Mark 7:29

“For saying that,” he answered, “you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”

recognizing we’ve been caught
in knee-jerk responses
built by a self-protective culture
is unusual enough to be remarked upon

expanding recognition to repentance
bypassing all expressions of such
including sorry and other excusatory phrases
refreshes all parties and next generations

the only recognition result
is changed behavior and restitution
ever here we usually can only
go so far as present forward

without a tangible recompense
past indiscretions leave an opening
to repeat bad behavior to another
bottom line no restitution no repentance

hooray for every small reversal
a slammed closed door
removed from gerrymandered lines
in such moments girls and boys smile

Matthew’s version of this episode points to “faith” being the turning point. This Gentile, Syrophoenician, woman with at least these three strikes against her was deemed to have “faith”. (Mt. 15:28)

Mark has no mention of faith. Tangling honestly with Jesus was plenty enough for him.

It would certainly be easy to turn a willingness to risk a second rebuke with a verbal riposte or saucy retort into a faith-based statement, but we are talking about a mother literally fighting for her daughter’s life and that carries as much weight as faith in something or someone else.

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon’s chapter in Anderson51 notes:

“For this saying [word, logos]” (7:29, RSV), Jesus says you may go home to a healed child, a healed Gentile child. (Jesus, too, seems to have experienced healing).

Not only was faith not noted, there is no mention of following Jesus, being a missionary in her own territory, or conversion to Judasim. In some sense this might have been the first Gentile exorcism of a demon, rather than the unnamed Geresene.

The inclusion of all promised by the prophets of old, is underway even as the healing was underway before Justa arrived home.

Mark 7:28

“Yes, Master,” she replied. “Even the dogs under the table do feed on the children’s crumbs.”

to all my siblings
who come to table
with washed hands and faces

you fool no one
after you leave
the floor is a mess

none us are mess free
nor any simply a mess
discernment wherefore art thou

A couple of technical matters are important.

When we hear “answered” or “replied”, it seems like a rational, straight-forward response. The Greek is far stronger, “certainly”, “assuredly”, “exactly”, “yes!”

This is an agreement with the previous statement that is not at all an agreement. Now we can hear the relationship, the play, the “Come on, get real.”

“Lord” is church lingo, The far better translation is simply a term of respect such as “Sir”. Practically, this is the only place this particular word, κύριε (kurie, a title of honor) is used. While the word is found in some manuscripts in 1:50, it is not used in translation. It is also found in 10:51 in some manuscripts but usually translated as if from Matthew or Luke’s version. Read this as you would “M’ Lord” or “Lady” in a Victorian novel.

Just because a healing is being looked for or has already happened doesn’t mean that the seeker or the healed will let the medium through which the healing happened become a deity. From the other side, though, there are apocryphal stories of some surgeons thinking they are G*D.

Justa follows her “Yeah!(?)” with the same “little dog” images and extends it to “crumbs” or “little bread”. In Mark there is a lot of feeding with bread. To reduce the Eucharistic overtones of this to a bit of bread too small to care about brings us back to earth, under the table rather than over it, as were Herod’s party or well-washed Pharisees.

We can almost hear her say, “Did you see what I did there?”

Other references to this back-and-forth are reported by Myers82:

Jesus’ insult may echo a rabbinic saying of the time: “He who eats with an idolater is like one who eats with a dog” (see also Exodus 22:31). But the stipulation that “the children must first be satisfied” suggests a deeper symbolic issue.

A twinkle in Jesus’ eye has been met with a gleam in Justa’s.

Mark 7:27

“Let the children be satisfied first,”answered Jesus. “For it is not fair to take the children’s food, and throw it to dogs.”

by our images are we known
our word reveals gaps
between intention and effect

creative words lighten abundance
when enough are involved
there is always enough for all

restrictive words fear scarcity
building compartmentalized storage units
seven for me one for you

in the end there can only be
a full eight units for me
none for incompatible thee

in the end there can only be
four for each
north south east west

wherever we look
our image looks back
learn well from this teacher

Commentators are pretty well agreed that the “children” here refers to Israel and Jesus’ felt/expressed priority to his own.

It can’t be posited that this would be universally understood by others, particularly since there is a report in 3:8 that people from Tyre and Sidon who came because of “what he was doing”—healing. This barrier had already been broken. If they could be healed by going to Galilee, why couldn’t the Galilean heal here in Tyre?

