24From 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, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He 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.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
At face value, this is one of the most disturbing events in the New Testament. Would Jesus actually say something so harsh as the gospel records him saying to the Syrophoenician woman? To understand these events, we have to understand who he is talking to – non-Jews. For them, their journey of faith was hindered by a giant figurative stop sign, telling them, “No! You are not allowed! You do not belong!” By saying what he did to the woman, he was simply confronting her with the same racial intolerance that was heard over and over by people like her. Other Jewish persons would not have thought anything about it. But Jesus was challenging that notion by giving the Syrophoenician woman a chance to challenge prejudice with faith.
The way we know that Jesus did not ultimately agree with the racial prejudices of his day is his reaction to her faith. He does not chastise her for her bold words, but recognizes in them a faith that will not be dampened by any social reality. Jesus is using this encounter as a living object lesson to let the crowd – Jews and Gentiles alike – know that faith is more powerful than prejudice. Faith tears down all the stop signs others throw in front of us to keep us from God.
Most of us who will read this are the beneficiaries of these two interactions with non-Jewish persons. Most of us are Gentiles and have no hereditary right to the birthright of the Israelites. Yet the promise of Abraham was given to all nations, who would be blessed through Abraham and Sarah and their families. Faith brings us into the family.
How might your faith challenge the prejudices of our world? Who are the ones who see a big red stop sign when they look at the Church? How can we allow our faith to open doors for others? God has opened the family to all who will come in faith. Exercise faith this week and trust God no matter the obstacles.
When have you experienced a “block” in your spiritual journey? Sometimes it is the way we have been treated by other Christians or misunderstandings we have about Jesus and the Church that keep us from moving forward in our faith journeys. This week, write about such an experience and recount how you got past that spiritual roadblock. Perhaps you are struggling with a situation like this right now. How is God moving you forward? How is your faith being tested and/or strengthened? As you reflect, remember that when everything else seems to push you away from God, faith draws you near. Claim Paul’s promise for yourself as well: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
Martin Luther King, Jr.
We remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a great leader of the Civil Rights Movement, but let us not forget that he was first and foremost a Christian and a clergy person. It was his faith in Christ that drove his mission to secure equal rights for all persons regardless of skin color. His “I Have a Dream Speech” was steeped in biblical imagery. Like Jesus Christ, he looked at people and saw them as more than stereotypes and caricatures of their true selves. Take a moment to read about his life or pick up a copy of his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. May Dr. King’s life inspire you to take someone’s hand in unity and love.
Listen to the song, Make Us One by Jesus Culture, featuring Chris Quilala. You can download the song here if you’d like. This song echoes Jesus’s prayer for his disciples (and, by extension, for us) that we would be united: one with God and one with each other. As you listen to this song and sing along, pay close attention to how unity under God and the coming of the Kingdom of God are closely related. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
The United Methodist Church is preparing for a worldwide meeting – a General Conference – in February that will make decisions about our denomination’s teachings and practices in relation to human sexuality. This is a sensitive process that needs to be covered in prayer. Pray that God will give us the strength to remain true to the teachings of Scripture and orthodox Christianity. Pray also that God will give us the compassion not to demonize individual persons and groups of people. For more information on how to pray for General Conference, check out these suggestions from the UMC website.
Imagine yourself as the deaf and mute man who encounters Jesus in this passage. Picture Jesus placing his healing hands upon your ears and your mouth, giving you the ability to hear his voice and speak his words. What would you hear more clearly? How would you speak more powerfully? Allow yourself to sit in the silence and the stillness, awaiting God’s voice. When we hear God’s voice, and let God speak to our innermost being, then we can speak words of life. Like St. Patrick use this time of meditation to claim this promise: “His wisdom teach, his words to give me speech.” Ephphatha! May your spiritual ears and mouths be opened by the power and grace of the God who speaks in and through us!
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How have I trusted God?
- In what ways has my faith wavered?
- What uncertainties am I facing?
- How is God calling me to practice faith and trust in the upcoming days/weeks?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
What do you believe? Write a personal affirmation of faith that you can proclaim every day. If you need help structuring it, answer these three questions: Who is God?; Who am I?; What is God’s Kingdom like? It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or erudite – just a simple statement of what you believe. After spending a few days affirming your faith with this personal statement notice what effects it has on your day, your outlook, and your attitude.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, make us one in You.