Jesus and the Immigrant Mother
Tim: So we’re reaching the halfway point in our tour of Mark’s Gospel.
Shea: The Gospel moves so fast and draws so many contemporary parallels that our heads are spinning.
Tim: No kidding. The great theologian Karl Barth said you should study faith with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, and our work in Mark has certainly validated that idea.
Shea: The issues Jesus confronted in his time continue to surface in our struggles today: empire, social indifference masked as religious piety, war on the sick and the poor, ethnic struggles and boundary issues, and questions about what defines authentic family.
Tim: Now this week, the timeliness is especially intense as we look at an immigrant mother who challenges Jesus’s xenophobia. That probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable—to think that Jesus had some rough edges that needed attention.
Shea: That’s right. Mark shows us what happens when Jesus encounters a foreign woman whose love for her daughter compels her to risk her own humiliation as she begs Jesus to reconsider his feelings about people who don’t belong to his tribe. She actually teaches Jesus how faith and inclusion are intertwined. “All” means all for her and Jesus learns that from their interaction.
Tim: Wait. Are you saying Jesus doesn’t know it all?
Shea: The idea of a “teachable moment” for Jesus, well, that upsets a whole lot of the perfection we place on him. We talk about Jesus being fully human and fully God. But we don’t allow him to have a fully human experience, which includes getting it wrong sometimes, discovering the full the scope of his ministry, and, as a human, learning what godly compassion is all about. His own people don’t get him. But this Syrophoenician, pagan, foreign mother, she sees all that Jesus can be for her and everyone like her. And it’s she who teaches Jesus in this moment.
Tim: A fully human Jesus, who needs to unlearn some of the prejudices and assumptions his culture has put into him—that’s powerful stuff.
Shea: He calls this desperate woman a dog!
Tim: Why would Mark’s writer include such a story? It’s not Jesus’s finest moment.
Shea: Mark wants to show us we all have some unlearning to do in order to be taught. And to think that we don’t suggests we think we’re better than Jesus.
Tim: Which clearly we’re not.
Shea: This moment is pivotal in Mark’s Gospel, because it comes just before all the attention turns to Jerusalem, where Jesus will confront, and be confronted by, the evils of empire and religious bigotry at their most powerful and blatant. He has some learning to do!
Tim: There’s even more to this story and we’ll unpack it all this coming Thursday night!
Join us this Thursday at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
Summer is the perfect time for a “walking tour” of Mark’s Gospel. The oldest and shortest of the Gospels, Mark is full of amazing details that capture the life and ministry of Jesus in fascinating ways. Mark’s Jesus is a man on a mission without much patience for folks who can’t keep up. He says exactly what’s on his mind. And the writer tells the Jesus story in an action-packed style overflowing with mysterious touches. Why is there no Christmas chapter? Why is Jesus so tough on the disciples? Why can’t they see who he really is? Why are the women afraid to tell the news of the Risen Christ? And what’s up with that naked man in Gethsemane (among other peculiarities)?
Join us every Thursday from June 7-August 30, as we spend the summer touring Mark’s Gospel. It will be a trip well worth taking!
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.