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Mark 7:24-37 - The children of ministry verses the dogs of ignorance

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

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Jesus 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.”


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This is the Gospel selection to be read aloud by a priest on the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 18], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will follow one of two pairings of Old Testament and Psalm readings. The Track 1 option is a reading of Proverbs, which paints a picture of Yahweh creating the rich and the poor. The Track 2 option sings a song of Isaiah that encourages a soul to find the benefit of Yahweh’s salvation. Both Psalms sing praises to Yahweh’s glory. The Epistle reading will come from James, where he said faith without works is dead.


I wrote about this reading in 2018, the last time it came up in the lectionary cycle. It can be found at this link. I stand behind the words written then, as they still give needed insight into the meaning of this reading. The amazing beauty of divine Scripture is it can always offer new views and deeper insights, many of which were not seen fully times read before. It is from a fresh perspective that I will now add a few notes of observation to that seen in 2018.


The insight that just came to me is the imagery of the story of “The road to Emmaus,” where pilgrims were returning to their homes, after the Shavuot festival had ended. Just as Cleopas and his wife Mary walked with a stranger [who was Jesus resurrected, not looking like the nephew they had known from birth], the length of a trip and the conversations shared was what I saw could have happened in this event. Walking with pilgrims who sought more than a vacation trip led to Jesus and his disciples walking north with other Jews who lived in that direction. My insight now allows me to see Jesus traveling with someone from Trye, whose soul yearned for the truth; and, after having witnessed Jesus acts and heard his words during the Passover-to-Shavuot season, he and his family invited Jesus to walk further with them, inviting Jesus into their home.


This insight makes this venture beyond Galilee now appear as a parallel to the road to Emmaus story, when Jesus was invited into the home of Cleopas and Mary; and, we know how in that story as Jesus blessed and broke the bread, he then disappeared. It was the soul of Jesus having risen within a stranger, who was left to finish dinner alone, after Cleopas and Mary hurried back to Jerusalem; or, it was a ghost or spirit that was Jesus’ soul [not looking like his physical flesh], which <poof> vanished as soon as Cleopas and Mary realized who it was. That disappearance would then say those two family members received the soul of Jesus within their souls [a divine possession], which sent them scurrying off, back to Jerusalem. This same imagery needs to be how to view these miracles in Tyre [Sidon].


When we read, “[Jesus] entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,” the impression given and received is Jesus was in hiding. In 2018, I wrote about Jesus having ruffled the feathers of the rulers in Jerusalem, so he was ‘laying low’ so not to be spied on. Prior to these words from verse twenty-four being stated, Mark wrote of Jesus “having risen up,” from “anastas,” which is translated in this reading as “Jesus set out.” This word means more than the simple act of moving. Instead, it reflects on the divine presence of Yahweh in Jesus having been elevated. In that elevation, his divine aura drew followers, one of whom lived in Tyre. Thus, the word translated as “having entered” [“eiselthōn”] is less about Jesus the man physically walking inside a building; it should be read as a statement about the divine Spirit exuding from Jesus spiritually, “coming into” that household and family.


The element of the story now, where readers are told that Jesus “did not want anyone to know he was there,” says Jesus’s soul-spirit had joined with those souls who had opened to receive him. That presence was not for them to proudly boast about, as it was an unseen presence of Jesus reborn within them, which could not be explained by the powers of rational thought. That presence was not intended to be known, but instead be a sense of happiness that is unexplainable. I see it as comparable to a woman first becoming pregnant, but that physical change takes more time for one to be comfortable sharing that new state of being.


When Mark then added, “Yet he could not escape notice,” those souls who had received his soul-spirit knew a new presence had overtaken them, which filled them with joy. There was no mistaking that this newfound sense of well-being came from them becoming friends with Jesus; they just could not explain it so others could understand. This is then the elation Cleopas and Mary felt when Jesus likewise became one with them, causing them to run to the other followers of Jesus. This comparison came to me and made this reading make more sense to me.


