8:22-23 – So they arrived at Bethsaida where a blind man was brought to him, with the earnest request that he should touch him. Jesus took the blind man’s hand and led him outside the village. Then he moistened his eyes with saliva and putting his hands on him, asked, “Can you see at all?”
8:24 – The man looked up and said, “I can see people. They look like trees – only they are walking about.”
8:25-26 – Then Jesus put his hands on his eyes once more and his sight came into focus. And he recovered and saw everything sharp and clear. And Jesus sent him off to his own house with the words, “Don’t even go into the village.”
8:27 – Jesus then went away with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who are men saying that I am?”
8:28 – “John the Baptist,” they answered. “But others say that you are Elijah or, some say, one of the prophets.”
8:29 – Then he asked them, “But what about you – who do you say that I am?” “You are Christ!” answered Peter.
8:30 – Then Jesus impressed it upon them that they must not mention this to anyone.
8:31-33 – And he began to teach them that it was inevitable that the Son of Man should go through much suffering and be utterly repudiated by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He told them all this quite bluntly. This made Peter draw him on one side and take him to task about what he had said. But Jesus turned and faced his disciples and rebuked Peter. “Out of my way, Satan!” he said. “Peter, you are not looking at things from God’s point of view, but from man’s!”
8:34-38 – Then he called his disciples and the people around him, and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. The man who tries to save his life will lose it; it is the man who loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s who will save it. What good can it do a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What can a man offer to buy back his soul once he has lost it? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels around him.”
8:1-3 – About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat. Jesus called the disciples over to him and said, “My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left. If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way – and some of them have come from a distance.”
8:4 – His disciples replied, “Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?”
8:5 – “How many loaves have you got?” Jesus asked them. “Seven,” they replied.
8:6-10 – So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did. They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told the disciples to give these also to the people. They ate and they were satisfied. Moreover, they picked up seven baskets full of pieces left over. The people numbered about four thousand. Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with his disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.
8:11-12 – Now the Pharisees came out and began an argument with him, wanting a sign from Heaven. Jesus gave a deep sigh, and then said, “What makes this generation want a sign? I can tell you this, they will certainly not be given one!”
8:13 – Then he left them and got aboard the boat again, and crossed the lake.
8:14-20 – The disciples had forgotten to take any food and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus spoke seriously to them, “Keep your eyes open! Be on your guard against the ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and the ‘yeast’ of Herod!” And this sent them into an earnest consultation among themselves because they had brought no bread. Jesus knew it and said to them, “Why all this discussion about bringing no bread? Don’t you understand or grasp what I say even yet? Are you like the people who ‘having eyes, do not see, and having ears, do not hear’? Have your forgotten – when I broke five loaves for five thousand people, how many baskets full of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And then there were seven loaves for four thousand people, how many baskets of pieces did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said.
8:21 – “And does that still mean nothing to you?” he said.
7:31-34 – Once more Jesus left the neighbourhood of Tyre and passed through Sidon towards the Lake of Galilee, and crossed the Ten Towns territory. They brought to him a man who was deaf and unable to speak intelligibly, and they implored him to put his hand upon him. Jesus took him away from the crowd by himself. He put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with his own saliva. Then, looking up to Heaven, he gave a deep sigh and said to him in Aramaic, “Open!”
7:35-37 – And his ears were opened and immediately whatever had tied his tongue came loose and he spoke quite plainly. Jesus gave instructions that they should tell no one about this happening, but the more he told them, the more they broadcast the news. People were absolutely amazed, and kept saying, “How wonderful he has done everything! He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
7:24-27 – Then he got up and left that place and went off to the neighbourhood of Tyre. There he went into a house and wanted no one to know where he was. But it proved impossible to remain hidden. For no sooner had he got there, than a woman who had heard about him, and who had a daughter possessed by an evil spirit, arrived and prostrated herself before him. She was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she asked him to drive the evil spirit out of her daughter. Jesus said to her, “You must let the children have all they want first. It is not right, you know, to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
7:28 – But she replied, “Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs under the table eat what the children leave.”
7:29 – “If you can answer like that,” Jesus said to her, “you can go home! The evil spirit has left your daughter.”
7:30 – And she went back home and found the child lying quietly on her bed, and the evil spirit gone.
So as I read through this passage this morning — yes — I posted the passage without reading it first — and what most strongly niggled me was the word “common”. the translations I’m familiar with all say “unclean”.
Common. And I take the opposite of common in this sense to be elite. This is all about boundary markers, who’s in and who’s out. And Judaism does like its boundary markers:
Deuteronomy 19:14 You must not displace your neighbour’s boundary mark, positioned by men of old in the heritage soon to be yours, in the country which Yahweh your God is about to give you.
