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The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
24 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. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 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.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Jesus Heals a Deaf Man
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 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. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
We’ve been considering how Mark’s Gospel may be characterized by considering Christ’s Identity, Mission, and Call.
From the standpoint of another outline, however, one can see in the first Chapter of Mark an inauguration of His Ministry followed by His ministry throughout the region of Galilee up to the events in Mark 7:23.
Mark 7:24 to the end of the ninth chapter covers events that occurred during what we might call The Retirement Ministry.
There is no abrupt shift in Christ’s ministry but there is a noticeable change in emphasis.
From Mark 1:14-7:23, Christ’s ministry was mostly in Capernaum and its vicinity and He was often surrounded by large crowds.
At this point, He still doesn’t escape the multitudes, and even invites them to him.
Yet, the Gospel account emphasizes less the fact that He is in the presence of the crowds and shows Him more in the presence of His disciples.
He is teaching them because He realizes that the cross is drawing near.
He begins to more fully explain to The Twelve the lessons of the cross.
In order to be able to impart this important information effectively Jesus begins to more regularly take them places of seclusion, apart from the busy centers.
A considerable amount of time is spent in predominantly Gentile territory because Jews will not likely follow Him there.
In this passage we learn that they have journeyed to Tyre.
This is the Tyre whose kings in times past had formed an alliance with David and Solomon by providing skilled artisans and timber for the construction of the Temple.
It was Tyre that had introduced Baal worship into Israel. It was an island stronghold just off the Mediterranean coast. Alexander the Great conquered it by building a stronghold to it.
Psalm 87:4 prophesied that the people of Tyre and its vicinity would one day be blessed by the Messianic age.
That prophecy had been partially fulfilled when people from this region traveled to Galilee to hear Jesus and be healed.
This time it was Jesus who came to them.
Verse 24 continues: “…And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.”
As I noted before, Christ is trying to find a place where He can teach His disciples.
Missionary activity will follow but, for now, Christ is trying to find an opportunity to instruct.
But He could not be hidden.
Many of the Phoenicians knew about Jesus from Galilee and He could not escape notice.
Although He had other plans, Jesus’ great love for sinners allowed His concealment to come to an end.
Christ, in His humanity during His time on earth, fully intended certain times alone and for good reason but when the Father brought Him needy sinners He knew that His plans had to yield to the need at hand.
. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
But now a woman appears on the scene who is in deep sorrow.
No husband is mentioned.
Perhaps she is a widow and this causes us to recall other downcast people who encounter Christ and plead for their children.
Mark tenderly adds that this is her “little daughter”.
Her daughter was very dear to her but her little child was possessed by a demon.
Was there any hope for this woman and her child?
She was not of the house of Israel.
She was a Syro-Phonenician, a pagan woman.
She was not of the people of Israel.
The woman took no time to ponder such questions.
She simply came quickly as soon as she heard Jesus was present and threw herself at His feet.
She humbled herself. She was reverent to Christ. She threw herself at His feet in utter desperation.
Please, heal my little child!
The parallel passages teach us that she begged, again and again, that Christ would heal her child.
This is an unclean Gentile.
Jews were not to have contact with such people as it made them ceremonially unclean.
Yet we do not witness Christ recoiling at her but allowing her homage as it was poured out in grief.
Please, Lord, I have no other hope, heal my child.
27 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.”
The word employed for “dogs” here by Christ is “house dogs”. It implies a family pet.
This is certainly not a complement to be calling someone a house dog.
In the plan of God, the blessings of Christ’s ministry were to be offered to “the children”, that is the people of God.
The opportunity to be fully satisfied by His teaching would be given to the House of Israel first and then the ministry would expand to the Gentiles.
Any wholesale departure from this rule would be the equivalent of taking the bread set out to feed the children and tossing it to the house dogs.
Even beloved pet dogs cannot be expected to be treated like children.
The woman needs to understand this.
If Christ is going to grant her wish it will be an exception to the rule and a very great privilege indeed.
Was this rule rigid?
Where there no exceptions allowed?
Could no light be given the Gentiles at this point?
If so, then this request would be impossible.
But notice that Jesus already slightly opened the door by telling her to let the children eat first.
He is at least telling this sorrow-filled woman that God has not completely lost sight of the Gentiles.
She might already begin to think to herself: “If blessings are coming for the Gentiles tomorrow, why not already today…even if it is an exception.”
Her faith in Christ was strong enough to realize that Jesus was not turning her away.
This was a stern statement by Christ but was probably said with love, tenderness, and compassion that was impossible to hide.
How, in the presence of the almighty, would you respond if you had been compared to a house dog?
Would you walk away in indignation?
Surely this woman must affirm her self-esteem as the greatest possible aim!
Yet she answered him: “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Christ had extended a little finger and she grabbed the whole hand.
Instead of despair at the comparison she embraced it.
I’m a house dog?
Yes, I accept that with joy.
House dogs are allowed to sit underneath the table as the children eat and sometimes crumbs and scraps fall to the floor as they eat.
All I want is the crumbs.
I know I don’t yet belong at the table but I’m content to take whatever falls my way!
Indeed, there had been exceptions to Christ’s ministry and the ministry of the Word before Him.
The Centurion had sent a servant in faith to Christ and His servant had been healed.
Naaman had been cleansed of leprosy.
Elijah blessed a woman in pagan lands.
God’s blessings had always overflowed the borders of God’s people in part and they were about to burst forth but the small exceptions to Israel were powerful in individual lives while that light was not yet fully revealed to the Gentiles.
We can understand how Christ would have fully appreciated the graces which were already manifested in this woman.
She had faith in Him whose love is broader than the mind of man, hope in him who would not disappoint, and a love for Him because He first loved her.
