Philippians 3

Scripture: Philippians 3:1-21

Overview:

  • Paul’s all, “Look here, crew, keep a stiff upper lip. Rejoice! Let me tell you one more time all about how God wins so that you can be stalwart in the face of opposition.”
  • Then Paul tells them that the punks in Philippi giving them a hard time are, in reality, just garbage-eating junkyard dogs who think their doing good but actually doing evil, and who might as well be advocating body-scaring mutilation when they promote circumcision.
  • Paul reminds them, “We’re the ones who are members of God’s true nation (because our hearts are circumcised, not our… you know), and it’s us who truly serve God, and we serve God in spirit (not by doing things to our bodies and thinking that’s holy), and we don’t need to have national pride, or even care what nation we’re from, because we’re all one in Christ.”
  • Then Paul says that if the Jews in Philippi think they have the right qualifications for holiness, then Paul has more. He lays down the smack down like this:
  • Circumcised on the eighth day, according to the law? Check. Born of two Jewish parents? Check. Born in one of the coolest, most faithful, king-producing tribes? Check. A Jew among Jews? Yep. Faithful to the Law? Yeah, super strict, every day adherence kinda faithful. Passionate about Judaism? So passionate he hunted down Christians. Ever broke the Law? Nope. Time to drop the mic? Booyah.
  • Yet, despite all his credentials, Paul says he’d willingly tossed them all overboard for Jesus. Everything is garbage compared to knowing Christ.
  • Paul tells them that just as God was “found” in human form, so Paul wants to be “found” in Jesus’ form. Real rightness with God comes from having faith in Jesus, not by obeying a bunch of rules.
  • Paul goes on, “I want to be like Jesus so much that I’m okay suffering like he did and dying like he did, because one day I will rise from the dead like Jesus did.”
  • Paul reminds the Philippians that he hasn’t reached his goal of fully being like Jesus yet, but like a runner in a race he stays focused on reaching towards Jesus, because that was the reason Jesus reached out to Paul.
  • “Like an athlete being called to the podium to get a prize,” Paul says, “God is calling me to heaven to receive mine.”
  • Mature people will agree with Paul, he’s sure, or else God will make it clear to them at some point. Regardless, Paul hopes for his Philly peeps to continue to live up to the status they’d been given by Jesus.
  • Paul wants them to follow his example in pursuing Jesus-likeness. He tells them that he’s saddened by those who think the Cross is not important, because it is the very defining attribute of God’s love.
  • Those that don’t believe in a suffering, self-sacrificing God are destined for destruction, Paul says. “Their real god is their own human desire, and the things they think will bring them glory will actually bring them shame, and they think they’re focused on heaven, but they’re really focused on earth.”
  • Paul tells the Philippians–people living in a Roman outpost who act as if they are in Rome itself–that they are actually citizens of heaven–people living in an outpost of the kingdom of God who should act as if they are living side-by-side with God himself.
  • “The real emperor, Jesus, is coming,” Paul says, “and he will rule over everything and transform our lowly, temporary bodies into eternal, glorious bodies like he has.”

Historical Context:

Jeremiah 9

Paul echoes Jeremiah 9:23-26, where the Lord says that the truly wise will boast in the Lord (thus not put confidence in such “flesh” matters as wisdom, strength, wealth), in a context where “the whole house of Israel” is judged as being “uncircumcised in heart.” Jeremiah says that true boasting in the Lord means to “understand and know me,” in the sense of knowing God’s true character—which is exactly the point Paul will pick up in Philippians 3:8-11. As in Jeremiah, “boasting” here carries the nuance of putting one’s full trust and confidence in Christ.6

Dogs 

Dogs in the First Century were mostly without masters; they wandered at large in the streets and fields, and feed upon garbage, corpses, etc. They were considered unclean. The Jews called the heathen dogs.1

Paul is saying that the Jews causing problems in Philippi think that they are adhering to the law, but in doing so they have so broken the intent of the law and so have become ritually unclean, just like the Gentiles.

