Reading for Tuesday, Oct 16: Mark 7
In this chapter, “defilement” is one of the major themes. The Pharisees and scribes confront Jesus for His practice of failing to wash His hands prior to eating, thereby risking defilement. But Jesus responds with a withering assessment of their approval of Corban (wealth devoted to God) as a loophole for avoiding responsibility to care for aging parents. Jesus goes on to teach that defilement comes from within, not from without. “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person,” (v20-23).
Jesus journeys to Tyre and Sidon and encounters a Syro-Phoenician with a demon-possessed daughter. In popular Jewish thought, Jesus is traveling to a defiled territory to interact with defiled people, particularly this woman’s daughter. And even when He seems to keep her at arms length upon her initial request, this woman indicates the true direction of her heart: she pleads with Jesus to issue a word of healing. Moved by her faith — the condition of her heart — Jesus grants her request.
Jesus moves out to the region of the Decapolis and engages in one more healing, this time a deaf and dumb man. Again, the story’s setting is instructive; we see this as yet another demonstration of God’s gracious reception of “the defiled” in the inclusive ministry of Jesus. Praise God, for we all are received by this gracious God, in spite of our own deep-seated defilement.