It is also possible to read the second part of this response as a question, “Is it right for the children’s bread to be tossed to the dogs?”

There is a technical matter of “dogs” being better translated as “puppies”. This introduces a bit of fun being had already and removes some of the solemnity of the initial rejection.

Any of these three can easily cast doubt upon any certainty in the priority stated. As in every time, the outsider knows the insider better than the insider knows themself. The classic example is the slave whose best interest is served in anticipating their master’s moods. Aichele101 affirms this, “In Mark it is outsiders such as the Syrophoenician woman (7:24–30) and the scribe (12:28–34) who appear to understand Jesus best.” This, of course, raises a question about how well a privileged, institutional church can know Jesus.

Mark 7:26

the woman was a foreigner, from Syrian Phoenicia – and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.

our own another
asking demanding
resisting complaining
wanting not wanting
healings release

out out damn demon
not of my own causing
with all my power out
I call upon every resource
in seven regions

falling heavily
upon a last
pair of feet
still unwashed

Remember to cast your mind back to previous similar events. Mark does his best to not only move us along, but to have us bring the whole story along with us.

Myers82 reminds us of this context in both prior stories and the culture of the time,

The woman who falls at Jesus’ feet appealing on behalf of her off-stage daughter reminds us of Jairus, but she represents a world remote from that of the synagogue leader. Because we are unfamiliar with what constituted social propriety in Hellenistic antiquity, we miss the scandal of this encounter. In conventional Mediterranean “honor culture,” it would have been inconceivable for an unknown, unrelated woman to approach a man in the privacy of his residence. Worse, this woman is a Gentile soliciting favor from a Jew. Mark’s description is emphatic: She is “Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth”.

Mark seems to enjoy the various combinations of relationships he reports. This is true of the interplay he sets up between sets of parables as well as individuals. Much is lost if we overfocus. This is one of the dangers of doing a verse by verse response. It is important to be able to pull back while zooming in.

Consider the differences between the Jairus and “Justus” stories. Both come forward falling at Jesus’ feet: one in public; one in private. Both have sick daughters: one physically sick, close enough to touch; one demonically possessed, at an unknown distance. Both need to assert themselves: one begging repeatedly; one entering debate. Both receive their requested healing: one a named, male, Jewish, religious leader; one an anonymous, female, pagan, foreigner.

These, plus the differences you named, are enough to legitimize a Feminist Theology. There are many excellent resources available. To continue focusing on Mark, try A Feminist Companion to Mark, edited by Amy-Jill Levine.

Mark 7:25

For a woman, whose little daughter had a foul spirit in her, heard of him immediately, and came and threw herself at his feet –

wouldn’t you know it
once word is out
there is no retracting it
from any even them

a quiet house comes full
rankings are pulled
in-line claims first
class and money bargain hard

it turns out
the most despicable
is the most desperate
and equally resolute

facing countervailing desire
is ever more difficult
as our own is thwarted
yet one more time

Verse 6:31 seems a long way back. Jesus and the disciples couldn’t find time to eat. It was time for a break. Boat. Feeding 5,000. Water walking. Gennesaret. Pharisees.

Matthew has the disciples present at this encounter in a safe house in wealthy Tyre. Had they finally gotten away?

Mark has no mention of the disciples until he summons them again in 8:1. Had Jesus finally gotten away, even from the Twelve?

No longer among Israelites, his people, there comes another intrusion from the wealth of the Tyrean area feeding off Israel (remember back to Elisha’s cavalier approach to Naaman). At the very least it is a test, in the wilderness of Phoenicia, of the inclusion of the unclean Jesus touted before the Pharisees prior to coming into the anonymity of a foreign city.

The last time Jesus roamed far from Jewish territory it was to the southwest with the Gerasene “demoniac” who also did obeisance. This man was instructed to stay in his foreign land and tell his story of Jesus, a forerunner of later churches in the area. At question here is whether the Gentile mission will be further expanded.

I don’t know what to make of it, but there is a tradition kept alive in the Eastern Orthodox tradition of the woman at the well having a name, Photina (The Lady of the Light). Also, the Clementine Homilies speak of Peter directing Clementine to stay in Tyre with “Bernice, the daughter of Justa the Canaanitess”. Sometimes there are extra-biblical traditions that can be helpful. Does it make a difference to your reading of the story if this woman and daughter are named? If it does, will you be bold to add them in when you next read this pericope aloud?

