I wish I had more time to actually study all of the complexities of this chapter, but unfortunately I don’t. There’s going to be a bookmark in my Bible on this page until I sit down soon and try to educate myself out of some of my confusion here. But I still won’t pretend that I think I understand everything going on here.
Here’s what (I think) I know:
Mark has to actually explain in detail why the Pharisees are upset because he thinks its so ridiculous that it won’t make sense without explanation. It’s also important that they question why Jesus doesn’t follow “the teachings of the elders.” It’s clear that the rules Jesus’ followers aren’t adhering to are man-made regulations. On the other hand, Jesus responds by saying, “You don’t even follow the teachings of Moses and the laws of God.” Nice rebuttal. He goes on to talk about how cleanliness of heart, mind, and soul is what matters to God, not dirty hands or dishes.
In the story of the woman in Tyre, most of it confuses me and will be in the “things I don’t know section.” Following up on Mark 6, I wrote there about how Jesus gave and gave and gave to other people to what had to be the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. We see the result of that here as he tries to slip unnoticed into a house, but of course, he is found out and must go back to healing.
Jesus then goes to the area of the Ten Cities, or Decapolis, where he heals a man who is deaf and unable to speak. Jesus heals him. Fun fact: the Decapolis is the same region that Jesus sent Legion to go evangelize after he got rid of his demons.
Here’s What I Don’t Know:
When Mark is writing about Jesus’ comments on how nothing outside of the body can make you unclean, Mark specifically says that in saying this Jesus was calling all foods clean. The food codes were part of the Old Testament law. It would seem that Jesus was negating part of the law. However, in Matthew 5:17-20, it is clear that Jesus did not come to destroy the law and that he intended none of it to fall away until everything “is accomplished.”
My best theory: Mark is writing this Gospel in the time after the church has learned that the food laws no longer apply to Christians. As he is writing, he is trying to show that Jesus’ comments here apply to the new Christian understanding (given to Peter by God) that the food laws no longer applied.
Jesus has healed Gentiles before without insulting them or calling them dogs. However, in this case he seems to do so. When the woman acknowledges his comment but replies in faith, Jesus is impressed and grants her request. I am not sure why Jesus would say what he said to the woman, even though it is true.
In the story of the deaf and mute man, I have no idea what Jesus is doing. Just a few verses ago he cast
out a demon long distance without even being told which direction the girl was. Now he sticks his finger in the guy’s ears, spits, and touches his tongue in order to heal him. In another situation Jesus said that there was a demon that could only be cast out by prayer. Is this some kind of illness or demon that could only be cast out by poking and spitting? Is Jesus simply demonstrating something? I don’t know what that would be. It’s an odd moment that is right up there with the time Jesus used spit to make a mud pie to place on a man’s eyes to heal his blindness. I don’t know what’s going on, but it is completely clear that Jesus does know what he’s doing.
Honestly, I think it’s important to recognize that the Bible isn’t always straight forward. Sometimes it’s weird, complicated, or difficult to understand. Usually not. But sometimes. And we shouldn’t always feel the need to say, “Well I know exactly what that means and there is no question about it.” Sometimes we need to recognize that God is bigger than us and does things differently than you or I would. And that’s okay. It’s part of what makes him God and us…well, not God. And we need that humility. I know I do.
On the other hand, if you know exactly what’s going on in any of these stories, please let me know.