The Jews often spoke of themselves as banqueters seated at the Father’s table. The Gentiles would be dogs greedily snatching up the refuse meat which fell therefrom. Here Paul reverses the image.7

Evil workers

The Jews thought that they were good workers. They obeyed all their laws. And so, they thought that God would approve of them. Paul said that, in fact, they were evil.3

In trying to make Gentiles submit to Torah observance, Judaizers (and their contemporary counterparts, the legalists) do not work “righteousness” at all but evil.6

Circumcision

It is likely that the people causing problems in the Philippian church were Jews who thought all Gentile converts had to be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses (i.e. become Jewish) to believe in the Messiah.

In this letter, Paul does a bit of wordplay between the Greek word “katatomē” (off-cutting” or “down-cutting”), and the word “peritomē (“around cutting” or “circumcision”) to show his disdain for their beliefs. Cutting of the body was also a pagan form of worship, so Paul is drawing a negative parallel with both Jewish and Gentile customs.6

Paul is essentially saying the Jews were causing injury to the true faith. It was as if they were cutting it to piece.3

Paul emphasizes that the physical cutting of the body to join the nation of Isreal will not save the Philippians. The church in Philippi must realize that the spiritual circumcision of the heart through faith in Jesus is what truly admits one to God’s real Isreal, his kingdom, the church. They are a part of the redeemed covenant community by a circumcision done not with human hands, but by Christ himself.4

Paul’s further comments using the word “flesh” may be a very derogative term referring to the actual flesh cut away in circumcision.

Tribe of Benjamin

The Tribe of Benjamin was well regarded for several historical reasons:

  1. Benjamin was the child of Rachel, the wife whom Jacob loved most
  2. Benjamin was the only son of Jacob  born in the promised land (Genesis 35:16-18)
  3. Benjamin was untainted by the sin of Judah against Tamar (Genesis 38)
  4. The tribe of Benjamin was located near the temple, and indeed it has been said that the temple was on the dividing line between them and the tribe of Judah
  5. The tribe of Benjamin provided Israel their first king (Saul)
  6. Jerusalem was in the territory of Benjamin.
  7. They provided a very wise man, Mordecai, who saved the Jews during Esther’s time (the reason for the Feast of Purim)
  8. Benjamin remained loyal to David’s family when the Israel split and became two countries
  9. Benjamin held the post of honor in the Israelite army
  10. After the Exile, Benjamin and Judah formed the core of the restoration community

Paul imitating Jesus

Paul parallels his description of Jesus in chapter 2 with his own experience in chapter 3.

Jesus (Philippians 2:6-11) Paul (Philippians 3:7-11)
 [Jesus] being in very nature God I, myself, have reasons for such confidence… circumcised on the eighth day… of the tribe of Benjamin… a Hebrew of Hebrews…
 He made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss… I consider them garbage
 And being found in appearance a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!  …I may be found in [Christ]… [I want] participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in death
 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place  I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection

Citizenship

The word Paul uses for “citizenship” (Greek: politeuma) is found nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, any public measure, administration of the state, the manner in which the affairs of a state are administered; and then the state itself, the community, commonwealth, those who are bound under the same laws, and associated in the same society.1

Paul goes on to say that “we await a Savior… the Lord…” This is a play on the Philippians; Roman citizenship and what that entailed. The primary title for the Roman emperor was “lord and savior”; Paul now puts those two words side by side: “our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ .”6 This verse is saying, “Jesus is Lord, and Caesar isn’t. Caesar’s empire, of which Philippi is a colonial outpost, is the parody; Jesus’ empire, of which the Philippian church is a colonial outpost, is the reality.”1

Observations:

