Mark 7.24–30: Even the dogs eat the crumbs (4 February 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

Joseph and his Brothers

1Jacob continued to live in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived, 2and this is the story of Jacob's family.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, took care of the sheep and goats with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's concubines. He brought bad reports to his father about what his brothers were doing.

3Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he had been born to him when he was old. He made a long robe with full sleeves for him. 4When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner.

5One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him even more. 6He said, “Listen to the dream I had. 7We were all in the field tying up sheaves of wheat, when my sheaf got up and stood up straight. Yours formed a circle round mine and bowed down to it.”

8“Do you think you are going to be a king and rule over us?” his brothers asked. So they hated him even more because of his dreams and because of what he said about them.

9Then Joseph had another dream and said to his brothers, “I had another dream, in which I saw the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowing down to me.”

10He also told the dream to his father, and his father scolded him: “What kind of a dream is that? Do you think that your mother, your brothers, and I are going to come and bow down to you?” 11Joseph's brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept thinking about the whole matter.

Joseph is Sold and Taken to Egypt

12One day when Joseph's brothers had gone to Shechem to take care of their father's flock, 13Jacob said to Joseph, “I want you to go to Shechem, where your brothers are taking care of the flock.”

Joseph answered, “I am ready.”

14His father said, “Go and see if your brothers are safe and if the flock is all right; then come back and tell me.” So his father sent him on his way from the Valley of Hebron.

Joseph arrived at Shechem 15and was wandering about in the country when a man saw him and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16“I am looking for my brothers, who are taking care of their flock,” he answered. “Can you tell me where they are?”

17The man said, “They have already left. I heard them say that they were going to Dothan.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

18They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted against him and decided to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer. 20Come on now, let's kill him and throw his body into one of the dry wells. We can say that a wild animal killed him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams.”

21Reuben heard them and tried to save Joseph. “Let's not kill him,” he said. 22“Just throw him into this well in the wilderness, but don't hurt him.” He said this, planning to save him from them and send him back to his father. 23When Joseph came up to his brothers, they ripped off his long robe with full sleeves. 24Then they took him and threw him into the well, which was dry.

25While they were eating, they suddenly saw a group of Ishmaelites travelling from Gilead to Egypt. Their camels were loaded with spices and resins. 26Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother and covering up the murder? 27Let's sell him to these Ishmaelites. Then we won't have to hurt him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed, 28and when some Midianite traders came by, the brothers pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29When Reuben came back to the well and found that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes in sorrow. 30He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there! What am I going to do?”

31Then they killed a goat and dipped Joseph's robe in its blood. 32They took the robe to their father and said, “We found this. Does it belong to your son?”

33He recognized it and said, “Yes, it is his! Some wild animal has killed him. My son Joseph has been torn to pieces!” 34Jacob tore his clothes in sorrow and put on sackcloth. He mourned for his son a long time. 35All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “I will go down to the world of the dead still mourning for my son.” So he continued to mourn for his son Joseph.

36Meanwhile, in Egypt, the Midianites had sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of the king's officers, who was the captain of the palace guard.

The Teaching of the Ancestors

1Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus. 2They noticed that some of his disciples were eating their food with hands that were ritually unclean — that is, they had not washed them in the way the Pharisees said people should.

3(For the Pharisees, as well as the rest of the Jews, follow the teaching they received from their ancestors: they do not eat unless they wash their hands in the proper way; 4nor do they eat anything that comes from the market unless they wash it first. And they follow many other rules which they have received, such as the proper way to wash cups, pots, copper bowls, and beds.)

5So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Jesus, “Why is it that your disciples do not follow the teaching handed down by our ancestors, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?”

6Jesus answered them, “How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you! You are hypocrites, just as he wrote:

‘These people, says God, honour me with their words,

but their heart is really far away from me.

7It is no use for them to worship me,

because they teach human rules

as though they were God's laws!’

8“You put aside God's command and obey human teachings.”

9And Jesus continued, “You have a clever way of rejecting God's law in order to uphold your own teaching. 10For Moses commanded, ‘Respect your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death.’ 11But you teach that if a person has something he could use to help his father or mother, but says, ‘This is Corban’ (which means, it belongs to God), 12he is excused from helping his father or mother. 13In this way the teaching you pass on to others cancels out the word of God. And there are many other things like this that you do.”

The Things that Make a Person Unclean

14Then Jesus called the crowd to him once more and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15There is nothing that goes into a person from the outside which can make him ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean.”

17When he left the crowd and went into the house, his disciples asked him to explain this saying. 18“You are no more intelligent than the others,” Jesus said to them. “Don't you understand? Nothing that goes into a person from the outside can really make him unclean, 19because it does not go into his heart but into his stomach and then goes on out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared that all foods are fit to be eaten.)

20And he went on to say, “It is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean. 21For from the inside, from a person's heart, come the evil ideas which lead him to do immoral things, to rob, kill, 22commit adultery, be greedy, and do all sorts of evil things; deceit, indecency, jealousy, slander, pride, and folly — 23all these evil things come from inside a person and make him unclean.”

A Woman's Faith

24Then Jesus left and went away to the territory near the city of Tyre. He went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not stay hidden. 25A woman, whose daughter had an evil spirit in her, heard about Jesus and came to him at once and fell at his feet. 26The woman was a Gentile, born in the region of Phoenicia in Syria. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. 27But Jesus answered, “Let us first feed the children. It isn't right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.”

28“Sir,” she answered, “even the dogs under the table eat the children's leftovers!”

29So Jesus said to her, “Because of that answer, go back home, where you will find that the demon has gone out of your daughter!”

30She went home and found her child lying on the bed; the demon had indeed gone out of her.

