Chapter 7

Jesus challenges the Pharisees to consider the difference between religious observance and relationship with God. He also commends the faith of a Gentile woman by healing her demon-possessed daughter, and heals a deaf man.

One day some experts in religious law came from Jerusalem, joined some local Pharisees and came to see Jesus. They noticed that some of us were eating with what they call “unclean hands,” that is, not ceremonially cleansed. (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat unless they have washed their hands according to the ritual prescribed by the elders. When they return from the market place, that ritual is carried out on the entire body. They follow all sorts of rules established by tradition such as the proper way to wash cups, pots, copper bowls and even dining couches.) So they asked Jesus, “Why is it that your disciples have no respect for the tradition of the elders? Look at them; they are eating with unclean hands!”

Jesus answered, “Isaiah was right when he looked into the future and said of you hypocrites, ’This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is worthless, teaching their own regulations as though they were the laws of God.’ You people ignore God’s law and follow your own traditions.”

Jesus continued, saying, “You circumvent the commands of God in order to establish your own tradition. For example, through Moses God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks disrespectfully of his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you teach that if a person says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever I might have given you is Korban (that is, “promised to God”), then they no longer have to help their parents in need. This is how you manipulate your tradition so as to nullify the word of God. And you do lots of other things like that as well.” (1-13)

Then Jesus gathered the crowd around him and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand what I’m about to say. No one is defiled by that which comes in from the outside. It’s what comes out of a person that makes him ritually unclean.”

When Jesus left the crowd and went indoors, we asked him what he meant by that. “Are you as slow to catch on as the crowd outside,” he asked? “Don’t you understand that you can’t be defiled by something entering your body from the outside? That’s because it doesn’t go into the inner man, but into the stomach and from there into the sewer.” (By saying this, Jesus declared every kind of food clean.) Then he added, “A person is defiled by what comes out of him. It is from the inner man, the heart, that come the evil inclinations that lead to sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, selfishness, slander, arrogance, and lack of moral judgment. All these evil things come from within and they are what defile a person.” (14-23)

From there Jesus went north to the area around the city of Tyre. He decided to stay indoors to escape notice but it didn’t work. A Gentile woman, Syrophoenician by birth, had a young daughter who was possessed by an evil spirit. The woman heard that Jesus was nearby, so without hesitation she came, fell at his feet, and asked him to drive out the demon. Jesus put her off, saying, “It wouldn’t be right for me to take food that should go to my own children (the Jews) first, and throw it out so the dogs (the Gentiles) can get it.”

Using his own argument, she responded, “That’s absolutely right, Sir; but isn’t it also true that the puppies that play under the children’s table get the crumbs that fall to the floor?”

“Touché!” answered Jesus. “When you arrive back home you’ll find that the demon has left your daughter.” And that’s exactly what happened! When the Gentile woman arrived home, the demon was nowhere to be found and the little girl was sleeping quietly in bed. (24-30)

After this, Jesus left Tyre and returned to Galilee and the Decapolis (the Ten Towns) by way of Sidon. Once there, some people brought a man to him who was unable to hear and hardly able to talk. They urged Jesus to lay hands on him and heal him. Jesus took him aside where they could be alone. Then he spit on his fingers and touched the man’s ears and tongue. Looking up to heaven, he said with a deep sigh, “Ephphatha” (Aramaic for “Open up!”) Immediately the man was able to hear, his speech impediment disappeared and he began to speak clearly.

The crowd, which had gathered, was dumbfounded and exclaimed, “Everything he does is remarkable! He makes it possible for the deaf to hear and the tongue-tied to speak!” Jesus warned them to tell no one what had happened, but the more he insisted the more they spread the news. (31-37)