Friday, 4 September 2009

Syro-Phoenician Woman

A guest post from the Revd Ron Keynes, based on Mark 7:24-37.

We have become almost inured to the sight of a Lord Who was happy to meet anyone whoever or wherever they were, and yet continue to be surprised by the Infant Church in the Acts of the Apostles stumbling over its outreach to Gentiles. This little cameo bears a close look, if only because previously traditional treatment of it tended to take off the sharp edges of Jesus’ words to the woman. Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is in Tyre (Gentile territory by a long distance) with the obvious intent of taking the blinkers off His disciples.

It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs was the rendering in the AV Bible. I recall Sunday School story treatment of this passage asking teachers to render ‘dogs’ and ‘puppies’ on the grounds that Jesus would never have been so severe on a woman as the original appeared. On the contrary, Jesus was being quite rough, as that woman would have expected, but it was not to be rude to her as much as make the disciples face the horror of their own attitudes. That lady would have expected such an outburst, and her response shows that she was ready for it.

The disciples, on the other hand, were confronted by a human being who not only handled the abuse, but showed a depth of spirit and faith that would have been totally unexpected. This sort of thing should be a constant discovery even for the modern Christian.

Surely, then, the tell-tale story that follows in today’s Gospel should be the one that shocks even more. This is not just the telling of the story of the healing of a deaf-mute! This is an intended shock for the Christians of every later age that they are the deaf mutes, for they have seen the glory of the Gospel but have refused to see it in others or share or with others.

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