Season After Pentecost (Proper 18[23]) – The Gospel Passage: Use Godly wisdom when spreading the good news

From 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, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.
Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He 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.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter. So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mark 7:24 – 30)

Did you notice, beloved reader, that the gospel writer of the book of Mark said that Jesus did not want anyone to know he was there? It was an area where Gentiles lived, so therefore “unclean” to Jews. But the Jews (meaning the leaders and officials of the temple/synagogue) did not much care for Jesus, his disciples, and their “unclean ways”, so Jesus and the disciples journeyed elsewhere. It was not something they specifically wanted spread around but still it seemed to be the plan that Jesus wanted to follow.

The woman who begged for healing for her daughter, therefore, would not typically have benefited from a Jewish missional trip. Hence Jesus’ referring to “the children” who should receive the benefits first – “the children” being “good Jews” (but who again were not particularly welcoming of Jesus.) Jesus was not meanly refusing to heal this woman’s child; but by separating out the Gentiles from the Jews and yet healing the child proved that it was not the chosen and called people of God who would benefit from the Christ. Sort of a message for those back in the “clean” Jewish areas.

“Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.” (Verse 31)

Again, Jesus journeyed off the beaten “Jewish path” visiting a Greece-Roman area that bordered Judea.

“They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” (Verses 32 – 35)

It is not surprising the deaf man had an impediment to his speech. I do not know, but I suspect the deafness came as he was growing up or he had some sense of spoken speech but not enough to know how letters and words should sound. That “his tongue was released and he spoke plainly” tells me he slurred his words and could not hear to correct his speech. Many times people who are deaf can learn to speak but their voice is flat and monotone.

It speaks well of the people who brought this man to Jesus and asked for healing for him. Because of his inability to hear and speak well, in the Jewish areas he would have been considered “defective” and ostracized. In the Greek world he was befriended and helped to interact with others. In fact it might have been because of the diligence of his friends that he learned to speak but not speak well. Again, a message to the “clean Jewish” areas.

“Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Verses 36 – 37)

I want to tell you quite plainly, beloved reader, the title of the reflection/post does not mean to hold back nor pick only certain places and people to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. It means spread the word to whoever wants to hear and to wherever you travel. If Jesus truly was trying to be discriminating about who he healed and where he healed, he would not have journeyed far from home. And the “not telling anyone” about the healing was a subtle way (or maybe not so subtle) of making sure the news spread. Because of one things you can be sure of, Jesus used “Godly wisdom”! May you do so also! Selah!