29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Christ praises her faith in Him that was expressed by her confession.
He grants her request because of her faith in Him and tell s her that her daughter is healed.
Notice that she leaves as soon as He tells her that the demon had gone.
She does not wait for verification but believes what Christ has told her.
Is it any wonder that Christ marveled at her faith as He did the faith of the Centurion?
The healings of believing Jews were always accomplished in their presence so they could see the results.
But this woman, just as the Centurion, believed Christ had the authority to declare healing and it take His word for it.
No double-blind experimental verification before belief.
Just a faith that the Son of God has the power to speak and it is.
And beloved, consider this, She got the crumbs!
Here people weren’t the focus of Christ’s ministry of grace and yet the power of Christ was powerful enough to save by exception.
What about those children, the Jews, who had the table of Christ’s ministry set before them and refused to touch it?
Think about what they had been turning away from in disbelief.
Those who saw Christ, day in and day out constantly demanded new signs.
Yet, this woman, this gentile, this house dog, was content to sit under the table and receive the scraps and receive life everlasting.
Psalm 84:10: For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
As for you parents, consider the times like this in the Scriptures when a mother or father pleads for their beloved children.
We have hopes and dreams for them that we realize we cannot fulfill.
Many of them have struggles that we are powerless to solve.
We desire their salvation.
Do we fall at Christ’s feet regularly praying for their conversion?
Verse 31 states that He then traveled from Tyre to the region of the Decapolis near the Sea of Galilee.
32 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
A crowd met Jesus and begged Him to heal a man who had a double handicap – he was deaf and was impaired in speech.
They desired that Christ would lay His hand on Him to heal Him.
They were expecting some sort of sign to be done in their presence.
But Christ had other plans.
33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue
Christ took the man aside to be completely alone with Him.
Notice how the nature of this healing is accommodated to a man who was deaf and mute.
He could not hear.
So Christ put his fingers in His ears as if to say: “Your ears are stopped and I’m going to do something about it…”
He could not speak
So Christ spat on his finger and touched his tongue: “Your tongue is stopped and I’m going to do something about it….”
34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
As Christ looked up to heaven, He sighed.
Every act of Christ toward a needy sinner was done with all of Christ present.
He didn’t merely go through the motions but sighed in sorrow and compassion at the need of this man before Him.
Christ turned aside.
The glory of God veiled in human flesh cared for this deaf-mute man.
And He commanded that the man’s ears and mouth be opened.
There is no probability at the Word of God.
There is no maybe.
There is only command and creation obeys.
The man’s ears and mouth were opened and he began to hear and speak plainly.
36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
This charge seems strange to us.
Why does Christ tell people not to tell about these miraculous healings?
He does so throughout the Gospel of Mark to the point where many call this the Messianic secret.
The reason is that Christ will have the proclamation of what it means that He is the Messiah on His own terms.
The people had a mold for what the Messiah would accomplish.
We will soon learn that even His disciples didn’t fully understand what His mission was.
It was very easy for people to stop at these amazing displays and simply see Christ as a miracle worker.
They gloried in His power and thronged to Him for signs.
But Christ came for another mission.
His power was being manifest to identify Him as the Son of God but they needed to understand His mission and they do not understand it yet.
Christ did not want the wrong interpretation of these healings to spread far and wide because, in the end, He was going to demonstrate His mission by hanging on a Cross and rising again.
People often think they understand Jesus by the power He displayed but they do not understand their deepest need.
37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
The people were literally blown away by Christ’s power.
Never before had they seen things like this.
How many other occasions is the same thing recorded where throngs of people were astonished at the power of Christ and flocked to Him to see more.
Yet where were these multitudes later?
At His humiliation He had only a few disciples at the foot of the Cross.
Men and women respect and admire the glory but want no part in a Christ that is utterly humiliated.
To this day, Muslims cannot accept a Christ crucified because no prophet of God can be humiliated in such a way.
The pride of man cannot allow it.
Our pride is allergic to such humiliation.
Our pride is allergic to the idea that the sin of man makes him an enemy in God’s sight.
The pride of man wants no part in someone who became a stench in God’s nostrils.
It only reminds him that we deserve this for our sin.
And so the table is set before us.
The table of God’s blessing in Christ is available to all of God’s children.
We have the table set before us every Lord’s day as Christ is placarded in front of us.
We delight to hear the stories of power, of the miraculous.
We delight to sing about how happy we are that we are not like other men.
We live lives filled with riches, esteem, and influence.
We are astonished at the power of Christ and exclaim: “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I want to see that again!”
We desire to fill our fulfilled lives with more power and entertainment and Christ is seen as a provider for that felt need.
And yet it is the helpless soul that finds the real Christ.
It is the humble soul that is content with the scraps of grace and the consideration that dogs don’t deserve to be treated like children.
It is the soul, stripped of human pride, which falls at Christ’s feet and pleads for help.
It is the soul, aware of its deserved judgment, which says to Christ: “I am condemned already for my sin but I’ve heard about You. I’ve heard you didn’t come to condemn.”
Beloved, we have the fullness of Christ revealed to us in His Word.
We believe and we are no longer slaves to sin but have been set free by Christ’s death.
We are no longer enemies of God, outside the boundaries of God’s people, but we have been adopted as His dear children.
We love because He first loved us.
We hear because He has unstopped our ears.
We speak because He has opened our mouths to praise.
The indestructible life of Christ is on a table set before us every time the Word is expounded.
The veil between God and man has been torn down and we enter boldly into the presence of God hrough the veil of Christ’s flesh.
Do not shrink back but press in to the table of blessing that has been opened up to all men, Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free.
Consume the Word of God and let it dwell in you richly.
Let us pray.