For the full text of Mark 7, click here.
The Pharisees catch up to Jesus while He was eating with the disciples. They accuse them all of eating while “unclean” which is a pretty big deal in this time and given the Law. However, not only did Jesus not directly engage them in this argument but He redirected to talk about a matter that was more pressing to Him.
In my mind, it’s not so different from those people who try get caught up on church politics and which denomination is going to hell faster rather than doing things to lessen suffering in the world. The segue that Jesus uses takes the conversation from being about cleanliness, a lesser issue, and hits on one of the Ten Commandments. I get the whole every sin is equal argument, but we are talking about a Law versus a Commandment. I think of it as similar to the arguments people in the US get into over a right or a law. Anyway, the point is that Jesus isn’t going to engage them in conversations about religious laws that they made on their own, like washing hands before eating rather than ritual uncleanness. Unlike the account in Matthew 15, this one has the longer segue in addition to the brief explanation that the hand washing is a tradition that they had come up with.
Both accounts include the prophecy from Isaiah, which makes the point that these disputes were prophesied to help Jesus teach the people what they are supposed to learn from Him, but only Mark has the segue to honoring Mother and Father here.
It’s followed by another explanation that it isn’t what goes inside you that defiles you but what comes out of you. As I mentioned when we covered this in Matthew 15, I love this teaching. It’s the kind of thing that makes so much sense when you hear it but we are so accustomed even now to being worried more about what we imbibe than what we put out into the world.
The next piece has a header of “the syrophoenician woman” and in the Matthew account, she is referred to as a Canaanite woman. Syrophoenician are people who were born in Phoenicia when it was under Roman rule and in the Roman province of Syria. Today, this area is in Lebanon as the paragraph begins with them going to the area around Tyre and Sidon, which is still in Lebanon. At the time, all of Lebanon was Syria instead. Still not an Israelite or Jew, but a woman who believed in Jesus nonetheless. While the overall story plays out the same as in Matthew, the exchange comes off a lot less rude. For starters, she’s only refused once before Jesus acquiesces instead of twice. Even though her people are still referred to as dogs rather than children in the analogy, it’s just worded with that slight difference that makes it not as grating. The woman, who was probably pretty desperate to be going to this man outside of her own faith, reiterates that she’ll take whatever scraps of grace she can get and Jesus gives in.
The last story in this chapter is about another healing. Jesus makes it so that a deaf man can hear and speak. He’s referred to as deaf and having a speech impediment but it seems that the impediment was that he was mute because of the way the healing takes place. It’s described in detail, which I found a little strange for two reasons. First, none of the healings are described beyond a laying of hands or simple command or even a touch of His garment. Second, the method is rather strange itself. He put His fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue. It would be strange outside of a doctor’s office anyway, and this is a healing, but Jesus hadn’t done this with others. Was He inspecting the illness? I don’t get it.
He tells the people associated with healing not to say anything about it, but of course they do. I’m not sure how they were going to hide this man suddenly being able to speak and hear anyway.