Things I would ask Him to tell me, if he were here;
Scenes by the wayside; tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
- William H. Parker, 1885
What could be better for a Christian, than to know and be able to tell the stories of Jesus?
I hope that you are collecting Jesus-stories behind your eyeballs: they come in very handy when situations arise that make us wonder, “What would Jesus do?”
It was one thing to hear stories about Jesus when we were little children in Sunday School. Then, Jesus’ miracles, along with pretty pictures of him that we saw in Sunday School literature, blended with all the other magical things in our childish minds:
† Feeding 5,000 people from five loaves and two fish ?
Sure. And Howdy Doody is a real person. No problem.
† Healing sick people?
Why not? By the end of a Marcus Welby episode, his patient was always just fine.
† Jesus rose from the dead?
Of course he did. And the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family got along great by the end of each show, too!
Let’s not even get started on Superman or the Lone Ranger.
Magical, childish thinking.
I bet that, today, you can tell the difference between real life and pop-culture fantasies if you try. But, have you made an effort to adapt your understanding of the Jesus- stories to the real stresses and difficulty of your adult life?
Let’s look a bit at this week’s gospel lesson, the story of Jesus’ journey north to the region of Tyre, found in Mark 7:24-29 and Matthew 15:21-28. Try reading both versions of the story-- side-by-side, if that is practical for you.
Both Mark and Matthew say that Jesus traveled from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee to the region of Tyre. Tyre is a city in what is now the nation called Lebanon: in Jesus’ time, Tyre was part of the Roman Province of Syria. The thing to notice here is that Jesus left the land of Israel.
Going from the region called The Galilee to the area near Tyre would be kind of like going from San Diego, California, USA to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Or perhaps like going from Buffalo, New York, USA to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You would definitely know you were in a different nation, even though you had traveled less than fifty miles. It is different to be in the USA than to be in Mexico or Canada !
Matthew reports that a “Canaanite” woman came to Jesus while he was traveling there and cried out for his help— out on the highway!
Mark says that Jesus was in a house in that region, hoping that nobody would know he was there, when the “Greek” woman, a “Syro-Phoenician,” came in asking for his help. “She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.”
It is clear that the woman was not Jewish (Jesus was Jewish): her people were Gentiles: Jews were supposed to avoid Gentile company, socially.
Both Matthew and Mark agree that Jesus was rude to the woman: 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.” (Mark) Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus is referring to the Jews as “sheep,” but he clearly called her and her daughter “dogs.”
As a Sunday School child, I never picked up on how mean and cruel those words of Jesus sounded. If my kid said that to a girl on the playground, I would have spanked his butt and made him sit out and watch the others play. “We don’t talk to people that way !”
Finish reading the story. Maybe the most important thing to consider is that “Actions speak louder than words.” But, even so, Why would Jesus talk like that to somebody? Especially to a mother who was seeking help for her afflicted daughter? What point was Jesus trying to make—considering that Jesus was God in human flesh? Wasn’t he sent “so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16)? What does Psalm 146:9 mean when it says,
“The LORD preserveth the strangers....”?
Mark 7: 1-23