Lexegete ™ | Year B | Saint Mark
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 6, 2009 (Lectionary 23)
Psalm 146 (2)
James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 125 (1)
James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17
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.
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.  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  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”
24Ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὰ ὅρια Τύρου. καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς οἰκίαν οὐδένα ἤθελεν γνῶναι, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθη λαθεῖν:
25ἀλλ' εὐθὺς ἀκούσασα γυνὴ περὶ αὐτοῦ, ἧς εἶχεν τὸ θυγάτριον αὐτῆς πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον, ἐλθοῦσα προσέπεσεν πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ:
26ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν Ἑλληνίς, Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ γένει: καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτὸν ἵνα τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐκβάλῃ ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς.
27καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτῇ, Ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα, οὐ γάρ ἐστιν καλὸν λαβεῖν τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων καὶ τοῖς κυναρίοις βαλεῖν.
28ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρίθη καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Κύριε, καὶ τὰ κυνάρια ὑποκάτω τῆς τραπέζης ἐσθίουσιν ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίων τῶν παιδίων.
29καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Διὰ τοῦτον τὸν λόγον ὕπαγε, ἐξελήλυθεν ἐκ τῆς θυγατρός σου τὸ δαιμόνιον.
30καὶ ἀπελθοῦσα εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς εὗρεν τὸ παιδίον βεβλημένον ἐπὶ τὴν κλίνην καὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐξεληλυθός.
31Καὶ πάλιν ἐξελθὼν ἐκ τῶν ὁρίων Τύρου ἦλθεν διὰ Σιδῶνος εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν ὁρίων Δεκαπόλεως.
32καὶ φέρουσιν αὐτῷ κωφὸν καὶ μογιλάλον, καὶ παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα ἐπιθῇ αὐτῷ τὴν χεῖρα.
33καὶ ἀπολαβόμενος αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου κατ' ἰδίαν ἔβαλεν τοὺς δακτύλους αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰ ὦτα αὐτοῦ καὶ πτύσας ἥψατο τῆς γλώσσης αὐτοῦ,
34καὶ ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐστέναξεν, καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Εφφαθα, ὅ ἐστιν, Διανοίχθητι.
35καὶ [εὐθέως] ἠνοίγησαν αὐτοῦ αἱ ἀκοαί, καὶ ἐλύθη ὁ δεσμὸς τῆς γλώσσης αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐλάλει ὀρθῶς.
36καὶ διεστείλατο αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδενὶ λέγωσιν: ὅσον δὲ αὐτοῖς διεστέλλετο, αὐτοὶ μᾶλλον περισσότερον ἐκήρυσσον.
37καὶ ὑπερπερισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες, Καλῶς πάντα πεποίηκεν: καὶ τοὺς κωφοὺς ποιεῖ ἀκούειν καὶ [τοὺς] ἀλάλους λαλεῖν.
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 ὅρια Τύρου – the region of Tyre….for map and photos, see article by
Daniel Herman: http://www.dannythedigger.com/articles/tyre_sidon.html
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
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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