Every now and then you hear something so outrageous that you find yourself saying, “He or she said what?” It’s usually a word or comment so off the charts or so out of character that you have a hard time believing that anyone would say something so outrageous.
Think of the current political climate in America. Outrageous snarky comments like we have heard from some political voices recently would be a death nail to any political campaign or ambition; but not so this cycle. It seems the more outrageous the comment is, especially about immigrants, we might hear ourselves saying “He said what?” But the person saying such things have actually gone up in popularity and the polls, and now others are following suit. I think I’m living in a parallel universe.
To make matters worse, I read the lectionary reading for this Sunday, Mark 7:24-30. In it Jesus referred to a foreign woman as a dog. And I think, “Jesus said what?” How out of character is that? Dogs in biblical times were not thought of as lovable, affectionate and loyal companions. They were considered unclean animals. As a matter of fact, dogs do not have one favorable mention in the whole Bible. I know that’s shocking to you dog lovers, but that’s what makes this scripture so difficult to understand and have us scratching our heads and wondering “Jesus Said What?!”
There are all kinds of commentaries that try to soften the impact of how Jesus calling this foreign woman a dog sounds ringing in our ears. Most of them still leave me pondering “Jesus said what?”
I admit that I have a lot of trouble reconciling what I believe about Jesus with His calling this Syrophoenician woman a dog. I’ve come to believe that it may be that we are looking back at a term used by Jews as part of the vernacular of that day. Yet, we are interpreting it through the connotations of what we think the term would mean if we used it today. But it is still shocking. So what are we to think about this strange passage?
For me words are definitely important, but so are actions. Since there is no clear definitive way of knowing what Jesus meant when He used this term in reference to this woman, I think we must look at the actions of Jesus that day. And there’s where I find my spirit put at ease. Regardless of how benign yet shocking the term used by Jesus was, His actions that day demonstrates what I truly believe about Jesus. The bottom line is the actions of Jesus’s during this conversation indicates He looked at this woman, saw the beautiful soul that God had created and He spoke to her the words of healing and hope.
Unlike the vitriol rhetoric we are hearing in our current political climate when I believe their actions would seek to make their words become reality, we see the true nature of Jesus in His actions, if not His words that day. He looked at the woman and saw the beautiful soul God created worthy of healing for her daughter and hope for her.
I know this is the last vacation weekend of summer, but if you’re in town, join us Sunday morning at Covenant for worship. We will take on this difficult passage from Mark 7:24-30 in a sermon called “Jesus Said What?!”