Monday, February 12, 2007

Even the dogs

The story of Mark 7:24-37 is one of my favorites. Jesus learns more of his mission from a Syro-phoenican woman. And that willingness to be corrected by one that Jesus first denies is one of the reasons, I believe, that he is called, among other things, one who always walked in righteousness.

Jesus, the one who is the Christ, was fully human and fully divine. Too many times we want to make the Savior of the world only one or only the other. Yet to be fully human means to learn and grow in knowledge and in strength. Yet to be fully human means that we need to correct ourselves on occasion. And the fully divine is linked with the emptying of self so that the 2nd person of the Trinity would be as the ones whom the 2nd person saves.

When we are talking about Jesus we are talking about the divine immanence and we are talking about humanity and that is a concept that no one, save God alone, can completely grasp. And that is a concept that allows us to recognize that God would want to save us as we are and has the power to actually save us.

Today we sometimes have preachers who concentrate on the healing power of Jesus, on the miracles of grace and similar wishes. And they shouldn’t be forgotten, but they are not the whole of the story. One of my Christology professors made that very clear when he said that the reason the church lost in Northern Africa with the rise of Islam was that with a God that wasn’t fully human the people had no way to relate to God. The gift of Jesus as fully human and fully divine is what was needed to reconcile us to God.

We humans can relate to one who learns and makes mistakes – even while remaining completely righteous – as we can not relate to one who is perfect in every way or only God. The reconciling work is that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. When we, as did the church in North Africa, leave out the fully human dimension of what God has done in Jesus Christ, then we ignore the reconciliation. We are reconciled in God’s own self.

The divine is not less important, but it is not of sole importance. The work of reconciliation is in the life and death of the one who saves us. The work and reconciliation is in knowing that God emptied self, as the 2nd person, to come to us as fully human. The work of reconciliation puts together the power of God with one who is one of us.

Now this isn’t all there is to God and Jesus Christ. It is only a small portion of what I could spend my days in praise. But it is a part that seems to me to be forgotten today in our talk of how God is all-powerful. And that part is the person who heard a woman debate him, listened, responded, changed and taught us all how we are to be as humans.

Mark 7:24-37 [24] From there he set out and went away to the region of
Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he
could not escape notice, [25] but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean
spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.
[26] Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syro-phoenican origin. She begged him to
cast the demon out of her daughter. [27] He said to her, "Let the children be
fed first, for it is not fair to take the children=92s food and throw it to the
dogs." [28] But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the
children’s crumbs." [29] Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go—the
demon has left your daughter." [30] So she went home, found the child lying on
the bed, and the demon gone.

[31] Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. [32] They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. [33] He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. [34] Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." [35] And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. [36] Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. [37] They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

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