18 Feb. Mark 7:31-36

18 Feb. Why did Jesus (a Jew) travel to foreign (Gentile) lands?

"Then Jesus left the area around Tyre and went through Sidon to Lake Galilee, to the area of the [Gentile] Ten Towns."

"While he was there, some people brought a man to him who was deaf and could not talk plainly. The people begged Jesus to put his hand on the man to heal him."

"Jesus led the man away from the crowd, by himself. He put his fingers in the man's ears and then spat [to moisten his fingers] and touched the man's tongue."

"Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to the man, 'Ephphatha!' (This means, 'Be opened'.) Instantly the man was able to hear, and to use his tongue so that he spoke clearly."

"Jesus commanded the people not to tell any one about what happened. But the more he commanded them, the more they told about it."

          (Mark 7:31-36)

 

 

This is such a remarkable miracle brought about by Jesus that one or two seemingly unimportant details in Mark's account are often left unnoticed. Did you spot them? Why not read the passage again and see if you can identify them before reading on below?

Firstly, did you spot Mark's detailed description of Jesus's itinerary? You can't read the gospels without realising that Jesus was constantly on the move. Although he used Capernaum, in Galilee, as his home base, Jesus was a travelling preacher who never stopped anywhere for very long.

This was quite easy for a 'pennyless' Jewish rabbi (teacher) to do in Jesus's day. Jesus had very little money and few possessions. His 'home' in Capernaum was probably the house belonging to Jesus's close friends, the prosperous Barjonas fishing family, whose members included Simon (Peter) and Andrew, two of Jesus's most loyal supporters.

And in a Jewish culture where fellow Jews gladly accommodated and fed fellow Jewish travellers, it was relatively easy for Jesus and his followers to walk from town to town at little or no cost. Today, we'd call Jesus a 'professional speaker' as he earned his board and lodging by giving witty, entertaining and challenging talks wherever he went.

Secondly, Mark's account gives us another clue to Jesus's itinerary which we often overlook. Did you spot what Jesus said to the blind man? It was 'Ephphatha!', which Mark, helpfully, tells us means 'Be opened'.

So why did Jesus use this 'odd word that nobody knew'? The simple answer is that Jesus grew up in Nazareth in Galilee during the reign of the Roman 'puppet king' Herod Antipas, who became ruler (‘tetrarch’) of Galilee and Peraea from 4BC to 39AD, and he spoke the local language of the Roman province of Syria - Aramaic.

Very few of Jesus's original words in Aramaic are recorded in the Bible. (Another example is 'Talitha, koum!' in Mark 5:41.) This is because the gospels were written in Greek - the universal language of the Roman empire in Jesus's day - for a Greek-speaking elite who could read and write in a world where most people were illiterate.

So nearly every saying of Jesus that we read in the gospels is a translation of his original Aramaic speech into Greek! And then it's translated again into English or another language. No wonder that we sometimes miss the nuances and subtle meaning of his original words!

So why did Jesus travel to Gentile towns such as Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia (part of the Roman province of Syria), and to the ten Greek (Gentile) towns of the Decapolis to the south east of the Sea of Galilee? One reason is that they spoke his native tongue - Aramaic - and could understand what he was saying! He didn't need to use the more formal Jewish Hebrew language that was in common use further south in Judaea and Jerusalem.

So did Jesus come to spread God's message of love and forgiveness JUST to the Jews? In reality, Jesus spread the good news to ALL who could understood what he was saying in Aramaic or Hebrew. It was left to Jesus's fluent Greek-speaking apostle, Paul of Tarsus, to spread the message to the wider Greek-speaking world (see Acts 22:3).

The map shows the Gentile territories visited by Jesus.

You can read more about these journeys @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/…/jesus-in-tyre-and-sidon/


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