Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Begging to Get In: Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending October 18,2009

Purpose: To nurture steadfast and relentless faith that challenges prejudice and works for inclusive community.

Scripture Text: Mark 7:24-30 (NRSV)

Mark 7:24-30
24)From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, (25) but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. (26) Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. (27) He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ (28) But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ (29) Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ (30) So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

There is another version of this story in Matthew 15:21-28 that goes: (21) Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.(22) Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ (23) But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ (24) He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ (25) But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ (26) He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ (27) She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ (28) Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

What are some of the differences you notice between the two stories? The first difference I see is in verse 28 of Matthews version he credits the woman with great faith, while faith is never mentioned in the Mark version. Matthew writing to the Jews of his time refers to the woman as a Canaanite, certainly a defining name for his readers. Mark is writing to different readers, he is writing to the Gentiles of Rome primarily, so he calls her a Syrophoenician woman, a Syrian that lived in Phoenicia, regardless of the title, the point is she was not a Jewish women but rather a Gentile.

In Matthew's story this women seems to be a very vocal distraction to both the disciples and to Jesus. The implication is the disciples wanted her request granted just to shut her up. In Mark, she is depicted as worshiping Jesus, falling at His feet.

In both texts Jesus appears to ignore her initial request. It is the persistence of the woman that tugs at Jesus' heart; He explains that she does not qualify for His mission since she is not a Jew. She is undaunted and indicates she is well aware of that, but is willing to receive just some crumbs from the Son of David’s table, “even dogs are not forbidden the crumbs from the master's table”. Although she had no idea at the time, the time for His ministry to her would be soon, once Jesus was rejected by the Jewish authorities, he would be available to all believers, Jew or Gentile. What Jesus did was give her a foretaste of what would be coming for all. “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of Glory divine”

This women sets an example for us, in her statement “have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David;” It is the statement that all sinners must pray in order to receive the gift of eternal life. In Mark the writer calls it begging, in fact, we are all beggars when it comes to getting the promise of eternal life with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Like the Syrophoenician woman we do not deserve to be heard, healed, or redeemed, but by God's mercy and grace, begging is honored.

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