Read: Mark 7:1-37
Centering Verse: You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition. (Mark 7:8)
- What traditions in Christianity or in Christian culture contradict the commandments of God?
- How can we guard our hearts in order to keep them pure?
- How can we welcome marginalized persons into the community of faith?
- What does God do that astounds you?
If you were just to read the middle of this chapter (the section with the Syrophoenician woman), it might seem as though Jesus is being extremely harsh and rude. Here is a woman who is vulnerably coming to Jesus for deliverance for her daughter, and Jesus is repeating the racist things he has undoubtedly heard about her non-Jewish people within his own Jewish cultural experiences. When framed within the rest of the chapter, though, we see that Jesus is actually breaking down the walls of human tradition that have been put up by his society. He is challenging the accepted view of non-Jews by giving the Syrophoenician woman an opportunity to display her faith. She is showing herself to be pure on the inside, even if her race makes her impure in the eyes of the Jewish culture. Jesus’s final response to her is a response that honors her humanity and her inner spirit. In this, Jesus showed that the normal cultural reaction – which he had echoed at first and which looked only to her outward, racial realities – was not a godly reaction. As he does so often, Jesus is “holding up the mirror” to us to expose our sinfulness, so that we might be made holy. It is the same thing he is doing with the Pharisees at the beginning of the chapter, when the issue of handwashing comes up. It is what is on the inside that counts, not what is on the outside. It is godly commandments (such as “love your neighbor”) that matters, not what human tradition says. Godly love triumphs over hate and racism. The Syrophoenician woman uses this as an invitation to display her faith; the Pharisees use this as an invitation to criticize Jesus.
LORD God, who has looked upon us all with love and without distinction, be glorified by your whole world. Through our love of others, may we break down the barriers that keep people from experiencing your grace. Amen.