Mark 7:24

On leaving that place, Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. He went into a house, and did not wish anyone to know it, but could not escape notice.

been feeling pretty
high and mighty
words of wisdom and division
rolled easily

in another breath
we are again elsewhere
quietly cocooning
o for space and quiet

as soon as this is acknowledged
our desire evaporates
pressure heated
with multiple needs

Before proceeding to a next scene it will be helpful to have Matthew 15:22–28 open alongside. There will be opportunity to reflect on whether both Mark and Matthew are using an independent source or tradition. This is a scene that makes it very difficult to know which came first, Matthew or Mark, and gives evidence to both sides of debate.

The opening word, ἐκεῖθεν (ekeithen, from, and thence) is not clear in the above CEB translation. It is the only time Mark uses this word, while Matthew has 13 uses. Is Mark following Matthew or a common source to both? This word may be Matthew’s version of Mark’s euthys or “immediately”.

The sudden shift of location from debate with Pharisees to pagan territory suggests that we are now entering a new part of the narrative.

This is a clear indication that the purpose of the journey was to secure privacy, not missionary activity. That the purpose of Jesus was unfulfilled because of a reputation that had preceded him from Galilee is the obvious sense of what follows, but it may be that Mark wishes us to understand that Jesus was everywhere immediately recognized. Matthew omits any mention of Jesus’ crossing the border, and he has no equivalent of Mark’s 24b. ~ Mann320

This reference to entering a house is not about one entrance, but carries the weight of establishing residence. In Mark, home and house is something that Jesus seems to carry with him. It also challenges his followers to travel with an expectation of a hospitality he commissioned the twelve to look for on their fishing-for-people expeditions. This continues to challenge a settled church.

Inside every situation an en-homed Jesus finds himself, people find healing shining out from the construct of his life. Being at home in our own life may be the lure Jesus taught people-fishers.

Mark 7:23

all these wicked things come from within, and do defile a person.”

Ojo de Dios
sees and dives deep
into unknown tracts
unknowable seas

dirts muck pollution
are not unknown
unless eyes are closed
partnership denied

when all sufficient
internal enlightment
turns way up
contamination denied

deeper diving
finds strange partners
where there is strong contagion
inside outside blur

unknown clouds
consolidate and poof
split and are gone
in a G*D’s twinkling

These actions or states of being, both singular and plural, are not a contamination. Note Jesus’ acceptance of brokenness and lostness in need of shepherding for a season. There is not a shying away from the “evils” listed. What United Methodists name as “prevenient” grace keeps us reminded of the call to a changed heart and life because mercy and forgiveness are already underway (remember the blanket statement of 3:28, “Truth: all will be forgiven, all that is called “sin” and “denial of an original blessing”.

A question must be asked, “What does it mean to be contaminated in G*D’s view?”

“Contaminated” is all too easily heard as “condemned”. Most translations leave it with a person being unclean without a direct connection to G*D’s disapproval. What can be said here is all the pre-washing in the world doesn’t rid one of their internal wilderness.

For some, negative injunctions help them control their behavior, grit their teeth, and strenuously resist a particular outward expression of their inward temptation. This acknowledges addiction’s ever open opportunity for one more drink or hit. Negativity does assist some addictive responses. Others get trapped here and self-condemned.

Remember the context here is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees concern about pre-washing that he shifted to address the Corbanists and Mark, here, attends more to Paul’s preaching for conversion than Peter’s witness to not call unclean what simply is (an internal wilderness). Fortunately this is not the end of the story.

Mark 7:22

adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, haughtiness, folly;

name what you will
make it as disgusting as possible
there is nothing unforgiveable
even before it is evident

repentance can be resisted
held until the twelfth of never
on a theory of righteousness
to save wrong’s embarrassment

foolishness is arrogance
returning envy for insult
greedily loosening deceit
all the while denying betrayal

to any list of evil
there is no last temptation
the shape of privilege
changes faces but not feces

The list of inside issues continues. There is no parsing of this list that doesn’t add to our resistance to acknowledge that there is a whole wilderness within us.

“The devil made me do it” is an all too easy way to stop our journey toward a retreat rest that will clear our eye and allow such as these to rise and leave without grabbing our attention and taking our partnership with creation for granted long enough to let it slip through our fingers and fall to the ground.

