Opening Barred Doors
Lord Jesus, as You cleansed the Temple, cleanse my heart. I receive Your gift of pardon and seek to live as Your child.
Read Mark 7:24-30
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Christians must see themselves as committed to breaking down barriers which prolong human need or prevent the needy from being helped. We must follow the Master more clearly at this point” (Donald English).
The taboo in Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees was his freedom to eat with tax collectors and outcasts (2:15-17). Mark now presents Jesus traveling alone to the Gentile “Big Apple”: Tyre of Syrian Phoenicia (24). In the worldview of the purity system (in Mark’s immediately preceding story), Jesus would be seen as now far from the holy of holies and most liable to contamination by foreigners, demons, women and pagan food. Yet in today’s exorcism, is not Mark’s focus the occasion for something more significant?
Mark intends much more than presenting a woman’s Gentile, pagan identity for Hellenistic readers (26a). In the same way as Matthew appeals to Jews, invoking Israel’s historic antipathy towards Canaanites (Matt.15:22), Jesus’ journey north into Gentile lands for privacy and solitude is Mark’s intentional contrast for many journeys to Galilee for Jesus’ public ministry (24, c.f. Mark 3:8). Unlike Matthew, Mark reports Jesus behind closed doors here, so a Gentile woman, possibly a widow, barging in to converse with a Nazarene rabbi in his quarters is doubly surprising. Mark interjects the word “first” (27) to their repartee, suggesting that Jesus is not yet able to share the salvation bread of the Jews with the unclean (27b). This purity code closes the door to her request, but her feisty retort leads Jesus to open the door for her family (29). Jesus’ onward journey back to Galilee and Jerusalem has more examples of the doors to Christ’s kingdom finally opening to Gentiles of every nation (15:39; c.f. Acts 10; 11:18).
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize marginalized people around you today. Ponder how you might help your church to welcome all whom Jesus accepts.
Generous God, I know the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. Guide me to break down barriers society erects and model to the world the difference You make in relationships.
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