Jdg 5-6; Mark 7; Psalm 1-2
Mark’s gospel always presents us with telling juxtapositions. Incidents are placed side by side and when we read them together we find a depth in the story that we would miss otherwise. It’s too easy to think that Mark’s is a somewhat unlearned gospel just full of incidents and miss Mark the theologian, revealing the depth of the hidden Messiah in and through all these encounters. In many respects this is why it is so revealing to read Mark alongside John. To discover that there are buried treasures in Mark which perhaps even surpass the Glory motifs in John where the treasure is lain open to our eyes.
Here we have Jesus in two further conflicts – at the axis of which are as usual the disciples.
In the place where we are – or perhaps we are to be found in all of the conflict narrative – we might discover ourselves in the entirety of Mark’s gospel.
First and obviously we may identify with the Pharisees and Scribes who set aside the word of God for our Traditions. That we all do this so frequently is so obvious, that it might seem to be labouring the point to give and example – surely we do this all the time??
but at the danger of labouring the point, the arena of the conflict is food – meals. In a sense the Heart of the gospel message, revealed in Every eucharist – the radical hospitality of God to those of unclean hands – all are welcoed in. Think how often those of us who have nuclear families close the door on the flock, because this is ‘Family time’, or ‘husband and wife time’. Of course These traditions we see as harmless, indeed we have even built them into our faith and rationalise them . . . they are for God . . . and so we gather and sanctify these closed meals with ‘grace’ . . .
The Disciples don’t get what Jesus is on about, Again. ‘do you not see???’
And we know they continue to fail to get it as the encounter of Peter with Cornelius shows . . . again a story of how wide the table of God is thrown . . . how great is his mercy
And then the second conflict story – the encounter with the Syro-phoenician woman . . . a very hard story for us to hear. A woman, in great need, dismissed by Jesus with hard words about dogs . . . Of course we fail to understand that we too are the woman, needing mercy from God, knocking insistenly on his door as a visitor come late looking for food and board.
The incident begins with Jesus trying to hide himself away, but as the crowds previously have given him no rest, so now also the woman. In all the narrative, Jesus calls for faith – people must hunt him down, seek for him – Look for Life. In other words he seeks those who seek for the Life of God to spring forth. He seeks by hiding.
The woman seeks him – comes into a house which is Jewish and closed – she knocks. She asks – and is rebutted, but the eye of faith is Open, unlike that of the disciples – she knows who Jesus is – she knows she can expect better of him.
You who remind the Lord,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it renowned throughout the earth. Isaiah 62:7-8
The God of Israel is becoming known as the one whose table is open to all – where those who might imagine themselves to be without hope, might yet come to table