Jesus Heals a Deaf-mute

31Jesus then left the neighbourhood of Tyre and went on through Sidon to Lake Galilee, going by way of the territory of the Ten Towns. 32Some people brought him a man who was deaf and could hardly speak, and they begged Jesus to place his hands on him. 33So Jesus took him off alone, away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man's ears, spat, and touched the man's tongue. 34Then Jesus looked up to heaven, gave a deep groan, and said to the man, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Open up!”

35At once the man was able to hear, his speech impediment was removed, and he began to talk without any trouble. 36Then Jesus ordered the people not to speak of it to anyone; but the more he ordered them not to, the more they spoke. 37And all who heard were completely amazed. “How well he does everything!” they exclaimed. “He even causes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak!”

Job's Complaint to God

1Finally Job broke the silence and cursed the day on which he had been born.

Job

2-3O God, put a curse on the day I was born;

put a curse on the night when I was conceived!

4Turn that day into darkness, God.

Never again remember that day;

never again let light shine on it.

5Make it a day of gloom and thick darkness;

cover it with clouds, and blot out the sun.

6Blot that night out of the year,

and never let it be counted again;

7make it a barren, joyless night.

8Tell the sorcerers to curse that day,

those who know how to control Leviathan.

9Keep the morning star from shining;

give that night no hope of dawn.

10Curse that night for letting me be born,

for exposing me to trouble and grief.

 

11I wish I had died in my mother's womb

or died the moment I was born.

12Why did my mother hold me on her knees?

Why did she feed me at her breast?

13If I had died then, I would be at rest now,

14sleeping like the kings and rulers

who rebuilt ancient palaces.

15Then I would be sleeping like princes

who filled their houses with gold and silver,

16or sleeping like a stillborn child.

17In the grave wicked people stop their evil,

and tired workers find rest at last.

18Even prisoners enjoy peace,

free from shouts and harsh commands.

19Everyone is there, the famous and the unknown,

and slaves at last are free.

 

20Why let people go on living in misery?

Why give light to those in grief?

21They wait for death, but it never comes;

they prefer a grave to any treasure.

22They are not happy till they are dead and buried;

23God keeps their future hidden

and hems them in on every side.

24Instead of eating, I mourn,

and I can never stop groaning.

25Everything I fear and dread comes true.

26I have no peace, no rest,

and my troubles never end.

An Illustration from Marriage

1Certainly you will understand what I am about to say, my brothers and sisters, because all of you know about law. The law rules over people only as long as they live. 2A married woman, for example, is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if he dies, then she is free from the law that bound her to him. 3So then, if she lives with another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is legally a free woman and does not commit adultery if she marries another man. 4That is how it is with you, my sisters and brothers. As far as the Law is concerned, you also have died because you are part of the body of Christ; and now you belong to him who was raised from death in order that we might be useful in the service of God. 5For when we lived according to our human nature, the sinful desires stirred up by the Law were at work in our bodies, and all we did ended in death. 6Now, however, we are free from the Law, because we died to that which once held us prisoners. No longer do we serve in the old way of a written law, but in the new way of the Spirit.

Law and Sin

7Shall we say, then, that the Law itself is sinful? Of course not! But it was the Law that made me know what sin is. If the Law had not said, “Do not desire what belongs to someone else,” I would not have known such a desire. 8But by means of that commandment sin found its chance to stir up all kinds of selfish desires in me. Apart from law, sin is a dead thing. 9I myself was once alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, 10and I died. And the commandment which was meant to bring life, in my case brought death. 11Sin found its chance, and by means of the commandment it deceived me and killed me.

12So then, the Law itself is holy, and the commandment is holy, right, and good. 13But does this mean that what is good caused my death? By no means! It was sin that did it; by using what is good, sin brought death to me, in order that its true nature as sin might be revealed. And so, by means of the commandment sin is shown to be even more terribly sinful.

The Conflict within Us

14We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do; for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate. 16Since what I do is what I don't want to do, this shows that I agree that the Law is right. 17So I am not really the one who does this thing; rather it is the sin that lives in me. 18I know that good does not live in me — that is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. 19I don't do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do. 20If I do what I don't want to do, this means that I am no longer the one who does it; instead, it is the sin that lives in me.

21So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. 22My inner being delights in the law of God. 23But I see a different law at work in my body — a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ!

This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God's law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin.

Reflect

Daily Reflection: Mark 7.24–30

This is a strange story, because it seems to show Jesus treating harshly someone who comes to him in desperate need.

He has gone to the region of Tyre to get some peace and quiet, but he 'could not stay hidden' (verse 24); a Gentile woman whose daughter has a demon comes and begs for help. Jesus answers her in the voice of a rigidly orthodox Jew: the children of Israel come first, and the Gentile 'dogs' a long way second. But this woman, passionately committed to her daughter, refuses to take no for an answer, and Jesus honours her faith.

We should probably concentrate on the result of the encounter rather than getting too tangled up in their dialogue. Their exchange highlights the radical nature of Jesus' ministry. In Matthew's version of the story (15.24) he says he was sent 'only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel'. But while the focus of his ministry is his fellow-Jews, Gentiles too are loved by God and could be welcomed into his kingdom.

Here, as in other parts of the Gospels, Jesus is drawing the circle of God's love wider. No one is excluded on the grounds of race or gender or nationality.

It's easy to pay lip-service to this idea. But Jesus' use of the word 'dogs' to describe Gentiles is designed to acknowledge the prejudices that are so deep-rooted we don't even realise we have them. Understanding ourselves – sometimes painfully – is part of Christian discipleship.

Pray

Pray

God, show me where I've excluded people whom Jesus would have included. Break down the walls of my prejudices, and show me how to love people I don't like or trust or sympathise with.

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