I want to speak about short encounters. Not ‘Brief Encounter’ the 1945 classic British film scripted by Noel Coward and starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. But the short encounters we expertise and that Jesus knowledgeable in the gospels. Short and potentially life altering. They might not be romantic, like the classic film, but they surely can touch deep feelings. Short, rollercoaster encounters, just like the roller coaster music by Rachmaninov, the theme music for ‘Brief Encounter’ at Noel Coward’s request.
We commence with an extraordinary encounter that Jesus had with a lady who was incredibly distressed, weighed down with a burden that several of us might relate to. Her small kid was sick. In the gospel (Mark 7:24-36) the small girl is described as becoming possessed of a demon, and no additional explanation is offered. No matter whether it was a spiritual distress that she was manifesting with some sort of physical and psychological side effects, we do not know. The point is not the affliction itself but the burden of the mother, and exactly where she should really turn? She had quite a few obstacles to face apart from the affliction of her daughter. What are the obstacles we are told in the story?
Tyre and Sidon had been Roman seaports, areas complete of ‘foreigners’. And this lady is of mixed ethnic origin from that region. You only have to appear at the British press about Brexit to see that difficulties of border and race are nevertheless hot subjects for human beings right now.
To this day the Herodian mountain fortress of Masada represents the Jewish struggle for autonomy culminating in its siege by the Romans in 73CE. But even at the time of Jesus and predating him there had been zealous movements for independence such as the Maccabean Revolt. Then the Jews fought against the Seleucids. Tyre and Sidon had been on the incorrect side of that revolt, fighting not with the Jews, but against them. Folks can have extended memories, and the Jews had extended memories about Tyre and Sidon.
Not only that, but this Syro-Phoenecian lady was a Gentile, not even a Jew. At this time Jews referred to Gentiles as ‘dogs’. And there is also a fourth obstacle, she’s a…
Not only Judiasm can be located wanting when it comes to planet religions modelling questionable attitudes. In this instance each Jewish male in the initially century prayed a prayer on a day-to-day basis that gave thanks to God that they had been not made as a lady. Now maybe we can just commence to envision how complicated it was for this lady to come to Jesus? We can envision some of the feelings, recognize some of the obstacles, that are behind this short encounter, when Jesus says, “It is not appropriate to cast the children’s bread and give it to dogs.”
I cringe when I study this.
I know I am not the only one particular who gets uncomfortable since there is a excellent quantity of debate amongst biblical scholars about what specifically Jesus meant. Some will say he was attempting to test her. Other individuals will say we are not translating this rather appropriate, Jesus truly known as her a small dog, additional like a puppy. But everywhere else in the culture of the time becoming referred to as a dog was a excellent insult. So what are we to make of this? What we might have right here is a story that any person who knows the Old Testament would recognize. This is the story of God who adjustments his thoughts via the heartfelt petitions of one particular individual.
There are various stories like this in the Old Testament: Abraham pleads to God for the people today of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18. Moses pleads to God for the Israelites in Exodus 32. And following in that vein in the gospels we have this Syro-Phoenecian lady pleading to Jesus, the Son of God, for her daughter. Heartfelt petitions that sooner or later move Jesus and outcome in the girl’s healing. Possibly several really feel God does not truly listen, let alone transform his thoughts. But the Bible incredibly a lot has that understanding. God’s connection with people today adjustments and progresses – just as Jesus’ attitude to this lady adjustments and progresses as a outcome of this short encounter.
We have no difficulty at Christmas in Jesus becoming born and clearly understanding to stroll and speak as any kid would. We understand via our lives and possibly it is at this point that Jesus learns no longer to get in touch with Gentiles dogs as he had clearly been brought up to by his kinsfolk? We need to contemplate why Jesus would lead this mother via a humbling and complicated method ahead of granting her request. When his response does appear harsh, the lesson of persistent faith displayed via a time of testing is a prevalent theme in the Bible. We also know that Jesus’ mission does go to the Gentiles. For Jesus, could that mission have develop into clear in his thoughts from the moment of this short encounter?
We will by no means know.
We are told alternatively of a further healing in the seaport of Sidon exactly where Jesus heals a deaf and mute man. The healing echoes Isaiah 35:five, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” Mark in all probability involves this encounter to show that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophets. The initially short encounter Jesus had in Tyre with the Syro-Phoenecian lady, shows that he is not the Messiah that Israel might have anticipated. His mission is wider, and possibly Jesus sees this for himself in her response and the obstacles that she was ready to overcome. Jesus seems to transform his attitude, just as God in the Old Testament seems in some cases, to transform His.
And healing starts.
With the deaf, mute man, it starts with the Aramaic word Jesus mentioned and preserved for all time by his followers – ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be Opened’. Which represents not just the healing of the man but a command – Be Opened. But opened from what? I wonder if you have ever knowledgeable a time when an attitude either changed or did not transform – and healing either occurred or did not come about? Probably Mark involves these stories for this objective, to challenge us? We might by no means have known as a individual a ‘dog’ but what have we accomplished? What attitudes have we, either formed or inherited, or passed on? What do we want to be opened to?
These queries are all the additional pertinent in our present age of short encounters via social media. The short encounters we have with people today, genuine and virtual, can be either destructive or inventive. The decision is ours as to what they might bring, just as it was for Jesus. From the gospels we know what Jesus chose, and at excellent expense to himself. No matter whether we contemplate ourselves to be religious or not, his options not only defined himself but the history of the planet. But what will we pick out in our short encounters?
That is the query only we can answer, and our answers will not only define us but the planet that is but to be.