Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord
Scripture: St. Mark 7 (NKJV)
1 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. 2 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
7 ‘And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban “—'(that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
31 Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. 32 Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. 33 And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in 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 Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
“And she answered and said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs'” (Mark 7:28).
Our Lord is in the region of Tyre and Sidon in our reading. These towns still exist, but they are in Lebanon, not Israel. Jesus is approached by a Gentile woman, a Syro-Phoenician Greek woman, seeking healing for her demon possessed daughter. But the Messiah Whom she invokes has been sent to the children of Israel, not to Gentiles.
Jesus has some harsh sounding words for her: “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” What an insult! And how many people would, and do, walk away from the Lord and His Church when no affirmation of their basic goodness is given them!
Not this woman. She has faith, and real faith clings to the Lord’s Word. Jesus has given her the word “dog.” Faithfully, she runs with it. “Okay, ‘dog’ it is then. Give me the crumbs that the dogs get.” God grant us likewise to cling to our Lord’s words, even the harsh ones, for in His Word is life and salvation.
We Pray: “Heavenly Father, grant me grace to receive Your harsh words of law, that repenting of my sins I may receive also the life giving words of the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, my crucified and risen Savior. Amen.”