Mark 7

I have two questions about this chapter. The first is ideologically loaded, and the second is theologically loaded. The first:

In the space of seven verses (17-23) Jesus sets aside the dietary laws–a cornerstone of first century Jewish observance and identity. He does so after a disquisition about people who honor God by observing the letter of the law, but not its spirit. It seems to me that some interpreters, in explaining this passage, have embraced precisely the bonds from which Jesus tries to free us. They have said, well, yes, we can eat pork, and sure it is wrong to rely to much on ritualized observance as a means of grace, but we should assume no metaphorical intent on behalf of the author. This isn’t a passage about the primacy of a pure heart, and it isn’t an assertion that God understands us well enough to judge by intention and not by action. Nope, it is a passage about pork and lobsters that we may be able to plunder later to preach against the Mass.

Jesus sets aside the dietary laws, but in doing so he isn’t suggesting that we set aside any of the Old Testament dicta that remain as essential to our worldview as those laws were to first century Jews. He’d never do that because… because…because we won’t let him.

The second question: Jesus meets the Syrophoeecian woman and–disconcertingly–refuses to heal her child, saying–more or less–that his mission is to the Jews. She says, in effect, okay, but how about the leftovers?And he changes his mind. I can’t emphasize enough how hard that passage hit me when I first came to understand it: JESUS CHANGES HIS MIND. He’s God, no? He’s right about everything. In advance. So how come he changes his mind after this brief exchange with a human being–a Gentile woman, or all incredible first century things. Mark doesn’t explore this incident, he merely relates it, so we ae left to wonder: was there a change in the mind of God and, perhaps more importantly for present day Christians–in the mission of Christ that can be traced to the comments of this woman?

You tell me, eh?

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