In our two stories for study, we are told about the belief of a Gentile and of a healing which prompts the confession "he has done everything well".
v24. Jesus moves north of Capernaum into Gentile territory for a time of rest.
v25-26. The locals know about Jesus the healer and so they visit the cottage he is staying at. A Gentile woman, a Hellenized citizen of the republic of Tyre, prostrates herself before Jesus (a mark of respect), and seeks his aid in casting a demon out of her daughter.
v27-28. Jesus refuses her request, using a rather colorful image. He may be saying that his ministry is limited to Israel and that it would not be proper to extend it to Gentiles at this point in time. Yet, would a Gentile understand such subtle theology? Jesus is quite possibly making the point that he is here for a time of rest before again resuming his work, ie. children finish their meal before feeding the scraps to the household pets. Of course, Jesus' words may well be framed as an insult, offered with the purpose of drawing out the woman's faith. At any rate, she takes no offense, as no offense is meant, but points out that her request is but a mere crumb.
v29-30. Jesus is warmed by the woman's confidence, a faith that outshines the unbelief of the Pharisees and the dull confusion of the disciples. Like the healing of the blind man in 8:22-26, she sees "everything clearly." In later tradition the woman is called Justa, and her daughter, Bernice.
v31. Jesus moves across to Decapolis, a Gentile area with a sizable Jewish community.
v32. A person, who has lost his hearing and can hardly speak, is brought to Jesus "to lay his hand on him", (presumably for healing, but possibly just blessing). The man's condition images Isaiah 35:5-6. When the messiah comes he will unstop the ears of the deaf and give a clear song to the man with inarticulate speech.
v33-35. Jesus uses interesting sensory symbols with the man, although they are obviously not necessary elements for effective healing. Both the actions of Jesus and his command, "Ephphatha!", serve to heighten the symbolic nature of the miracle. Like this man, the disciples are beginning to hear and will soon confess "plainly" that "he has done everything well", cf. 8:27-30.
v36-37. Although the healing is in private, it is most likely that the disciples witness the sign and then seek to proclaim it, but the sign is for them, not the crowd. So, Jesus commands them not to preach ("do not proclaim"). His preaching mission is constantly disturbed by the popular idea that he is a wonder-worker. The confession of the disciples is a messianic illusion to Isaiah 35:5-6. The promised intervention of God is present in the person of Jesus; "He has made the lame whole, and he makes the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak", cf. Matt.15:31.
"All the works of the Lord are exceedingly good", cf. Genesis 1:31.
In witnessing the miraculous signs of Jesus, the disciples judged them as a reflection of divine good. To the eye of faith, the creation is good and Jesus' deeds reflect that good. For Mark, and those with the secret knowledge of Jesus' person, a knowledge that comes through faith, these good deeds evidence Jesus' messianic credentials. Here is the one who renews God's creation, who restores Eden lost.
God is good and his creation is good; life is a wonderful experience. We cannot deny that there is sadness and hurt, but good far outweighs the evil. For most of the time we are at peace, and only sometimes do the circumstances of life overwhelm us. Of course, without the negative circumstances we would never properly appreciate the good. Those who have never touched the darkness of grief will never be "overwhelmed with amazement" at the wonder of God's good creation.
It is true that some people don't quite see the good. They tend to be overwhelmed by their troubles. It's like waking up in the morning and looking out the window at a cloudy sky. We can focus on the dark clouds and feel somber, or we can focus on the blue beyond, and feel glad. It's all a bit of a mind game - "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative."
How we perceive reality is the crucial factor for a positive outlook on life. If we are in a third world village tending our vegetable garden, unaware of the affluence of the West, contentment will rest with the good earth and its fruitfulness. In comparison, the contentment level of those living in an affluent society is often lower due to unrealistic expectations. Constantly corrupted by media marketing, we easily end up expecting too much from God's good creation. The good is then overwhelmed by our perceived wants.
As God's hand in creation is good, so is the hand of Jesus; "He has done all things well."
1. Assuming Jesus' refusal of the woman's request was genuine, discuss the implication for prayer.
2. How do you explain the presence of evil if God is good?
3. Some believers have a negative outlook on life. Is this a product of poor faith or poor thinking?