Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Jesus granting two healings
Mark 7:31-37
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Number 77 went out (finally) through a commercial firm here in town a few days ago. Reason: on our apartment phone line here we can receive e-mail (Compuserve via Sprintnet) but not send any–and that we learned via considerable trial and error. From the few messages that have come back to us since “Infovita–Klaipeda” sent #77, we learn: 1) some of you received it, but we don’t know if all of you did, 2) it went out as a binary file and that some of you were unable to crack the code, 3) Nathan apparently translated the binary file and sent it out to the listserve in a more accessible form which ought to have gotten through to y’all.
It’s Saturday a.m. here. We live already 8 hrs later in the day than folks in the Midwest of the USA. So if this transmission gets under way (again via Infovita) posthaste, some of you might still find it useful for Sunday, Sept. 7. What follows below is my Crossings matrix for tomorrow’s Gospel, Mark 7:31-37 in the Revised Common Lectionary, and my offerings for next Sunday, Sept. 14. 

Mark 7:31-37

The text presents Jesus granting two healings and both of them taking place “off limits.” Territorially Tyre is Gentile turf and the Decapolis is “a region of 10 Hellenistic towns” (Harper’s Bible Dict.). The outsider aspect is made emphataic in the first episode as Mark tells us that the mother is “Hellenes” and “Syrophoenician by birth” to boot. So we have here people beseeching and believing Jesus and receiving his healing, who themselves are “ochlos” (outsiders) to the nth degree.

The factor of demonic possession is very prominent in the first half of Mark’s Gospel. His accent is, however, less on the demonic element than on the possession. Some alien power–other than God–is exercising ownership, destructive ownership, over people who rightfully are God’s “property.” Mark’s accent in his “Kingdom of God” theology is that in Jesus, in what Jesus does, and in what gets done to Jesus, God is resuming ownership of those who really are God’s own. Jesus at work is God bringing God’s people back home by breaking the bonds of the alien bogus owners who have stolen them from God.

So herewith a matrix for tomorrow’s Gospel.


STAGE 1 Possession by Alien Owners: Destructive, Deadly The patent need of both victims in this text signals the pathos of their plight. In both cases the suppliants “beg” for help. The victims are clearly outsiders, and beyond that, of little or no intrinsic worth given the nature of their afflictions. What value is there in a little girl from an un-chosen people imprisoned by an “unclean” tyrant? Or even the adult male, also un-chosen, blocked from human interaction by his hearing/speaking bondage?

STAGE 2 Tempted to Believe the “Possessor/Oppressor” Powerless vis-a-vis the destructive power the victims, their parents, their fellow-citizens are tempted to believe that the affliction is final, that the possessor/destroyer is “god.” Tempted also to believe–as ochlos, yes, extreme ochlos–that they have no portion in the benefits of Jesus, that he is not the Messiah of the ochlos (v.27).

STAGE 3 Ochlos Forever, Possessed Forever Were they to persist in such belief, they would indeed be left eternally as ochlos, outsiders with God as well, never benefitting in God’s re-possession (the literal meaning of “re-demption”), left eternally under alien ownership, which is always destructive. Diabolos means wrecker/destroyer.
STAGE 4 The Ochlos Messiah is for the Un-chosen Ochlos Too Jesus releases these victims from their alien tyrants, gives himself to these “far out” outsiders, a giving that will take him to the passion he predicts at Caesarea Philippi in next Sunday’s Gospel, Mark 8.

STAGE 5 Feisty Faith in Jesus contra Faith in the Possessors The mother’s faith in Jesus (Mark’s term is “logos,” her “word”) overwhelms Jesus, in the very face of the put-down of his first response. To be “dogs” under the table is to be radical ochlos, but she clearly trusts that Jesus is indeed the ochlos-Messiah, and therefore for her too. His commendation could even be a commendation of her insight that Jesus is Messiah for “losers,” about which Peter has “not a clue” in next week’s episode at Caeserea Philippi. Her feisty faith is matched by the ebullient faith (v.36,7) in the second healing episode, and contrasted, of course, with the “bad” faith of the disciples still at this point half-way through Mark’s Gospel. The disciples may well be the ones Mark intends us to think of in the text of 8:22-26, a pericope found only in Mark.

STAGE 6 Home Free The mother goes back home free from her terror to find the daughter also free from the possessor. After Jesus opens the closures for the second victim, everyone goes back home too. They “believe” him so intently to be their ochlos Messiah that they disbelieve his gag order to keep quiet. Verses 36-7 tell of the hyperbole of their evangelistic outreach.

The texts for next Sunday, September 14, 1997 September 14 is both Pent. 17 and Holy Cross Day. The appointed Gospels (RCL) are Mark 8:27-38 and John 3:13-17, respectively.

A Crossings matrix for the text from Mark 8 was sent earlier this year when it was the appointed lesson for the Second Sunday in Lent. That calendar date was Feb. 23, 1997. I do not have information here to tell you what Sabb.theol. number that was, but it is on the Crossings web page, should you wish to see it.

A Crossings matrix for John 3 also came out earlier this church year when it was the lesson for Trinity Sunday, May 25, 1997. So that one too should be on the Crossings Web page and for it too I cannot give you the Sabb.theol. number. N.B. The “so” in John 3:16 does not mean “so much,” but “just so, in just this way did God love the world.”

So much for now. We’ll see if/how this one travels from Klaipeda to you.

Peace & Joy! Ed

P.S. My first week’s teaching was fun. I’ve hired my own translator, a theologically knowledgeable Lithuanian in his early twenties. Donatus (his real name!) is a senior religion major at the Lithuanian Christian College here in town. LCC is an English-language liberal arts school with something like 400 students. Its roots are Canadian Mennonite, their faculty evangelical ecumenical. Good folks. They invited us over for their school barbeque last eve. Best of all, Donatus makes me sound good.


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