The Bread Winner, by John Frye
“He has done everything well” (Mark 7:37).
We are currently following Jesus into “unclean” territories. Jesus had radically redefined “unclean” and his definition is so big, it was hard for the church to wrap it arms around (see, for example, Acts 10 with Peter thrust by the Spirit into Cornelius’ house). Jesus has gone into the region of Tyre and Sidon and is now hanging around in Decapolis. Notorious Gentile (unclean) regions. Robert H. Stein admits that Mark’s geographical references in Mark 7:31 are highly debated, but chooses to think that Jesus has returned to the Jewish side of Galilee. (I’ll not share what one of Scot’s TEDS students, who had a PhD in geography, said about Mark’s grasp of Jesus’ itinerary as expressed in Mark 7:31, but let’s just say Mark is not the sharpest knife in the drawer on such things.) Jesus is in Gentile territory and is asked to touch (lay hands on and heal) a deaf and mute (speech- impaired) man.
Have we stumbled upon a pericope, i.e., a story about Jesus’ life and ministry that Mark decided to weave into his Gospel? Why ask such a question? Because in the space of a few verses we have a number of words used by Mark only once in a story about Jesus! The Gospel writers were able to draw upon many oral and written accounts of Jesus’ life (see Luke 1:1-4 and John 20:30) to create their own Spirit-guided accounts of Jesus’ life. This is apparently one of those stories.
Whatever Mark’s limitations in geography, he got one thing powerfully correct: Mark reports that the people declared, “He [Jesus] has done everything well!”
William Lane offers the thought that the people’s declaration harkens back to Isaiah 35:5-6. Isaiah wrote, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Even more, the work of Jesus may reach all the way back to Genesis 1:31a— “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” All that Jesus does in new creation mirrors and exceeds original creation: “He does all things well!”
In a territory were Hebrew or Aramaic (either one Jesus’ native language) was not known, Jesus speaks “Ephphatha!” (“Be opened!”). A Jewish teacher bent on finding rest for his own life and his Twelve is still throwing the bread of life around (see last week’s post). How do we know? Because Mark once again inserts the verb “to cast,” to throw.” How unusual: Jesus “casts” his finger into the deaf man’s ears. The NIV limply translates the verb as “put.”
Come on! Jesus has got the bread. The bread of life. He’s got lots of it. He can cast bread to Jews (Mark 6:30-44). He can give it to a Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30). He can “cast” it into the ears of deaf-mute in Decapolis (Mark 7:31-37). Jesus has bread galore! The mana-maker is not choosey with his bread. He is so free, so generous, so prodigal! Evangelism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find the bread. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.”