It has to be the oddest connection of actions described in connection with a miracle of Jesus that we see in the Gospels. Why does He do all of this when He can heal at a word? And at a distance?

We have no idea. There are some who think Jesus is hiding meaning in His actions, but it is very infrequent that Jesus does not explain the hidden meaning to someone--like His disciples. All in all, we do not know.

We do know that He can heal. He can make possible the restoration of those things which are lost, whether children or senses or even just our own self-worth: you're not a dog. You're a child of God. Your redemption will be costly, but He would not have you left unredeemed.

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