Enough for everyone

Published 8:23 am Friday, September 11, 2009

Many church-goers last Sunday heard some of the most difficult and troublesome words attributed to Jesus by the first of the recorded Gospels, the gospel of Mark. Jesus’ encounter with the gentile woman of Syro-Phoenician origin is recorded in the seventh chapter. There at the woman’s request for help for her daughter Jesus responds by comparing such help to throwing children’s food to the dogs. Such words seem out of place and out of character for Jesus. They are harsh to our ears as they would have been to the woman who first heard them.

To understand them we must remember that Jesus as a human was shaped and informed by the world in which he grew up and lived. That world considered outsiders of any type to be unclean and unacceptable. As a result at this point Jesus sees his ministry as only for a certain group of people and this woman is not a part of it. As a result the words that Jesus speaks are the common understanding of his contemporaries.

It is in the interaction with this woman who does not give up her hope that Jesus comes to a new understanding that message of the kingdom that he has come to share with the world is for everyone and not for just a few. Jesus overcomes the commonly held ideas to recognize that there is enough of God’s grace and love for everyone.

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We too are shaped and informed by the culture in which we live. There are any number of messages about other groups of people that have been instilled in us just by growing up in the world in which we have. Though commonly held over time we have come to understand that many of these messages are wrong as well as hurtful. With good fortune we have become re-educated to no long use them or allow them in our midst. Just as Jesus realized that common wisdom was neither true nor appropriate so we have the opportunities to move beyond such inappropriate wisdom as well.

Who are the people who have been painted with the brush of common wisdom today? Who are the people that have suffered injustice, have been oppressed, or have been denied equal access and opportunity in these days because of messages that are wrong and inappropriate despite the fact that they have been held for generations? As uncomfortable as this episode in Jesus life and ministry may be, it is an excellent reminder that we too can grow beyond a falsehood that has been commonly held to the truth that will set us all free.