September 8, 2012

23rd Sunday - B

Mark 7: 31-37

Jesus Opens the Kingdom of God

A quick glance at the map of the area mentioned in Mark 7:31 (top of the map) suggests something unusual about Jesus’ itinerary.  He goes out of the way.  The portion from Tyre to Sidon alone is about 25 miles.

There have been various attempts to explain Jesus’ journey north from Tyre to Sidon, then Southeast “into the district of the Decapolis.” 

Some commentators observe that Mark (and also Matthew) was not familiar with the geography of the area. Consequently, it must have been an error on Mark’s part to report such journey.

Others suggests that due to the mountainous terrain of the area, it was more reasonable to travel the way Jesus did than going directly from Tyre into the district of the Decapolis.

Neither explanation considers Jesus’ motivation and purpose.

This unusual itinerary should draw our attention to the fact that during this trip, “Jesus never sets foot in Israel” [1]He seems to prolong his time in a Gentile area.  In fact, the population of region of Tyre was “mixed of Gentiles and Jews.”  And the population of the Decapolis “was predominantly Gentile” [2].

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading from an earlier portion of the same Chapter 7 in Mark reports Jesus’ application of Isaiah’s words  to the attitude of some Jewish religious leaders, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (v. 6). 

Here, the Gentiles accepted Jesus’ presence and words.  To them, Jesus commands, “Ephphatha – Be Opened.”   Not only did they open their ears and their hearts to his words, they also opened their mouths to proclaim God’s marvelous presence and action in their lives. 


[1]  Francis J. Moloney, This is the Gospel of the Lord – Year B. Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1993; p. 180.

[2]  Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002; p. 149.

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