Posts Tagged ‘sermon for Ordinary 23B’

   What can we make of Jesus’ harsh reply to the Syrophoenician woman who came to him for help?  Here’s a sermon from the archives for the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.  It includes an allusion to the lively discussion between God and Moses about the golden calf in Exodus 32.

Going to the Dogs

A Sermon on Mark 7:24-30, with allusions to Exodus 32:7-14

This was one determined Gentile mama!  Whatever it took to get help for her sick child, this woman would do it, even if it meant getting in somebody’s face.  Even if it meant breaking the taboos against a woman speaking to a man in public.  Even if it meant crossing the line that kept Gentiles and Jews separate.  Even if it meant risking a rebuke or worse.  Mark doesn’t tell us the family history, but if this woman of Syrophoenicia was anything like some of the mothers I’ve seen seeking help for their children in need, she left no stone unturned.  She went to every doctor.  She tried everything.  She refused to give up.

Jesus the healer came to town.   Mark tells us he was trying to get away, trying to stay hidden for a while.  It’s not hard to see why.  Just in the two previous chapters of Mark Jesus had experienced rejection at his hometown and coped with the horrible news of the murder of John the Baptist.  He had fed 5000-plus people with only a little food.  He had argued with his adversaries the scribes and Pharisees about what truly is clean or unclean in the sight of God.  He even had to explain it all again to his disciples, who themselves were thoroughly indoctrinated into the view that touching certain things or being with certain people contaminated you.  The disciples didn’t get it, just as they didn’t get a lot of what Jesus taught.  He had to keep working with them.  Jesus had to be tired when he arrived at this woman’s town.  He needed a retreat.

Perhaps that could explain the harshness of Jesus’ response.  When the woman heard Jesus was nearby, she immediately sought him out and begged him to help her daughter.  I don’t know what tone of voice he used, but this is what he said: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Whoa!  It’s hard to imagine that Jesus would call even his worst enemy a dog.  Had he actually bought the prejudice of the day, that Gentiles were dogs?  (more…)

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