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Monday, August 31, 2009


Lexegete ™ | Year B | Saint Mark


Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 6, 2009 (Lectionary 23)

Complementary Series

Isaiah 35:4-7a

Psalm 146 (2)

James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17

Mark 7:24-37

Semicontinuous Series

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

Psalm 125 (1)

James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17

Mark 7:24-37

Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform sickness into health and death into life. Open us to the power of your presence, and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the whole world, through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. Rejoice in the | Lord always;

again I will | say, Rejoice. Alleluia. (Phil. 4:4)


1a. Context: Mark 7:24-37

It's hard to imagine how those who believe in the literal interpretation of scripture handle the geography of this passage. The itinerary is simply an unreasonable route through that particular territory. All attempts to explain the circuitous path are inadequate. But the geography merely sets the scene for the miracle story. Jesus has been expanding his territory, taking his message further from the Sea of Galilee where it began. The message has been one of the nature of the community (the parables of the sower, the mustard seed), the mission (healings, duties of the 12, the feeding of the multitude), and the rejection of the Law (the discussion about clean and unclean, the Canaanite woman). These discussions, the healings, the mission of the 12 disciples, the Transfiguration and the exorcisms, cast about the territory as widely as possible, come before Jesus sets out for Jerusalem. On two occasions (8:31-33, 9:30-32) he has predicted the passion. The episodic nature of this section -- with parables, healings, predictions, preaching and narratives jumbled together – suggests movement and urgency. The forms are much less structured than Mark's carefully-crafted passion narrative.

1b. Text: Mark 7:24-37


The Syrophoenician Woman's Faith

24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. [1] And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.

25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet.

26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.”

29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.”

30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.

34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus [2] charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


7:24 Some manuscripts omit and Sidon

7:36 Greek = he”


24κεθεν δ ναστς πλθεν ες τ ρια Τύρου. κα εσελθν ες οκίαν οδένα θελεν γνναι, κα οκ δυνήθη λαθεν:

25λλ' εθς κούσασα γυν περ ατο, ς εχεν τ θυγάτριον ατς πνεμα κάθαρτον, λθοσα προσέπεσεν πρς τος πόδας ατο:

26 δ γυν ν λληνίς, Συροφοινίκισσα τ γένει: κα ρώτα ατν να τ δαιμόνιον κβάλ κ τς θυγατρς ατς.

27κα λεγεν ατ, φες πρτον χορτασθναι τ τέκνα, ο γάρ στιν καλν λαβεν τν ρτον τν τέκνων κα τος κυναρίοις βαλεν.

28 δ πεκρίθη κα λέγει ατ, Κύριε, κα τ κυνάρια ποκάτω τς τραπέζης σθίουσιν π τν ψιχίων τν παιδίων.

29κα επεν ατ, Δι τοτον τν λόγον παγε, ξελήλυθεν κ τς θυγατρός σου τ δαιμόνιον.

30κα πελθοσα ες τν οκον ατς ερεν τ παιδίον βεβλημένον π τν κλίνην κα τ δαιμόνιον ξεληλυθός.

31Κα πάλιν ξελθν κ τν ρίων Τύρου λθεν δι Σιδνος ες τν θάλασσαν τς Γαλιλαίας ν μέσον τν ρίων Δεκαπόλεως.

32κα φέρουσιν ατ κωφν κα μογιλάλον, κα παρακαλοσιν ατν να πιθ ατ τν χερα.

33κα πολαβόμενος ατν π το χλου κατ' δίαν βαλεν τος δακτύλους ατο ες τ τα ατο κα πτύσας ψατο τς γλώσσης ατο,

34κα ναβλέψας ες τν ορανν στέναξεν, κα λέγει ατ, Εφφαθα, στιν, Διανοίχθητι.

35κα [εθέως] νοίγησαν ατο α κοαί, κα λύθη δεσμς τς γλώσσης ατο, κα λάλει ρθς.

36κα διεστείλατο ατος να μηδεν λέγωσιν: σον δ ατος διεστέλλετο, ατο μλλον περισσότερον κήρυσσον.

