Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Devotional: Jesus the Worldwide Messiah, Mark 7:24-8:10

Mark 7.24-8.10 outline

In 7:24, Mark moves the story back into Gentile territory, Tyre and Sidon, to continue Jesus’ teaching that the expectations of the Jewish leadership and the disciples of what their Messiah would be and the extent of His kingdom were too small. Jesus, by his words and actions, continues to show them that their view of what constitutes holiness is too shallow and their perspective on who is included in the people of God is too narrow. Jesus does three remarkable miracles in Canaanite territory for Gentiles to enlarge and widen the kingdom view of the disciples, and Mark’s readers, beyond their own people and desire for personal blessing, to include God’s concern for “blessing all the families of the earth” and preaching the gospel of Jesus “to the whole creation.”

In the first miracle (7:24-30) Jesus expels a demon from the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman. This miracle prefigures what Jesus will do in his death and resurrection to free the Gentile nations of the world from the domination of the demonic “principalities and powers” to which they have been enslaved since the tower of Babel. Thus, Jesus’ makes the point that this miracle “jumps the gun” a little on God’s plan to redeem the world. Nevertheless, because of her faithful response, he performs the miracle by a word, without even the need to be in the presence of the daughter. Jesus is truly the one who can free the nations from the bondage of darkness. The woman also provides a rebuke to the faithlessness and denseness of the Jewish leadership, and disciples, who have an invitation to sit at the kingdom banquet table but do not trust Jesus eagerly, like a little “puppy” who is “under the table eating the children’s crumbs.”  This woman’s faith should be a challenge and example to all of us.

The second miracle is the healing of a deaf man in Decapolis (7:31-37). Jesus takes him aside and heals his deafness and speech impediment by placing his fingers in his ears and touching his tongue. All of us need that kind of intimate connection with Jesus if we want to hear him and speak for him properly. Again we see Jesus “opening” what the powers of darkness had kept closed for thousands of years, and Jesus warns the man to “tell no one,” because the full realization of this freedom awaited his resurrection and ascension. Just like the deaf man, even the disciples (and us very often) were deaf to what He was saying and needed to humble themselves and receive what Jesus offered before their “speech impediment” could be removed and they could announce this “good news” message of God’s kingdom.

Finally, Jesus repeats the miracle of the feeding of a large crowd (8:1-10), this time with seven loaves and a few fish. The point should have been quite clear to the disciples: The God who provided bread for the Jewish nation to enter the promised land is now extending the offer of salvation, kingdom and blessing to the whole world. God has always had compassion for the needs of the whole world and the disciples are now being called to experience the intimate healing word and touch of the Messiah, the Son of God, and distribute its benefits to all of creation.

This is the lesson for us. We are to be as eager for the word and touch of Jesus as open-mouthed hungry puppies under a banquet table. And when we receive it, God calls us to pass it on to whoever is around us.

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