Tony's Reflection 65 

 In my previous life, I worked as an Equality Manager at the main hospital in Exeter. Part of my job was to teach people about the Human Rights Act. Teaching the law can be deadly dull, but I was determined to make it as fun and controversial as I possibly could.

Finding controversy about human rights was always pretty easy. Just do a Google search for “human rights” plus “terrorist” / “criminal” plus “Daily Express”/ “Daily Mail” and you will see what I mean. According to these newspapers, for example, the terrorist who committed the London Bridge attack was free to do so because MI5 couldn’t carry out surveillance on him, as it would have undermined his human rights entitlement to a private life.

Some very dubious characters have stood on their “human rights entitlement”. But perhaps that is the point. No matter how distasteful they may be, they are human and so they have “human rights”. They really are “entitled”.

I’ll leave you to decide for yourself on the rights and wrongs of the politics around human rights and entitlement, but in today’s episode from
Mark (7:24-30), we see someone whose attitude to Jesus couldn’t have been further from the “entitlement mentality” that is such a hot potato nowadays…

Jesus, you will remember, has just delivered the most blistering attack not only on the Pharisees, but on popular Jewish religion of his day. It was as if he had put a bomb under everything everyone Jewish held dear and precious and then pressed the detonation switch.

After that, Mark just says, in his normal understated way, “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre and entered a house. He didn’t want anyone to know it…” Mark says he wanted to keep his presence there a secret. Many reckon that after Jesus had been so controversial towards so much his fellow Jews held dear, it was best for him to try and escape, to lay low for a bit. Where better to go than a relatively safe non-Jewish area, full of non-Jews?

Back in the 1960s, if the Beatles came to town, you weren’t going to be able to keep that quiet. Jesus was at least as hot news back in his day, as Paul McCartney was, almost 60 years ago. Word that he was hiding away in Tyre hit the streets and people came.

Of all those who did seek Jesus out, Mark tells us about just one. An unnamed woman… the bishop who knew her in her later Christian life says she was called Justa, so we’ll use that name.

All of us parents know the heartbreak that comes when your little child is ill and there is nothing you can do for them, apart from watch.

This woman had to watch her child suffer. This wasn’t any normal illness, either. It was demon possession. As disturbing as anything from The Exorcist, but all the more terrifying because this was for real. Strange voices speaking through the child. Uncontrolled screaming. Bizarre self-harming, that could turn fatal at any moment. A personality inexplicably and suddenly invaded and then left peaceful… until the next attack.

Justa had tried everything. The best cures doctors and magicians could offer, but nothing had worked. It was all she could do to restrain the child as he tried over and again to throw himself into the fire where the pot was boiling, off a cliff, or into the sea. Her tears had been endless and by now she had cried them dry.

Then she heard Jesus had come to town. A flicker of hope. Wherever he was, she had to find him.

But would he see her? She knew the reputation of Jewish teachers. They wouldn’t give a woman the time of day. And a non-Jew like her? They wouldn’t even be seen dead with a non-Jew…

Jesus had driven out demons before, though. Perhaps, just perhaps, he would have pity on her. Yes, he was a Jewish Messiah, come for the Jews - but maybe there would be some scraps left over for a non-Jew like her.

Justa found the house where Jesus was staying. That wasn’t too hard. It was the worst kept secret in town.

All her worst fears came back as she lingered in the doorway. She took a deep breath, ran into the room where Jesus was relaxing and threw herself at his feet. It all came out in a cascade of tears and anguish, all at once. The whole sorry story. All that her child had been through.

“I know you can do it,” she could hardly get the words out through the sobs and the desperation which choked in her throat.

Justa clung to his ankles, her tears washing Jesus’ feet.

“I’ve come for the Jewish children, to put a meal on their table,” said Jesus. “I can’t take what belongs to them and toss it to a little dog like you.”

Justa squeezed his ankles even tighter. The tears flowed more, but she wasn’t letting go. “Yes, Lord, but even little dogs get the leftovers. Please…”

Jesus placed his hand so tenderly on her quivering shoulder. “What an answer,” he smiled, through his own tears, “the demon is gone.”

When Justa got home, there was an unusual peace around the child. The demon had gone. This time, never to return. Just as Jesus had said.

Justa had no entitlement to stand on. All she could do was throw herself at Jesus’ feet and rely on his kindness. She was not disappointed.

Neither will you be, if you do the same.
signed Tony