By realizing the soul-spirit of Jesus had extended to those souls who sought a closeness with Yahweh, having been led to find Jesus because of their devotion, one sees the household in Tyre was Jewish. This is how the feeding of the five thousand, which took place prior to the recent Passover-to-Shavuot season, was the miracle of Jesus’ soul-spirit having been transferred into his apostles. That exchange began when he commissioned them to go out into ministry as interns, returning to Capernaum shortly before that miracle event. The spreading of that soul-spirit – a possibility quite within the capabilities of Yahweh the Father – was not limited to only those who followed Jesus around. It was spread to all the Jews who came to Jesus – led by their love of Yahweh – so the promised messiah [“mashiach” – the “anointed one”] would be delivered to God’s chosen people. Those who Jesus healed were left with a remembrance that could never be forgotten. That 'token touch of memory' was their receipt of Yahweh's Spirit, passed onto them by Jesus.


The spread of Jesus’ soul-spirit to a Jewish household in the mixed region of Tyre led to that presence being felt by all seekers of truth, which extended beyond the Jews [the scattered remnant of Israel, the fallen Northern Kingdom] to the Gentiles. That presence was soon felt by a “Syrophoenician” woman, a Gentile. She felt the same presence as did the family who had walked the road home from Jerusalem with Jesus [and entourage]. She sought to also know the presence of Jesus and the God offering his soul-spirit to the world.


Realizing she was a seeker of truth, to read that “she begged [Jesus] to cast the demon out of her daughter,” only to read that Jesus 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.” That comes across as harsh and uncaring. However, that is not the case at all.


What Jesus told this seeker was the “dogs” were the rulers of Jerusalem, whose reach extended into every synagogue in Judea and Galilee. The “dogs” [Greek “kynariois,” meaning “little dog, house dog”] must be seen in the same light as when Jesus told his disciples [and others listening at his ‘synagogue by the sea’], “Give not that which is holy unto dogs.” [Matthew 7:6a] There, the Greek word used was “kysin,” which is more in line with a mongrel or unwanted “dog.” The Hebrew word for “dogs” is “keleb” transliterated as “lak-ke-leḇ,” such that Exodus 22:31 tells what to do with “meat of the field torn [by beasts].” It should be fed to the “dogs.”


This means Jesus was calling a seeker (Gentile as she was) one of the “children” (“tekna”), not one of the “dogs.” That was a statement about the innocence of a seeker, such that the “food” or “bread” (“arton”) she sought was not physical, but spiritual. Having not long ago read from John’s Gospel about Jesus telling the “dogs” who followed him they needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood, Jesus said he was “the bread from heaven.” Jesus was therefore the food for the children who should be fed first; and, that was the ministry of Jesus. He fed spiritual food to all seekers who were led by Yahweh to find him, as they were to be fed first, not the dogs or swine that were the beasts who would turn him into meat in the field torn later.


When the woman replied to Jesus, saying, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” she was not referring to herself as a “dog.” Jesus did not hear her say that either. Both of them knew the meaning of “dogs” as being metaphor for those who refused to offer the benefits of their One God to Gentiles. The “dogs under the table” were the Jews who were themselves “children” starving for spiritual food. What “crumbs” of insight the ‘big dogs’ had fall from their muzzles onto the ground (by accident or mistakes taught by the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and rabbis). Those nuggets of truth were quickly gobbled up by the other Jewish “dogs” (“kynaria”), so the “children” beyond Judaism, who were seeking spiritual food from the Jews, found nothing was spared for anyone else.


Because this exchange between the Gentile woman and Jesus [a Jew] is not easily seen in this light [thus not routinely preached this way], such that both were saying the same thing in their use of “dogs,” it is important to see the truth come forth when Mark then wrote, “[Jesus] said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” The daughter was not even there, as the woman had to go home to find out her daughter had indeed been cleansed of a demon spirit. That means “touch” was not necessary.


Jesus was the spiritual bread of life, the bread from heaven. It was his presence that drew seekers of truth to be fed his soul-spirit, so they could drink in the emotion of his holy blood [spiritual, not physical], with Jesus not being meat of the field torn, but a divine transference of soul-spirit into one’s being. The children who would be fed first were those who did not seek physical bread, but those souls who sought to know Yahweh personally. Thus, the bread of heaven was not words preached to be heard, nor was it the sight of Jesus physically to be seen; it was the power of prayer delivered, eaten by those of faith who sought the soul’s freedom from a world that preyed on the faithless.


