September 10, 2000

Mark 7:24-37

Jesus left and went to the region near the city of Tyre, where he stayed in someone's home. He did not want people to know he was there, but they found out anyway. A woman whose daughter had an evil spirit in her heard where Jesus was. And right away she came and knelt down at his feet. The woman was Greek and had been born in the part of Syria known as Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to force the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said, "The children must first be fed? It isn't right to take away their food and feed it to dogs."

The woman replied, "Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs that children drop from the table."

Jesus answered, "That's true! You may go now. The demon has left your daughter." When the woman got back home, she found her child lying on the bed. The demon had gone.

Jesus left the region around Tyre and went by way of Sidon toward Lake Galilee. He went through the land near the ten cities known as Decapolis. Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk. They begged Jesus just to touch him.

After Jesus had taken him aside from the crowd, he stuck his fingers in the man's ears. Then he spit and put it on the man's tongue. Jesus looked up toward heaven, and with a groan he said, "Effatha!" which means "Open up!" At once the man could hear, and he had no more trouble talking clearly.

Jesus told the people not to say anything about what he had done. But the more he told them, the more the talked about it. They were completely amazed and said, "Everything he does is good! He even heals people who cannot hear or talk."


1. Two wild stories which move us away from gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The first has Jesus calling someone a "dog." This is not the usual religious language we hear in church. No matter where we fall on the theological spectrum there is a cultural religion which keeps us from wrestling with hard issues with hard language. It is almost as if we only trust forgiveness and mercy so far and if we say something too directly we will have those blessings removed from us forever.

What needs saying more directly than has been said? Note that the one most changed was hard-talking Jesus. The foreign woman knew what she wanted and kept after it. Her tactic of doing what she could with what she had is still worth emulating. In fact it is all the poor have at their disposal.

Thank goodness Jesus was able to stay present in the conversation, to catch the faith expressed in a different way than expected, and to enlarge the vision of worthiness for healing.

2. The second story about a deaf mute has at least one gross elements that the kid in us still enjoys - spit. Now why didn't Jesus just stand off and zap the man from a sterile distance?

The word for the week is Effatha or Ephphatha or Ephpheta (depends on what translation you read). However it is spelled, it means "Open up!"

The Spiritual Formation Bible suggests this exercise to open one up and to then go on to help open up someone else.

"God's Personal Touch

"The way that Jesus heals this man requires that Jesus touch the man's head and face, perhaps even cradling the man's face in his hands. We can't help but wonder how long it has been since this person has been treated so gently.

"Picture yourself face-to-fact with Jesus and needing a healing touch. In what way does Jesus touch you? With a gentle pat on the back to encourage you? with his hands on your shoulders, looking you squarely in the eyes in order to get your attention? Cradling your face with compassion because you have been left out and rejected? Enjoy that image for several moments. Ask God to show you someone who needs to be touched in the same way."

3. I do believe the crowd was right, just like the Syro-Phoenician woman was right. We can't let an opportunity go by without telling about how we have been opened up and how that is open to all people. May the passion of life flow through you to give more and more evidence about the goodness of life. Even Jesus' direct shushing us won't keep us quiet when it comes to telling good news.

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