  • The word “flesh” in Philippians seems to refer to every advantage which a person may have of birth and/or to any external conformity to the law, such as circumcision.1
  • The Mosaic law required that circumcision should be performed on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3).1
  • When Paul says he regards his past as “loss in comparison with the knowledge of Christ,” the comparison he is making is to sailors throwing cargo overboard in a storm to save their own lives. Valuable as the shipment may be, they are willing to throw it all overboard to save themselves.1
  • “I consider them garbage.” The word “garbage” (Greek: skubalon) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, dregs, refuse; what is thrown away as worthless; chaff, feces, or the refuse of a table or of slaughtered animals; and then filth of any kind.1
  • The  expression “in Christ,” or “in him,” is found more than one hundred fifty times in Paul’s letters.2
  • in the New Testament Greek, the word for “faith” almost never has the sense of subjective, cognitive believing. The true meaning is nearer to our word “fidelity” or “faithfulness,” which carries with it a sense of obedience, action, thought as shown by deed.2
  • Paul says that he has abandoned works as a way to secure favor with God and has turned instead to faith in Christ as the only means by which one may be justified before God. He wants to “be found in him,” that is, when God is judging mankind, he doesn’t want to be “found” in any other way.4
  • The idea of “partaking of Christ’s sufferings,” “taking up the cross,” and being “crucified with Christ,” as stressed throughout the New Testament (1 Peter 4:13; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 2:11). It was expected that every Christian should suffer as a result of his faith.2
  • Paul is not referring here to our participation in Christ’s sufferings on the cross as if somehow our sufferings could contribute to Christ’s atoning work.  What he means is that we share in Christ’s sufferings since he too lived and walked in a fallen world. The relationship between experiencing resurrection power and suffering is that the former becomes most evident in the context of the latter. His power through us is seen most strikingly in the midst of our struggles.4
  • There are two ways to look at the phrase “[I] take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” A) Paul wants to take hold of Christ because Christ had already taken hold of him. This translation indicates the ground on which Paul can pursue Christ. B) Christ laid hold of Paul for the purpose of Paul pursuing him. Though both interpretations are certainly true, this latter one seems to be better. Paul’s point is not that it is because of Christ that he can seek Him, but that Christ saved him for this purpose. Thus the reason Christ took hold of Paul—undoubtedly a reference back to his Damascus road experience—was so that Paul might know him fully.4
  • When Paul says “God has called me heavenward,” the word “called” refers to the First Century “call” of the official presiding over of the athletic games for the victorious athlete to step up unto the podium and receive their prizes. The “prize” Paul expects to receive is the ability to know Christ perfectly.4
  • It is interesting that Paul calls the Philippians’ opponents “enemies of the cross of Christ.” This group of people obviously had a major problem with the cross in particular. They likely opposed the idea itself—or at least the centrality of the idea—of the cross, most likely because they thought it demonstrated weakness.According to 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, the cross stands as God’s utter contradiction to human wisdom and power, and therefore inevitably creates enemies of those who refuse to go that route.6
  • hen Paul says that “their god is the belly,”  he may be referring to the Judaizers who held a strong belief in ritual purity and adherence to certain Jewish food laws. The problem with this is that the term belly seems to connote some degree of licentiousness and an inordinate attentiveness to one’s sensual needs. If this is true, then the ascetic practices of the Judaizers would hardly come under such a rebuke. It may be, as many have suggested, that Paul’s use “belly” is roughly equivalent to his use of “flesh” in other contexts.4
  • Paul stresses imitation of Jesus now because just as knowing Christ now means being conformed into the likeness of his death (v. 10), so in our final glory we will be conformed into the likeness of his resurrection.4
  • Paul’s description of his past and how that relates to his present circumstances is an echo of Paul’s hymn in Chapter 2 about Jesus lowering himself to become a slave. Formerly, Christ did not consider God-likeness to accrue to his own advantage, but ‘made himself nothing,’ so Paul now considers his former ‘gain’ as ‘loss’ for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. As Christ was ‘found’ in ‘human likeness,’ Paul is now ‘found in Christ,’ knowing whom means to be ‘conformed’ (echoing the morphe of a slave, 2:7) to his death (2:8). Finally, as Christ’s humiliation was followed by God’s ‘glorious’ vindication of him, so present ‘suffering’ for Christ’s sake will be followed by ‘glory’ in the form of resurrection. As he has appealed to the Philippians to do, Paul thus exemplifies Christ’s ‘mindset,’ embracing suffering and death. This is what it means ‘to know Christ,’ to be ‘found in him’ by means of his gift of righteousness; and as he was raised and exalted to the highest place, so Paul and the Philippian believers, because they are now ‘conformed to Christ’ in his death, will also be ‘conformed’ to his glory.7

Discussion:

  • When we think of dying, we wish to have our departure made as comfortable as possible1, yet Paul challenges the Philippians to be willing to die in humiliation like Jesus. What do you think of this challenge? Why shouldn’t we be comfortable? What does suffering accomplish?
  • Paul asks the Philippians to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Who would you tell to imitate you? In what way?
  • Paul set aside all his cultural credentials in pursuit of Jesus. What cultural credentials do we hold onto today? What defines us that we don’t want to let go of? Jobs? Nationality? Social economic class?
  • Paul tells them to be citizens of God’s realm, not Rome and to believe in Jesus as the true emperor, not Nero. How does this concept of “heavenly citizenship” play out in modern day America? What defines us as Americans that opposes our definition as members of the kingdom of God? Politics? State/national pride? Consumerism? Democracy? Manifest destiny? Just as if we lived abroad today, which laws of the country we’re temporarily living in should we adhere to to and which should we realize don’t apply to us based on our true homeland?

