The Word: Mark 7:24-37
Have you ever been to a place where you were an outsider? Maybe attending an event such as a wedding, birthday party, or family reunion where you didn’t know a lot of people? Even just visiting another church? Of course this would have to have been before Covid-19.
How did it feel to be an outsider in that situation?
Were there unfamiliar customs or practices? Did the situation make you uncomfortable? Did your presence make others uncomfortable?
In today’s session we will look at how Jesus interacted with outsiders and examine what that means about how Jesus treats us and how we should treat others.
We find Jesus in Gentile territories in the two episodes that Mark recounts in these verses. Although both are miracle stories, the first one is much more than that. In fact, its main thrust is a conversation between Jesus and a Gentile woman. Many readers have been troubled by this story because Jesus seemed reluctant at first to cast the demon out of the woman’s daughter. Only Mark and Matthew told this story; Luke, who used Mark as a source,* chose to omit it.
The second story is about the healing of a Gentile man who was deaf and “could hardly talk” (v. 32). This account is also a bit unusual in that Jesus used what may seem like strange methods to heal the man. We find this story only in Mark; it is not in the other gospels.
Jesus and a Syrophoenician Woman (Read Mark 7:24-30)
This story is about prejudice and rejection which are wrong. The rejected are to be reached out to and helped. The rejected are always cut off by society, excluded from walking in the midst of society. They are unacceptable and ostracized. Why? Because society wraps its acceptable behavior around itself and secludes itself from those who act differently. Society has little time to deal with those who differ, and sometimes even fears them, but this must not be. Society must allow its seclusion to be interrupted—face up to the differences and needs of the rejected; converse and discuss the differences with them; and then work to meet their needs. Note the steps that the rejected must take in order to receive help. The rejected woman approached Jesus humbly (v.25); discussed her need with Jesus (vv.26-28); persevered in asking for help (v.28); confessed her humble status or need (v.28); and then she received help (v.29-30).
This story also takes place in the wrong place and its inhabitants are the wrong people. Why? Jesus goes into Gentile territory, abolishing boundary between Jew and Gentile while proclaiming the good news.
What made this the wrong place? (Gentile region. Remember, the Jews did not like the Gentiles and Samaritans.)
Is it surprising to you that Jesus “shows up in the ‘wrong’ place and with the ‘wrong’ people”? Why or why not?
What might be considered the “wrong” places or “wrong” people in our world today?
Verses 27-28 are difficult to understand. The term “children” refers to Israel and the term “dogs” refers to Gentiles. Jesus was in Gentile territory, and the gospel was to be preached to the “Jews first” and then to the “Greek” (Romans 1:16; cf 15:8-9). The woman acknowledged Jesus’ authority and Jewish precedence over Gentiles. She recognized that she had no right to make such a request. She wanted mercy—an undeserved favor granted to a double-outsider—a Gentile and a woman. (She is the only character in Mark to address Jesus as Lord.) But at the same time, she challenged His response with an observation based on everyday realities: Even dogs get table scraps. And that would be enough for her. She knew that with Jesus there was more than enough for all people, both Jew and Gentile. This reality is seen in Jesus feeding the four thousand Gentiles in Mark 8:1-10. (The later church took this story to justify their ministry to Gentiles. The former boundaries separating Jews and Gentiles had to be broken down. Both Jews and Gentiles were to enjoy the privilege of the bread of salvation.)
In verse 29, Jesus honored the woman’s faith and healed her daughter. What kind of faith do you see in this woman’s life?
If we want to go where Jesus goes and do what Jesus does, what might that mean, based on this story?
Jesus and a Deaf Man (Read Mark 7:31-37)
This passage includes a phenomenal verdict about Jesus: “He has done everything well”. This was the verdict of this crowd, but it was not and never has been the verdict of every man. Yet everyone has to make a decision about Jesus; they have to pass judgment upon Jesus. A verdict is required.
The day is coming when God is going to pronounce His verdict, His judgment upon everyone. Every person is determining exactly what God’s verdict will be by the way they live.
The verdict Christ wants pronounced upon every person is, “He/she has done everything well”. “Well done thou good and faithful servant” (Mt.25:21).
The session tells how this man’s infirmities would have excluded him from the rest of society.
What are some things that exclude people from society today? (Examples: chronic illness, poverty, language/education barriers, disabilities, Covid-19)
How should we, the body of Christ, treat people who are excluded by society?
The phrase, “Be opened,” still speaks through Scripture to us today.
What does it mean for us to “be open” to Jesus’ desire to welcome, heal, and restore those rejected by society today?
Why do you think Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone about what had happened? (Being popular with the crowds but opposed by the religious elite may have created chaos before Jesus’ ministry was complete. Remember, the Cross is coming.)
How was this description of Jesus’ ministry in verse 37 “good news” for the people of Jesus’ time? How is it good news for us today?
Our lesson writer, Carl Leth, writes: The message Mark wants us to gain from this is not just historical information, but compelling witness. He wants his readers to be moved—along with the people in his accounts—to a conclusion about Jesus. He does all things well.
It is not just for these people in these stories, but also for us, that Jesus does all things well. Whatever our brokenness or need, however damaged or marginalized we may be, Jesus does all things well. He can remedy our need, heal our brokenness, break open the doors to life. What was true for the people in these accounts can be true for us. If we bring our need to Jesus, He does all things well.
Connect to My Life and the World
Just as Jesus ignored the expectations of society and healed the outsiders and those who were excluded, so we are called to follow in His footsteps.
How can we proclaim the good news of God’s healing and restoration to those who may be considered the “wrong” people in the “wrong” place?
Take a few minutes to pray asking God to help you answer the following questions:
How do Jesus’ words and actions bring hope in my life?
How do Jesus’ words and actions challenge me to have compassion on outsiders and those rejected by society?
If we want to go where Jesus goes, where might that take us?
*Most scholars believe that Mark was the first to write his gospel, and that Matthew and Luke had access to it when writing their accounts.