A second convenient rationale we come up with has to do with our being bad soil so we might has well let our dogs out to feed where they can. This dishonors a gift of life and love. Our ordinary wilderness gets turned into internalized evil.

What started out as an attempt to speak to purity rituals that keep separations within and between in place and growing, is seduced into an unhelpful listing of wrongs as though violence can only be countered with violence, evil with evil (even trying to claim a lesser evil as a good compared with evil per se moves down the road of hypocrisy).

While there is nothing inherently bad about listing the ways we don’t love ourself or others, they do trigger our fascination with testing boundaries. Whether they push outward from our inside or are beckoned outward from beyond ourself, it is our lack of experience with them that allows them to break forth. There is nothing that is hidden that won’t be revealed and so we need to return to learning and teaching non-attachment that we might simply allow temptations to rise and fall without grabbing our life as their recurring appearance passes by.

Mark 7:21

for it is from within, out of the hearts of people, that there come evil thoughts – sexual immorality, theft, murder, 

freed wills are strong
un-G*Dly fortified
against G*D
less than this
would not protect
from puppetry

into this blessed space
so close to our heart
Zeus’ gift to Pandora
lies under banners
for seven virtues
continually ready for choice

it takes a good while
of practice and testing
in hermitage and agora
to find a partnership
honorable enough
to hold rhetoric and effect

hopeful expectation
waxes and wanes
through polar cycles
wrestling inner and outer
lingering past and tugging future
into an abundant present

The versification here is similar to that in Romans 8:38–39 and Galatians 5:22–23where a long list is broken in two.

While there is no understanding of why the verses were put in the way they were, the break in the list can be used as part of an Ignatian examen of a person’s experience that day.

Whether we are dealing with a list of vices as here, a list of troubles as in Romans, or a list of virtues as in Galatians, at the verse break there is an opportunity to reflect on how our heart has been operating. Has it overstepped a significant boundary of our living together? Has it found a trouble specific to itself that needs a larger affirmation to put life back in perspective? Has it had a new and specific expression of a changed heart and life beyond the traditional markers of good partnering with G*D and Neighb*r?

The opportunity to examen how we are doing has an importance beyond the notation of which words on the list are plural, behavior/action oriented, or singular, referring to larger webs that become an organizing principle. If Jesus had the opportunity provided by refrigerator magnets, he may well have handed out a refrigerator chart to people as they were healed or fed that they might keep up-to-date with their lives and not get to the point of disability or hunger.

Those who have access to a refrigerator can make their own examen chart (including their work for hungry refugees).

Mark 7:20

“It is what comes out from a person,” he added, “that defiles them,

intended or no
it’s what comes out
that reveals

consequences speak clearly
regarding assumptions
choices and decisions

a world of trust
in this or that
must face its shadow

even abiding vision
lowers its eyes in shame
faced by persistent persecution

only love prevails
when faith and hope fail
in its hold we sail

This verse could indicate Mark’s handwriting was a bit sloppy and the copyist misread whatever Mark’s proofreader’s mark was to “delete”, on the last phrase of 7:19, for “restore deletion”.

The reader has a choice of where to focus this verse. Does it continue a separate explanation for the disciples (simply ignore the 7:19b kerfuffle)? Does it continue Jesus’ work with the crowd (simply pick up from 7:15)?

Whichever, we can also look at the whole “in—out” model.

It is easy to bring forth an argument opposite of an opponent. If they say “Up”, we say “Down”; their “Wrong”, is our “Right”. This runs into the same difficulty as we are having in one of the latest identity questions regarding sexual variances—a limited binary view doesn’t accord well with the actual experiences of life. This gets us into a number of difficulties that the Platonic view of Mark’s time (and still) has with “Ideal” and “Image”, “Soul” and “Flesh, with an either/or approach in a time of multiverses, string theories, and other observable phenomenon beyond the surface of our senses.

Together, 7:18 and 7:20 say the world or creation around us does not contaminate us, but it stands in danger from our contaminating our context. This is a more general statement than a simple elimination of a purity code. Now we have to wrestle with what it means that boundaries are porous, anyone and anything can enter our presence without making all of us automatically unclean. All the usual outcasts can be welcomed as we struggle with mutual hospitality in a world too easily swayed or controlled by techniques intended to set one part of the body against another part so those in power might remain so or those desiring such power might gain it.