This non-physical, non-sensitive related presence is then the way Christianity began. It was not passed on by any need to come into the physical presence of Jesus of Nazareth. Just as the vision of Jesus disappeared when his soul merged with the souls of Cleopas and Mary, so too did Jesus stay in the household of the family of Jews in Tyre (Sidon), after his body had left. In the same way, Jesus had spread his soul-spirit into his disciples, so they could heal and preach without his being there in person. It was Jesus' soul-spirit in his disciples [eleven at least] that fed spiritual food to the five thousand, while Jesus watched from above [on the mount by the sea plain].


The metaphor of this is then shown in the man brought to Jesus, after he and his followers had moved south to Decapolis (a region between Gaulantis and Perea). The man was deaf, but he tried to speak without hearing. His speech was therefore impeded. That man’s story is not fully told, but it can be intuited.


Jesus would not have gone to a place that was not where Jews lived. Not far to the south, from where Jesus regularly preached (when the tourist season was ongoing) at the flood plain on the eastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, was the city of Hippos; and Hippos was in the region of Decapolis. It was one of the 'ten cities' of that region. It should be noted that the Jews saw anyone with an imperfection, such as being deaf, as being a sinner; so, this man brought to Jesus would not have been allowed inside a proper Jewish synagogue.


Like the lame man Jesus healed by the pool and the lame man Jesus healed outside the Temple, when resurrected within the soul-body of Simon-Peter, it was the responsibility of family to carry such a sinner around, placing his mat down and then setting him on the mat to beg. At the end of the 'work day,' they would come and take him back home. Between handling, if their presence demanded them enter a holy place, the family would go ritually clean themselves for having touched a sinner. This was a daily routine that was unavoidable. This deaf man was no exception to that rule; and, his family likewise suffered from their association to someone seen by their neighbors as a sinner.


Because Hippos was an established town and a port on the sea, word of Jesus preaching nearby would have been how some Jews there came to listen to Jesus preach from the mount overlooking the flood plain. Pilgrims from distant places would arrange to live with relatives, so returning pilgrims might have been those who found Jesus and told those in Hippos of his strange ministry [John the Baptist like]. Most likely, a family of Jews in Hippos invited Jesus to come stay with them, whenever he was in town and needed a place to stay. The relatives of the deaf man with a speech impediment would have lived near those who had come to know Jesus; and, when they heard Jesus was in town, that would be when they took the deaf man to Jesus, to be healed.


Such an act would have been as much a healing of the family, as it would be for the deaf man alone. If the man could be restored and no longer be viewed as a sinner, a huge load [the onus of sin] would be lifted off that family's shoulders. Still, the symbolism of his plight needs to be seen in the light of the Gentile woman who shared with Jesus how the ruling Jews were “dogs,” and therefore all the Jews they led were also of the same “dog” breed. Because the man had been deaf, he could not hear the worthless garbage preached by the “dogs” of the synagogue, had they allowed him inside. Being deaf was in his favor, in that regard. To then see that the deaf man tried to speak, he must have had something he wanted to say. Still, his defect [maybe not from birth] most naturally would mean his impediment was the inability to be taught speech [or be corrected], because he could not hear. His attempts at speech says he had much to say; but he did not know how to say it. In a way, the deaf man was one of the “children” who needed to be fed spiritual food from the presence of Jesus.


When we read Mark write, “[Jesus] took him aside in private, away from the crowd,” the Greek word translated as “private” is “idian.” The word stems from “idios,” which actually means, “one's own, belonging to one, private, personal.” According to HELPS Word-studies, this word is defined as such: “ídios (a primitive word, NAS dictionary) – properly, uniquely one's own, peculiar to the individual.” This needs to be understood as Jesus not saying to the gathering, “Excuse us. We’re just going to stand over here without all the noise that could distract this deaf man.” It should be understood as the soul-spirit of Jesus entering the man’s body, so the man was no longer a soul alone with a defected body of flesh. He was then spiritually joined by Jesus. The man became Jesus reborn.


It is at this point when the third-person pronouns used – “his finger, his ears, he spat, and his tongue” – are not to be read as actions taken by Jesus of Nazareth. The ambiguity implies "he" was Jesus, but the spirituality of Mark's words intentionally allow for "he, him, his" to be both Jesus's soul and the soul-body of the deaf man. For anyone who was there watching this 'private' meeting, for them to tell what happened they probably would have said, “I don’t know what happened. We were all standing there with Jesus and then our deaf family member began putting his fingers in his ears. Then he spat on the ground, and stuck out his tongue and touched it with his finger. The next thing we knew is our family member began talking and hearing us talking to him!” The man had become Jesus; so, the request by the family members for Jesus to lay his hand on him happened without physical touch. Jesus, as the hand of Yahweh, touched the man’s soul when the two became one.