References:

  1. Barnes’ commentary
  2. Coffman’s commentary
  3. Easy English commentary
  4. Herrick’s commentary
  5. Hagelberg’s commentary
  6. IVP commentary
  7. Constable’s commentary
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Mark 7

Scripture: Mark 7:1-37

Overview:

  • Some Pharisees and teachers of the law come down from Jerusalem to check out this Jesus guy
  • They observe that some of Jesus’ disciples aren’t following their rules for ritual hand washing
  • They ask Jesus about it and Jesus responds by telling them that they are hypocrites (yeouch!)
  • Jesus quotes a passage from Isaiah in which God condemns the Jews for giving him lip-service only because they are more interested in following their own rules rather than his
  • Jesus then reminds the Pharisees of a rule they created in which someone can dedicate something (like say a goat) as a gift to the temple, but in doing so are then unable to use that thing to help their parents (like say, sell or slaughter that goat). Jesus then points out how their man-made rule blocks God’s original commandment to “honor your mother and father”
  • Jesus turns to the crowd and tells them that external things don’t defile people, internal things do. What you put into your body isn’t important. It’s what comes out of your heart that matters
  • Jesus and his disciples then head to the vicinity of Tyre, but they can’t keep their presence secret and a Greek woman finds them and asks Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter
  • Jesus tells the woman that he came to help the Jews first, that “it’s not right to toss the children’s bread to the dogs”
  • The woman is persistent and says that even the dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs that spill over the edge of the table
  • Jesus grants her request and the woman’s daughter is healed
  • Heading into the region of the Decapolis, Jesus and crew run across a deaf and mute man whose friends want him to be healed
  • Jesus takes the afflicted man aside, touches his ears and tongue and says, “Be opened” and the man is healed
  • Amazement ensues

Historical Context:

Ritual washing

The ritual washing that Mark refers to is most likely the cleansing of the hands (up to the elbows) done by the Pharisees after they had been in the market. In an abundance of caution, the Pharisees attempted to wash away any exposure they may have had to possible sources of ritual impurity in the market to purify themselves before eating.[1]

In some religious sects, ritual bathing, or immersion of the whole person, was constantly practiced (such as the Essenes who  immersed daily and were thus called tovelei shaharit “dawn-bathers” or hemerobaptists “day-immersers”). A group thought to be connected to the Pharisees called the chaverim also immersed themselves fully before communal meals.[1]

William Barclay tells of a rabbi who was imprisoned by the Romans and who “used the water which was given to him for handwashing rather than for drinking, and in the end nearly perished from thirst, because he was determined to observe the rules of handwashing.”[2]

Isaiah 29:13

It is significant that Mark mentions that the Pharisees are from Jerusalem (7:1) because it directly relates to the passage in Isaiah that Jesus quotes, a passage in which God condemns David’s city to destruction for it’s inhabitants’ infidelity.

Jesus quotes this passage to emphasize that the Pharisees’ fear of God is coming from the over-emphasis of God’s wrath instead of God’s love. The Jews had created their own rules and are thinking that God won’t notice that the people are no longer listening to him, but to their man-made rules instead. This passage in Isaiah emphasizes that God’s commands are being treated like human orders, which we must obey out of fear of punishment, instead as instructions given to us out of love so we could live our life ‘to the full’.[1]

Corban

In Judaism, korban is the term for a variety of sacrificial offerings described and commanded in the Torah. Such sacrifices were offered in a variety of settings by the ancient Israelites, and later by the Jewish priesthood, the Kohanim, at the Temple in Jerusalem. A korban was usually an animal sacrifice, such as a sheep or a bull that underwent shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter), and was often cooked and eaten by the offerer, with parts given to the Kohanim and parts burned on the Temple altar. Korbanot could also consist of turtle-doves, grain, incense, fruit, and a variety of other offerings.[1]

