Mark XIV: All Things Well - Mark 7:24-8:26

After Jesus broke down the cleanliness barrier between Jew and Gentile, He then leads His disciples into Gentile territory to spread His ministry to the nations, performing healings, exorcisms, and a miraculous feeding. Do His disciples understand what He’s doing, or even what it means for who He is? Are their ears and eyes working?

When Jesus goes to Tyre, He’s actually more of a refugee than a missionary. Ever since He attracted Herod’s attention, He’s been on the move, and after He challenges the Pharisees on the clean/unclean question, He leaves Jewish territory altogether. He tries to hide away under the radar in a private house, but it doesn’t work. He is recognized and presented with a test case of His teaching: He’s in unclean territory, and an unclean Gentile woman who daughter has an unclean spirit comes to Him for help.

But Jesus had come to Tyre to hide and seek rest for Himself and the disciples, and so He keeps the woman at arms’ length with the parabolic metaphor of the children and the dogs at table. He isn’t calling her a dog, but the comparison isn’t flattering. The message is that she has no claim on Jesus’ ministry. But she doesn’t respond with indignation or outrage. She knows that she doesn’t have standing to make this request. But she humbly responds by asking for some crumbs of grace. And here’s the good news: God always answers a humble appeal for grace; it does not matter how unclean you are! Jesus drives the demon out of her daughter, and instead of becoming unclean by interacting with Gentiles, the Gentiles have been made clean by Him.

And for us, although our primary mission is to our church and our homes, we shouldn’t be such fussy eaters that there are no crumbs falling under the table! We need to be sharing kingdom blessings with the world, through evangelism, hospitality, and mercy ministry.

Now that He’s begun, Jesus has more crumbs for the Gentiles, repeating His Galilean miracles in their midst. He literally gives them the children’s bread in the feeding of the four thousand, and sandwiches that miracle between two healings that do more than just make damaged bodies well. These healing miracles serve as object lessons for the disciples, whose spiritual condition mirrors the physical conditions of these sufferers.

After Jesus heals the deaf-mute and feeds the four thousand, the Pharisees once again find Jesus and seek a public confrontation, trying to sabotage His reputation. And just like Jesus sighed at the condition of the deaf man, He sighs at the Pharisees’ condition, as well. But the Pharisees don’t want to be healed; they demand proof from heaven in order to trip Jesus up. In response, Jesus departs as a judgment against the Pharisees, all but concluding His Galilean and Gentile ministry.

Jesus has announced the kingdom of God through His teaching and His miracles, and as He and His disciples travel back across the sea, He checks in on them one more time, testing their understanding by warning them about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. If they adopt even a little of the Pharisees’ legalistic, anti-Gentile ideas or the Herodians’ power-hungry politics, then Jesus’ kingdom bread will be spoiled. But the disciples miss the metaphor entirely. They just think that Jesus is talking about bread.

And so Jesus makes it plain that His miracles and parables apply to them, too: they are just as hard-hearted and slow to understand as the Pharisees. Their eyes and ears are just as useless as those of a deaf or blind man. Bread is not a problem for Jesus! He can feed five thousand people with five loaves; four thousand with seven! The physical needs that Jesus is meeting are meant to point to deeper spiritual realities: the disciples need someone to open their eyes.

And so the final miracle in this section, the healing of a blind man, is not just a healing, but also a visual parable by which Jesus attempts to open His disciples’ eyes to His true identity and mission. This unique two-stage healing is a picture of the gradual opening of the disciples’ eyes: the disciples see, but they don’t see. And so Jesus continues to lay His hands, His teachings, His miracles on them again, so that they will start to see clearly.

How patient God is with deaf and blind disciples! Even when you fail to understand fully who Jesus is and what He is doing, Jesus still has compassion on you. He continues to walk with you, teach you, heal your deaf ears, open your mute mouth, and give sight to your blind eyes. This is who Jesus is, and Jesus does all things well.

Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 by CJ Bowen