In the Lectionary

September 9, Ordinary 23B (Mark 7:24-37) 

Did Jesus just call that woman a dog?

I have always been fascinated by the Bible’s healing stories, especially Jesus’ specific methods of healing. He lays hands on people; he says “be healed”; he tells people—on the sabbath—to pick up their mats and walk. Sometimes he is in conversation with people, and in the process of interacting with him they are healed. This is the case, for example, in John 5, when Jesus asks the man at the pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to get well?”

Jesus’ methods and modes of healing in Mark 7 might be the oddest of all. In verses 31–37 he is in Sidon, in the region of the Decapolis, where he encounters a man who is deaf and mute. The people plead with Jesus to lay hands on this man. Instead, Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears. Then he spits and touches the man’s tongue.

Just before that in the region of Tyre, Jesus is trying to avoid being seen or found, which he never seems to do well, when a gentile woman born in Syrophoenicia bows before him and pleads for him to drive a demon out of her daughter. Reading the story quickly, you might miss it—but did Jesus just call that woman a dog?