Mark’s parenthetical observations detailing the Pharisees’ traditional cleansing procedures constitute one way his account differs from Matthew’s (vv. 2-4). This “special way” (lit. with the fist) [v. 3] of washing their hands the disciples of Jesus do not practice, so the Jewish leaders carp at their Leader (v. 2). To follow the “tradition of the elders,” these fellows believe that they must fastidiously cleanse many other items as well (v. 4). Mark’s record of Jesus’ response highlights Isaiah’s prophecy of hypocritical worship (vv. 6-7); Matthew mentions the Mosaic passages first, then the Isaianic (cf. 15:4-6). The former also inserts the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning a “gift” for the benefit of his Gentile audience; Matthew, writing to Jews, does not need to elucidate the meaning with this detail (v. 11). Except for these small changes written for emphasis’ sake, the passages convey the same message (vv. 5-13). [Recording Jesus’ exact words does not seem of paramount importance at times.] Spiritually attuned “ears” will understand that moral defilement originates in man’s heart (the core of his being), not in his food (vv. 14-16). Still spiritual babes, the disciples need more instruction on this matter to strengthen their understanding; thus, Jesus lists thirteen evidences of man’s depraved nature (vv. 20-23).
From Gennesaret, Jesus travels northwest to the region of Tyre; the text does not say whether His disciples accompanied Him, but they did (v. 24; cf. Matt. 15:23). He had apparently arranged to stay at someone’s private home there, and wanted to visit without alerting the public eye (v. 24b). Nevertheless, word travels to a Gentile—a Syro-Phoenician woman and the mother of a demonized daughter—who pleads for Him to cast out the spirit terrorizing the child (vv. 25-26).
Again, the textual divergences provide fascinating insight into how someone writing to Gentiles approaches the story. Mark does not say (as Matthew does) that Jesus “answered her not a word” (cf. 15: 23a). He does write, however, a statement that mollifies the Jewish attitude a little: “Let the children be filled first” (v. 27). The faith inherent in her response to Him qualifies her as a worthy Gentile (vv. 28-29); her daughter soon lies in bed released from the demon, having been cast out from afar (v. 30). [Is it seemly that Matthew comes across as harsher and more jingoistic?]
Apparently having completed His mission in Tyre, Jesus travels through Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee where he encounters people bringing Him a deaf-mute to heal (vv. 31-32). Mark provides specific details of the Lord’s method of curing this man: (1) He dealt with him alone (v. 33a); (2) He put His fingers in his ears (v. 33b); (3) He took His spit and touched the man’s tongue with it (v. 33c); (4) He looked to heaven with a sigh (v. 34a); (5) He spoke, “Be opened” (v. 34b). With his hearing restored and his tongue unbound, the man speaks with no residual effects from his prior condition (v. 35). Again, overjoyed witnesses disobey Jesus’ explicit commands not to spread this news abroad by widely proclaiming the excellence of His works (vv. 36-37).