37κα περπερισσς ξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες, Καλς πάντα πεποίηκεν: κα τος κωφος ποιε κούειν κα [τος] λάλους λαλεν.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26 ed. © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. Analysis: Mark 7:31-37

7:24 ρια Τύρου – the region of Tyre….for map and photos, see article by

Daniel Herman:

7:27 κυναρίοις – “dogs” [occurs rarely in the New Testament (Mt. 15:27)] ;

contrast with Luke 16:21, “ κύνες who licked at the sores of Lazarus

7:32 "deaf" (kophos) might mean impaired hearing, the speech

impediment may have been that of one who never hears words clearly

and is therefore unable to pronounce them properly.

7:33 Taking the sufferer away from the crowd makes this a private

healing, not done for show. It is hard, therefore, to explain the

reason for the detail with which Mark tells the story.

The ritual acts of putting fingers in the man's ears and spittle on

the tongue may be merely symbolic; yet spittle was used by folk

healers and miracle workers.

7:34 "Ephphatha!" One wonders who the hearer of this

Greek-transliterated, apparently Aramaic word might be. The looking

upwards toward Heaven and sighing may have also been ritualistic acts.

7:35 The cure is apparently instantaneous. But we are not told of

the man's own response.

7:36 Commanding silence regarding the cure seems absurd, a deaf man

went away with Jesus and came back speaking; the news could hardly

not have been spoken throughout the crowd and the community. The

phrasing "the more he charged them to tell no one," suggests that

Jesus made several attempts to silence the talk of the healing. By

playing down his role as a wonder-worker, Jesus is stressing the

kingdom-oriented message.

7:37 The astonishment of the crowd at the healing, and the phrasing

"he has done all things well; he -even- makes the deaf hear and the

dumb speak," suggest that the crowd had already been impressed with

Jesus, before the miracle.

3. Strategy: Mark 7:31-37

A. The structure-movement axis of the story might provide a

homiletical base. Jesus is on the move. Someone brings the man to

him. He takes the man away, does things with him. The man speaks. The

crowd buzzes about the event. It is an action-based narrative.

Bringing afflictions, the afflictions of our sin, -to- the Lord,

letting the Lord -act-, then -telling others- is the dynamic of the believer.

Despite this action, however, there is a passiveness on the part of

the one healed. Others brought him. His response is not recorded.

Like nine of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19, the man may not have

even given thanks. The Word and action of the Lord is effective on

its own, not dependent upon definite or logical human validation.

B. The nature of the impediment may be a paradigm for an ailing

world. Unable to hear the Word, it is unable to speak it properly.

Or hearing it improperly -- strained through selfish desires,

heresies, or false prophets -- we are mute and unable to proclaim.

Hearing and speech are connected. Hearing the Word might even heal

the hearer, but have no effect on the community unless the event is

spoken of; unless others are amazed at the healing.

Jesus himself did not intend to proclaim this particular wonder.

Jesus is not physically present to proclaim the wonders in our lives,

and the only voice the Lord has is ours.

C. A third homiletical approach springs from reflection on what it is that stops ears and binds tongues. Why do ears not hear the cries

of the poor and needy, the calls for justice, the pleas for mercy?

Does geography or race or class stop our ears? If that is the case,

then we need to be brought to Jesus for healing. Here it is not faith

(there's no "your faith has made you whole") that affects the

healing, there is only the action of Jesus, God's desire and will

that the man be whole.

What is it that stops tongues, impedes speech? If the believer has

heard, but is unable to speak the Gospel, the believer is not yet

whole. Had Jesus cured the man's hearing, he -might- have learned to

speak distinctly; but Jesus die not leave this to chance. Clear

hearing and clear speaking came together in the encounter with


4. Music & Worship: Mark 7:31-37

"O Son of God, in Galilee"(LBW 426) relates directly to Mark 7….

Other possibilities are:

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" LBW 562

"Lord, Speak to Us, that We May Speak" LBW 403

"Breathe on Me, Breath of God" LBW 488

"Your Hand, O Lord, in Days of Old" LBW 431

"O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" LBW 559

"Oh, that I Had a Thousand Voices" LBW 560

Exegete: Charles Austin, ELCA (Retired)

Prior to his retirement, “Chuck” Austin resided in Teaneck, NJ, home of the Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute, and served as Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Ridgefield Park, NJ 07602. Chuck writes extensively for LCA and ELCA publications, including the Lutheran, Lutheran PARTNERS, and others, as well as for The Record newspaper in NJ. He is one of the pioneers of the Ecunet and online ministry in general, having been involved in setting up online communications in the formation of the ELCA.


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