Mind you — so does Quakerism. That’s in part what the funny hats and thee and thou and the give-peace-a-chance-bumper-stickers are about.
Mark tells us: The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way, following a traditional rule. And they will not eat anything bought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”. And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs and basins.
Now I would have bought this one if he just said Pharisees. Thanks to 2000 years of Christian appropriation of western history the Pharisees are pretty much the stuck up prigs of the cosmos to pretty much everyone except maybe the Hasidim. But Mark went one step further and said indeed all the Jews. This tells me a lot.
Mark no longer thinks of himself and his community as being the Jews. The Jews are the other guys. Here it is only 30 years later and Mark is pointing to Jews and saying — not us. Somebody moved the boundary markers.
All the Jews wash their hands before meals to keep from being “common” (unclean). But his (Jesus’)disciples ate their meals with “common” hands. But Jesus’ disciples are Jews. If all the Jews did this and Jesus’ disciples did not, then we have two choices. First, all the Jews didn’t. there’s a class distinction here. Maybe commoners didn’t except on special occasions. I can believe this. I know a Muslim who drinks alcohol except during Ramadan. Second possibility: Jesus taught his disciples to ignore the rule.
If Jesus taught his disciple to ignore a long standing ritual purity law then why do they go to him afterwards and ask for an explanation? Should they not already know the answer to their question?
What I’m seeing here is a relaxation of the boundary rules attributed to Jesus. But in the act of witnessing to it my story teller is actually placing the those boundary markers in a new place rather than removing them altogether. Sort of like pointing the finger and laughing at another person’s belief system to show how open-minded you are. I’ve learned God’s humour tends towards the ironic — mostly as we humans make such good targets of satire.
So what do I do with this? Where are the boundary markers I set? And just how proudly do I maintain them?
I have one foot in two different faith communities. The Protestant church I attend has its boundary markers — though I don’t think anyone really agrees where they belong. And the Quakers I know and love think they don’t have any — and paradoxically — that is their most rigid one. Like I said, God’s humour tends towards the ironic — mostly as we humans make such good targets of satire.
7:1-5 – And now Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem. They had noticed that his disciples ate their meals with “common” hands – meaning that they had not gone through a ceremonial washing. (The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way, following a traditional rule. And they will not eat anything bought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”. And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs and basins.) So the Pharisees and the scribes put this question to Jesus, “Why do your disciples refuse to follow the ancient tradition, and eat their bread with ‘common’ hands?”
7:6-8 – Jesus replied, “You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote – ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’. You are so busy holding on to the traditions of men that you let go the commandment of God!”
7:9-13 – Then he went on, “It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’ and ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death’. But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban – meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God invalid for the sake of the tradition which you hold. And this is typical of much of what you do.”
7:14-15 – Then he called the crowd close to him again, and spoke to them, “Listen to me now, all of you, and understand this, There is nothing outside a man which can enter into him and make him ‘common’. It is the things which come out of a man that make him ‘common’!”
7:17 – Later, when he had gone indoors away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this parable.
7:18-23 – “Oh, are you as dull as they are?” he said. “Can’t you see that anything that goes into a man from outside cannot make him ‘common’ or unclean? You see, it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and passes out of the body altogether, so that all food is clean enough. But,” he went on, “whatever comes out of a man, that is what makes a man ‘common’ or unclean. For it is from inside, from men’s hearts and minds, that evil thoughts arise – lust, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, arrogance and folly! All these evil things come from inside a man and make him unclean!”
6:45-50 – Directly after this, Jesus made his disciples get aboard the boat and go on ahead to Bethsaida on the other side of the lake, while he himself sent the crowds home. And when he had sent them all on their way, he went off to the hill-side to pray. When it grew late, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was by himself on land. He saw them straining at the oars, for the wind was dead against them. And in the small hours he went towards them, walking on the waters of the lake, intending to come alongside them. But when they saw him walking on the water, they thought he was a ghost, and screamed out. For they all saw him and they were absolutely terrified. But Jesus at once spoke quietly to them, “It’s all right, it is I myself; don’t be afraid!”
6:51-52 – And he climbed aboard the boat with them, and the wind dropped. But they were scared out of their wits. They had not had the sense to learn the lesson of the loaves. Even that miracle had not opened their eyes to see who he was.
6:53-56 – And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake, they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there. As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever they heard that he was. Wherever he went, in villages or towns or farms, they laid down their sick right in the road-way and begged him that they might “just touch the edge of his cloak”. And all those who touched him were healed.
JB Phillips translation