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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 7:24–37

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, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 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.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (NRSV)

You ever have one of those days? Everyone is asking you to do all sorts of things, and when you finally get a moment to yourself someone else comes along and asks for a favor and you’ve just had enough? Jesus knew the feeling.

Here he’s been doing stuff and talking to people and they don’t understand and all they want is more, and finally he goes off to find a quiet place. And here comes this woman, wanting something from him. And he basically tells her to go away. And he’s not nice about it.

People will say, “Oh, Jesus was just trying to make a point. Oh, Jesus was just teaching us to be persistent.” Yeah. By calling a woman and her sick daughter dogs. That sounds like the ever-patient, super-tolerant, benign and loving Jesus we like to believe in, doesn’t it? Acting like he doesn’t care about a person in need as a rhetorical device?

Nope, it was his day off. He was tired and needed to recuperate, and she’s barging in and not giving him a moment’s peace. And he reacted like a human being. He snapped at her.

It’s really easy to lose track of Jesus’ humanity when we think of his divinity. He knew what it was to be human, including anger and frustration and weariness. I think he spent more time on his last nerve than we ever do.

And God bless that mom for not slinking away, for standing up and answering back. That’s what parents do when their kids are at stake, after all. And God bless Jesus’ humanity, because he also knew what it was like to regret what you said in anger and frustration, because he knew that the only thing to make that right was action and not words.

One of the hardest things for people to do is admit error and make amends. If Jesus could do it and not feel diminished, maybe we should try giving it a shot.

Thank you, Lord, for not only telling us to repent but showing us how to do it. Give us the strength to follow your example, to not cling to our ego, to give it up and care for others. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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