This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, most recently September 5, 2021
Summary: Okay, this passage is really hard. Mark goes out of his way to show how much "other" this woman is. What do we make of this? That Jesus is less compassionate or (gasp) more bigoted than we are today? I don't think we want to go there; although many do enjoy speculating in this direction! Luke dropped this story, unable to stomach it; I think many of us want to drop it as well. But in the Bible it is. A few possibilities for preaching
- Jesus entered a world with real cultural divisions, not the new creation.
- Sometimes we have to be persistent in prayer.
- Sometimes when working with people of another tribe/race/nationality, it can feel like even God is opposed to us; this is not the case.
- If you can find a common language, you can solve all sorts of problems.
- Jesus did ultimately consider gentiles in his family, but this was not the natural state of affairs.
Again, the Greek offers no easy way out of this passage.
Τορου (Tyre, 7:24) First reminder that we are away from Jewish territory. To give an example of how "bad" it was for Jesus to be there, recall the words of Matthew 11:22 "But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you." We almost wonder if Jesus wanted it kept secret that he was there because a good Jewish Rabbi should not have been going in that direction!
What is interesting is that in spite of all the cultural differences, they still speak a common language...
ερχομαι (απερχομαι and also εισερχομαι, numerous forms "ερχομαι" which means to go, 7:24) There is a lot of movement in this text -- variants of ερχομαι are used throughout the text. The first movement is out into Tyre (απερχομαι ); then in to the home (εισερχομαι); the demon goes out; the woman leaves the house; the demon again has gone out; Jesus leaves the town.
Note on Greek: ερχομαι is a very common verb, but it often appears in its aorist form: ηλθεν, or as a participle or with attached prefixes (απο (away) εισ (into)). Learning to recognize the myriad forms of this verb can definitely speed up one's Greek reading.
ελληνις ("Hellenic" (not the rough breathing mark over the "e" or "Greek"), 7:26). For what is worth, the word Gentile should not be used here, but Greek should. (εθνη is not the word used; ελληνις is). It is odd that such an amount of information is given about the woman. Mark wants to drive some that this person is the embodiment of "other."
ηρατω (imperfect form of ερωταω, "beg/ask" 7:26) What is significant here is that this verb is in the imperfect -- she was continuing to beg. Jesus did not respond to her first request, it seems. Keep praying folks...
χορτασθηναι (from χορταζω, meaning "feed", 7:27) The word here for feed is χορταζω. This word will be used in chapter 8 to describe Jesus feeding all of the gentiles...So here Jesus says he ain't gonna feed the people...but shortly after this, this is exactly what he is doing. Which means, that when Jesus feeds the gentiles in chapter 8, Jesus is considering them children!
εβαλεν (aorist form of βαλλω, meaning "throw", 7:33) The word translated as "put" as in "put" his fingers is βαλλω which means throw or cast. This is normally used as a verb to describe Jesus "casting" out the demon. In this image he casts his fingers into the man. Kind of gross!
εστεναξεν (from στεναζω, meaning "groan", 7:34) It is hard to say whether Jesus "sighs" here in frustration or effort. This word will appear in some other powerful verses in the New Testament:
Romans 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
2 Corinthians 5:4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Cross-cultural ministry -- working with people who are different -- can be hard work!! A happy ending? The woman is recorded as going back to see if the child was okay. Someone actually followed up with this woman to learn if the healing occurred. Somehow she became part of the family through this experience.