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Rev. Klockers: In the Gospel of Mark, one must always follow the breadcrumbs

by Rev. WALTER KLOCKERS
| September 2, 2021 1:00 AM

There are many ways for people read Scripture. Some select a story and attempt to discern its meaning without looking beyond it.

However, I think it is better practice to look for connections among stories. Greater meaning may be achieved by doing so.

Let’s use Mark 7:24-30 as an example:

“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, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”

We get a fuller understanding of this story by remembering what came before and reading on to see what follows.

So, what comes before? In Chapter 6, verses 30-44, Jesus performs the miracle of feeding 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. This was a group of Jewish folks. After all was said and done, the disciples gathered together the “broken pieces” of bread.

What comes after the story? In Mark, Chapter 7, verses 31-37, Jesus heals a deaf and mute person. This is a person who was limited in communication in what he could receive and pass on to others. He only received the ability to do so through the healing Jesus provides.

Then, in Chapter 8, verses 1-10, Jesus feeds the 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish. This was a Gentile (non-Jewish) crowd. Once again, part of this feeding involved bread. Once again, after all were fed, the “broken pieces” from the bread were gathered.

In Chapter 8, verse 11-21, Jesus asks the disciples if they understood the connection between both groups who had been fed. To do so, Jesus makes an object lesson from a single loaf of bread.

Verse 18 says to them: Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear? Do you not remember?

So, going back to the original story – the Gentile woman who begs Jesus to heal her daughter – can been viewed as Jesus intentionally helping the disciples to learn and preparing them for what is to come. This story occurs after 5,000 Jews (“the children”) were fed and before 4,000 Gentiles (“dogs”) were fed.

If the disciples carried any bias against the “dog” Gentiles (a typical insult directed at that group), Jesus set an example before them to “just get over it.” It could be interpreted that he was role-playing in order to achieve this.

The woman’s faith was tied into the statement which included the words “crumbs,” which parallels the broken pieces of bread (and fish) of the Jew and Gentile mass feedings.

On the healing of the deaf-mute man: I believe there is more to this story than what is on the surface; this can be viewed as a direct commentary on the disciples’ lack of understanding. They are acting deaf, unable to process what was going on around them.

Jesus is saying, through the symbolism of the single loaf, that he has a ministry to all people – both Jews and Gentiles. Unfortunately, the disciples were slow to learn.

I hope all these crumbs of knowledge can be gathered together to make a loaf of sense to you.

Please give it a little time to digest.

Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Moses Lake and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.