Anything dedicated to the Temple under the pretense of korban forthwith belonged to the Temple, but only ideally; actually it might remain in the possession of the person who made the vow. Since a person’s offering may have been accompanied by a solemn oath, the offerer was no longer permitted from ever using the property offered to the Temple for the support of himself or anyone else even if the gift remained in his possession; so a son might be justified in not supporting his old parents simply because he designated his property or a part of it as a gift to the Temple, that is, as korban.[1]

Thus to say that something is korban is to say both that it is a gift to the Temple and that it is forbidden to others.[1]

In Jerome’s commentary, he says “The Lord commanded that poor parents should be supported by their children and that these should pay them back when old those benefits which they had themselves received in their childhood. The scribes and pharisees on the other hand taught the children to answer their parents by saying: It is Corban, that is to say, a gift which I have promised to the altar and engaged to present to the temple: it will relieve you as much there, as if I were to give it you directly to buy food. So it frequently happened that while father and mother were destitute their children were offering sacrifices for the priests and scribes to consume.”

Corban indicates how complexity had replaced simplicity in Judaism. Their elaborate laws had replaced the most basic of God’s commands.

Dogs

The term “dogs” used by Jesus (kynaria) does not refer to wild and unkempt street dogs, but to small dogs taken in as house pets (this, the diminutive form of the word kyōn “dog” originally referred to puppies or little dogs, then later extended to lap dogs). Thus, it is not a derogatory term per se, but is instead intended by Jesus to indicate the privileged position of the Jews (especially His disciples) as the initial recipients of Jesus’ ministry.[1]

In first century Palestine, street dogs were regarded as scavengers and therefore unclean, but in well-to-do households influenced by Greek custom, dogs were sometimes considered as pets. Jesus is thus making an illustration here: the children of the house must be fed before the pets.[1]

The word “bed” used to describe where the young girl was found lying after she was healed (7:30) may also be translated “dining couch” which suggests a higher social level for the woman and her daughter. They may in fact have been owners of pets therefore the inspiration for Jesus’ analogy.[1]

Spit

In both the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds, saliva was considered to have therapeutic properties. Early Roman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius, record a time when the emperor Vespasian was begged by a blind man to anoint his eyes with spittle. Also, in the Talmud, as a part of the law concerning the preparation of salt water on the Sabbath, the rabbis discuss in passing a prohibition on using saliva to heal eyes.[1]

Sighing was also part of a technique used by ancient healers, trying to exude their life force to give power to the words spoken so they could accomplish their task (the life force being breathed into a diseased or dormant person of object was itself the heart of various ancient magical rituals).[1]

Many magicians in antiquity recited strings of syllables, words, or phrases when performing their healings (ex. abracadabra); some of these formulas were even written and worn as amulets. Jesus, by contrast uses a common Aramaic word, “Ephphatha” which means “be opened.” Jesus is unique amongst healers in his day in that He does not use gibberish incantations when performing miracles, but rather makes a simple command in His own intelligible native speech.[1]

It is likely that Jesus touches the man’s ears and his tongue as a means of  communicating with the deaf, mute man that he was going to be healed. These signals would’ve been culturally acceptable gestures, and possibly necessary means of communication, to indicate to the man that healing was now available.[4]

Observations:

