Read Mark 7:24-37

v 26  she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter.

… she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia,

 

This woman was seen as an ‘outsider’ by your average Jew – she wasn’t ‘one of us’ as they would have put it. Gentiles and Samaritans just didn’t count when it came to religious orthodoxy. She wasn’t living the right way, and she didn’t have the right background to become one of the Jewish family. She probably felt excluded from Jewish company. Something must have told her Jesus was different, and so He was!

It’s horrible to feel excluded from a particular group. We human beings have a nasty habit of excluding from our ‘group’ people who differ from us, even ever so slightly. If you have read George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ you will have got that message loud and clear. The watchword of the rampant pigs tells it own story ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’ sums up this exclusive attitude wonderfully. You may remember this exclusivity in the playground at school, or on the shop floor at work, perhaps even in family life when someone has been cold-shouldered. Everything has been designed to give the message ‘You are not one of us’.

Sadly, that has been extended into experiences in religious groupings. And it was a powerful motivator when it came to Jews and Gentiles. So have no doubt this encounter of a Gentile woman with the popular itinerant Jewish teacher, Jesus, would have raised eyebrows. In fact, at the outset it almost seems that Jesus rebuffs her as He states His priority to focus on Jewish people, His own race. But the woman’s persistence, and awareness of her desperate need catches Jesus’ attention and the healing that followed.

There are however two strands to this issue of exclusion. The first is the most obvious – ‘They’ do not want you because you are different. The other however, lies in the mind of the person who feels excluded. You may have experienced this one yourself: you don’t feel good enough/clever enough/rich enough/educated enough/religious enough/ …. so you stay away of your own volition. You decide that you will not be welcomed, so you make no effort to be included, much as you would like to be involved.

In this story the woman made the effort to be included in those who would be blessed by Jesus – and her effort was rewarded.

It can be like that joining in with a church for the first time! We all have to be aware of the newcomer who is in danger of becoming excluded. Being like Jesus makes us welcomers and includers, and that is always a worthwhile venture, for Jesus was a Man like no other, reaching out to the excluded.

Monday 16th March A Man like no other, reaching out to the excluded