Summary: Mark sets the scene of Jesus in a strange place, in a strange situation with a couple of strange outcomes. The result is that Jesus shows he is open to all people.
Hope found in Jesus.
Ever been the stranger in a situation, maybe the people you are visiting know you are coming, but still you are the stranger. Maybe there’s something you want, maybe there’s something you’re expected to provide. There could be uncertainty, there could be a little fear, this is a peculiar situation, and these are people you don’t know. Your reputation goes before, but is that who you really are? This is an odd dynamic, not your place, not your people, but they are people with expectations…
Uncertainty, confusion, wonder surround you, a bizarre situation, the atmosphere holds uncertainty, this situation could be turbulent, volatile, there is expectation, there is hope, you have something they want, your reputation goes before you it brings hope.
With this hope there is a tension, you don’t want to be seen, and you just want to find a place where you can ‘just be’ for a time. You desire a little time alone but it’s not going to happen. You maybe the stranger but your reputation has gone before you.
Have you ever been in this situation, the door to door salesman, the tradesman on a house call, the collector for the charity, the person attending the emergency, the applicant for the job? Known, yet not knowing, those you are visiting having expectations of you, how do you respond, what would be your reaction?
Here’s another situation that you may have found yourself in. You have a great need! Knowing that the need can be met, you seek out those who can help the one who can address your concerns, solve the problem, not just temporarily but permanently. This will be no mean feat, this is something way beyond your own capabilities, this will take a genius, an expert, perhaps even a miracle if it’s ever to be resolved. The weight of this has been on your shoulders for a long time, the pain has been so hard to bear, to see that suffering with no viable solution.
In Marks gospel Chapter 7:24-30 we have a similar sort of a situation, a situation that has people on both sides of the story. Mark talks of how Jesus is in a place that is not his usual neighbourhood, this is a place of strangers, however he is known, his reputation as a healer has gone before him. A stranger approaches him; culturally this interaction is one that will leave him at odds with his people’s oral law, specifically in relation to ceremonial cleanliness. For Jesus is now in a discussion with a woman, a gentile woman, Mark calls her a Greek woman, born in Syrian Phoenicia. Remember at this time most Jewish men would not speak to a woman in public unless she was his wife or mother, let alone a gentile woman.
Little bit about Pheocian cities like Tyre: according to William Barclay Pheocian cities were part of Syria, but they were independent, and they were rivals, with their own kings, gods and coinage. This city Tyre is today part of modern Lebanon.
In Mark’s depiction of the scene we see Jesus agreeing to enter into a conversation with this woman. This was a serious choice; this was a situation that would show his mission to all peoples, not just the Jews. This is in itself a fairly strange story of a stranger encounter with an even stranger couple of outcomes.
Here is Jesus, Mark says “He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence a secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet…She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.” (Mark 7:24b – 26ish).
This is where the conversation gets a little hard to figure out. Jesus reply to this Greek lady from Syrian Phoenicia was “First let the children eat all they want for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Commentators are of the opinion here that Jesus was in a parable[ish] kind of a way saying that he was there firstly for the Jews, the children and not the dogs, the gentiles. In other words his ministry was to firstly the Jews and the gentiles would in time receive his ministry.
Every time I read this I think that’s really rude. Here’s Jesus basically telling this lady rudely to get inline. Or is he? This would be a fairly brave thing to say in a gentile city…Jesus is outside of his own backyard in a strange place.
It appears Jesus was making a point about his ministry to the Jews, yes he had a message to deliver to them, but were they listening? We know that many rejected his message, his Good News. As the Jews rejected his message, his message became an opportunity for the Gentiles.