  • Scribes are not a distinct sect from the Pharisees or Sadducees, but rather a type of profession that is common to both sects (though many scribes generally belonged to the Pharisaic sect); not all Pharisees were scribes and not all scribes were Pharisees.[1]
  • The presence of the scribes and Pharisees should be understood as the result of the hierarchy’s monitoring Jesus’ teachings with a view to finding fault. These were, in effect, spies sent out from Jerusalem.[2]
  • Only some of the disciples are accused of not washing themselves ritually. This may mean that the other disciples, and even Jesus himself, obeyed the Jewish food laws. It is interesting that the actions of a few of the disciples evoke opposition over religious obligations, yet Jesus still comes to their defense.[1]
  • The only hand washing required in the Old Testament for purposes of ritual impurity is that of priests before offering sacrifices (Exodus 30:18-21; 40:30-32).[1] The Pharisees, in their zeal to replicate temple holiness outside the temple, had extended this law to apply to all people before all meals.
  • Jesus calls them hypocrites (7:6), a compound Greek word (from two words “under” and “to judge”) used to describe actors playing a part behind a mask.[4] Jesus is accusing them of being like actors–hiding their real character behind a mask.[3]
  • The word translated as “defile” can also mean “communicate” and “share.” The idea is that the things coming out of a person ‘communicates’ or ‘shares’ (i.e. reveals) what he truly is. Thus Jesus’ words have another layer of meaning: one cannot see what goes inside another person’s body so how can it say anything about what that person is truly like?[1]
  • Though Mark comments parenthetically that Jesus had lifted the bans on food with this comment, this lifting of restrictions on diet was slow to be accepted. Up to a decade after Jesus said this Peter affirmed that he had never eaten “anything that is common and unclean” (Acts 10:14).[2]
  • The word translated as “envy” literally means “giving one the evil eye.” The idea of the evil eye is widespread in many cultures. The basic concept is that certain beings have the power of casting an evil spell on others or causing mishap to fall upon them by merely gazing at them, since the eye was believed to be the window on the heart or the soul and the channel through which one’s thoughts, emotions, desires or intentions could be conveyed. This concept is usually chiefly connected to envy or jealousy.[1]
  • “Folly” is from the Greek word “aselgeia,” which refers to the undisciplined soul–one who acknowledges no restraint, dares to perform any act of shame or lawlessness, and who lives in arrogant insolence without regard to considerations of decency or honor.[2]
  • The “vicinity of Tyre” refers to the lands bordering Galilee that were under the jurisdiction of Tyre. First century Jewish historian, Josephus, claims that Tyrians were “notoriously our bitterest enemies.” It is interesting that Jesus enters a territory that is not only primarily Gentile but also potentially hostile to him.[1]  This may speak to how desperatley Jesus sought relief from the crowds.
  • In the conversation with the Greek woman about the children and the bread, Jesus uses the word teknon (biological children) when referring to the “children’s bread,” while the woman uses the word paidion, a more inclusive word implying both ‘children’ and ‘servants’.[1] Note how she is immediately pushing back against the wall she’d come up against.
  • A few interesting notes about the Greek woman’s response to Jesus: (1) By placing herself under the children’s table, she laid claim to a place, lowly as it was, in the household of God. (2) She appealed not to the children, but to the master. The children, as represented by the apostles, had stood adamantly by, not interceding on the woman’s behalf, actually demanding that the Lord get rid of her (3) She identified the table as not belonging to the children but as “their master’s table.” God’s mercies did not derive from the chosen people but from himself.[2]
  • Jesus may have taken the deaf/mute man away from the crowd so that none would’ve considered the Lord’s healing to be accomplished magically.[2] The healing of someone in private would’ve also been contrary to the typical behavior of a miracle worker of the day who would’ve hoped to make money from the crowd for such an event.

Discussion:

  • The Pharisees saw ritual washing as a way of declaring their holiness, and were offended when Jesus didn’t agree with how they publicly identified themselves as holy. In which ways do we publicly define holiness today (ex. no smoking, no drinking, no swearing, etc.)? What “traditions” have we added to our faith to ensure we appear to be holy? What is the difference between internal holiness and external holiness and how can we tell the difference? What does this say about those who don’t follow Jesus but display exceptional morality anyway?
  • Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, or actors, and says (via Isaiah) that they are even trying to fool God with their false holiness. What masks do we wear today? What pretense do we put on in an attempt to fool God into thinking that we’re holy?
  • The Greek woman is called a dog after asking Jesus for healing for her daughter, but pursues her original request anyway. How persistent are we with God? This is the second such story (see the healing of the bleeding woman in chapter 5) in which Jesus seems to have another priority in mind, but is waylaid by an instant woman and grants her request. What do you think Mark wanted to communicate to his audience with these stories?
  • Jesus’ healing seem to follow no predictable formula. Some people he touches, some he heals from a distance. Some he seems to enact some of the healing/medicinal rituals of his day (e.g. the deaf/mute man), whereas others have no ritualistic precedent. What does this say about Jesus’ actions in relation to those he healed? What does this say about how God acts towards those in need? What does this say about what we should expect from God?

References:

  1. Catholic Answers Forum
  2. Coffman’s Commentary
  3. Free Bible Commentary
  4. Utley’s Commentary