MAIN TEXT: MARK 7:24-37
And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. AndJesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark is concerned with readers knowing who Jesus is and what He did. Mark is writing this account of Jesus after His death, resurrection, and ascension. He is writing this gospel after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 that began the Christian Church. He is writing during the mission period of God’s redemptive story and we are still in this period. Jesus has come and Jesus will come again. During these two comings God is at work redeeming all of creation through the work of His Spirit in us His people. We are everyday missionaries.
In our text today, Mark show us that Jesus is the greatest missionary who ever lived. He came the greatest distance (from heaven to earth) to bring the good news of salvation. He also made the greatest sacrifice – giving His life in the place of sinners that we might be reconciled to God. During His three years of earthly ministry He made time to travel to foreign soil to give us a glimpse of Great Commission Christianity. He demonstrated clearly that God’s Kingdom knows no ethnic, racial, national, or gender barriers. All who come to Him receive His blessings.
The two healing miracles in our text demonstrate that God’s Kingdom has come and that Jesus is for all people. Contrary to religious and racial bigots, no one is so unclean that they cannot receive the blessing and the touch of Jesus Christ – the God who astonishes (verse 37).
Jesus just engaged in a heated discussion with the Pharisees over tradition versus the gospel. Things are building to an inevitable showdown that will result in His crucifixion. However, it is not the appointed time. So Jesus leaves Galilee to get away from His enemies and spend some time with His disciples and rest. Rest didn’t happen, but we are learn about the heart of God through His conversations and healings.
Jesus is the Savior who cannot be hidden
Jesus cares for the nations, and so should we
Jesus went to the district of Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon) to the seaport city of Tyre. Rest was His plan but “…He could not be hidden” (verse 24).
This is the only time that Jesus is recorded going beyond the borders of Israel. The fact that He went here is missiologically significant. Pagan Gentiles inhabited Tyre and Sidon and the region had a long history of opposition to Israel.
By going there Jesus showed that the reach of the Messiah was beyond the scope that Israel expected. Like Jonah, Jews of that day could not imagine that God would extend His salvation beyond the borders of Israel. Jesus is not just for one nation. He is for all nations and we should be as well.
Jesus cares for the Jews, and so should we
An unlikely person shows up asking for help. She is a woman, a Gentile (non-Jew), and a pagan. Socially it was grossly unacceptable for her to approach a Jewish rabbi on any level – and she knew it. She came boldly but humbly “fell down at His feet” (verse 25) and she was persistent. She wanted Jesus “to cast the demon out of her daughter” (verse 26).
Jesus response to her is shocking and seems like a massive insult unworthy of Him (verse 27). It was not meant like we hear it. His words are more of a parable than a direct statement. The word used for “dogs” is like our word “puppies”. He did not mean street scavengers but was referring to a household pet. He was testing the woman’s faith by saying that He must first minister to Israel before He ministers to Gentiles. Paul said the same thing in Romans 1:16.
Jesus has a deep love for the Jewish nation – He wept bitterly over her rejection of Him as Messiah (Matthew 23:37). In spite of their unbelief, Jesus still loves them and God is not through with the Jews. God cares for the Jews and so should we.
Jesus cares for the individual, and so should we
The woman fires back with boldness, wit, courage, and faith. She does not question the accuracy of Jesus’ words nor did she take offense. She simply and humbly carried His analogy one step further (verse 28). Jesus commends her for “great faith” (Matthew 15:28). In amazing grace and mercyJesus lifts us up – no longer a dog – but a child (saved); no longer under the table but now a member of the family at the table.
Jesus is the Savior who does all things well
Jesus continues this 120-mile walk (in a horseshoe shape) – taking the good news outside Israel (verse 31).
Jesus hears our cries for help
A man is brought to Jesus who was deaf and has a speech impediment. Jesus takes the man aside in a personal and compassionate way. As Jesus looks to heaven, “he sighed” (verse 34). I believe that this was an expression of love and compassion on the man and also great grief over the fall of man and the shattering consequences of sin. It is a sigh of God over broken creation. Like a prisoner bound in chains, Jesus broke the chains of his captivity and set him free (verse 35).
Jesus deserves our praise for all He does
Even though Jesus forbid them to tell others, they zealously proclaimed what Jesus did (verse 36). We cannot condone their disobedience but we can understand their response.
Mark concludes this story by quoting people’s praise of Jesus, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (verse 37). The second half is a fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah 35:1-6.
The first half echoes creation and God’s work in creation. We see the grand redemptive storyline on display in this miracle:
- Creation – what God does is good
- Fall – a man deaf because of the brokenness caused by sin
- Redemption – the miracle of healing
- Restoration – God’s kingdom has arrived
Jesus is the Lord who does all things well!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
What constitutes an effective missionary strategy in our day? How did Jesus begin to instruct His followers about successful missions?
Why was the Syrophoenician woman happy with mere “crumbs”? What can we learn from her attitude?
How can boldness and humility both be demonstrated at the same time in our prayers?
How was Jesus’ healing ministry associated with the gospel of a restored relationship with God?