When Mark wrote that Jesus began “looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened,” this series of words in Greek include “anablepsas, estenaxen, and Dianoichthēti,” in addition to the Aramaic “Ephphatha.” The first two words state, “having looked up” and “groaned (within himself).” While the impression given from this text implies Jesus looked up into the sky, the deeper truth says the deaf man’s soul was enabled to see the divinity of Yahweh, as the Son reborn. The direction of “up” is not physical, but spiritual. It should be read in the same way Mark earlier wrote, "Jesus got up and went to Tyre." Jesus did not simply “go up” to Tyre, his soul-spirit had become elevated Spiritually. His ministry had been elevated higher than it had been before. Therefore, it was not Jesus who inwardly groaned, but the deaf man, after the deaf man's soul had "Looked up" Spiritually.


The Greek word “stenazó,” from which “estenaxen” comes, means, “to groan (within oneself).” HELPS Word-studies states: “stenázō (from 4728 /stenós, "compressed, constricted") – properly, to groan because of pressure of being exerted forward (like the forward pressure of childbirth); (figuratively) to feel pressure from what is coming on – which can be intensely pleasant or anguishing (depending on the context).” They then add as an aside: “This term ‘denotes feeling which is internal and unexpressed.’” This makes it clear (to me) that it was the deaf man making this inner groan, before pushing out his healed new self, giving birth to Jesus' soul resurrected [before Jesus died physically - possible for Yahweh].


Both “Ephphatha’ and “Dianoichthēti” bear the same meaning, which is “Be opened up.” Because both words are capitalized, they both take on a divine level of meaning, such that it becomes a higher statement about “up” than was a vision of heaven represented by raised eyes. The unseen element in these words is a statement of “Being,” which is saying the soul of the man became “Opened up,” as the Son of man, as Jesus reborn. To be the opposite would to be closed, which rejects the penetration of Yahweh’s Spirit. To “Be Opened Up” means to “Receive the Spirit.” It means to give birth to the new you [that is not you].


Mark then is shown to write, “Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” This gives the impression that Jesus was again trying to lay low and under the radar of the Jerusalem elite, matching the verbiage of verse twenty-four saying, “[he] did not want anyone to know he was there.” That is still not the case.


The Greek word repeated here is “diesteilato,” which has been translated as “he ordered.” In reality, the root word “diastelló” means “to set apart, to distinguish, to charge expressly” (Strong’s Definition). Still, the application of usage means the word says, “I give a commission (instructions), order.” As such, Jesus “commissioned” the family of the formerly deaf man, just as he had “commissioned” his apostles, sending them out in pairs with explicit “instructions” as to what to do. When this is then tied to “no one they should tell,” the same words can also translate as “nothing to speak.” This means the Spirit of Yahweh was within them, as extensions of His hand on earth – as Jesus reborn – so there was nothing they needed to say [from their brains - based on what they had heard before] in order to do the same for others. They had the same powers to bring other souls to “Be Opened!” and they needed no words to make that happen. Yahweh would tell them what to do and say.


When this is followed by Mark writing, “the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it,” the same substitution of “commissioned” needs to be seen as Jesus continuing to put his soul-spirit in the others related to the formerly deaf man. They too were filled with the Spirit of Yahweh, reborn as the Sons of man, so the more souls Jesus touched (without words or other sensory abilities) the more were there newly born Christians in the world. They simply had to go forth into the world that they were already in; and, Yahweh would lead them accordingly. They were the first wave of Apostles, following after those who were fed by the sea before the Passover, as the true beginnings of Christianity, before the world knew that name as a religion.


As a Gospel reading selection for the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for Yahweh should already be well underway, the lesson says to receive the Spirit. Be Opened Up! The only way to be in ministry as Jesus, as a servant of Yahweh on the earth, is to become Jesus reborn. That ministry does not call for one to get a diploma from an educational institution. That ministry does not require one to interview with vestries and church hierarchies, in order to find a paying job with credentials that allow special parking and income tax benefits. That ministry does not even require one go about trying to speak, when one’s tongue has never be taught to do so publicly. Ministry to Yahweh means being His Son and letting Him do the talking and doing.

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