A GENTILE FOR JESUS
The chasm which existed between Jew and Gentile could hardly have been wider. The Jews made it a point of faith not to eat at the same table with Gentiles. Indeed, one tradition had it that the reason God created Gentiles was to provide fuel for hell. In light of this, it is especially noteworthy that we see Jesus interacting with Gentiles.
Clean and Unclean Foods
Clean and Unclean People
Religious attitudes concerning unwashed hands
Religious attitudes concerning uncircumcised Gentiles
Jewish Pharisees exhibit no faith.
Gentile woman exhibits great faith.
Lesson to Disciples: All foods are clean.
Lesson to Disciples: Gentiles are clean.
We have seen Jesus cast demons out of Jewish people. Now He will heal a Gentile that is demonized.
A TIMELY RETREAT
Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. (Mark 7:24).
For several chapters we have seen the theme of Jesus desiring to get away from the crowds. Following the short-term mission trip of the Twelve, He had suggested that they retreat to a lonely place in order to rest for a time. But the crowd had followed and Jesus had fed them.
Then He had spent a night in prayer while the disciples rowed back across the Sea of Galilee. This solitude had been interrupted by a storm.
Now He actually leaves the lands of Galilee to travel northward to the ancient city of Tyre. Tyre was an old city. It had once been the home of the mightiest navy in the world. But these days it was a mere shadow of its former self. Just a tiny fishing village jutting out on a peninsula.
Jesus comes here to escape the crowds. He is seeking peace and quiet (“he wanted no one to know of it”). Why? Perhaps it was because He knew of the great trial that lay before Him. It is possible that He was taking advantage of the calm before the storm.
One of the reasons we don't do too well in the midst of storms is that we haven’t taken advantage of the quiet before the storm.
There is a direct correlation between what you do in a crisis and what you did before that crisis.
Are you in the quiet before the storm? Are things going pretty good in your life right now? It isn’t a time for playing checkers. It is a time for you to get ready. It is the quiet before the storm.
Perhaps another reason that Jesus may have left was that He was tired of religion. In the previous verses, He had just gone through a confrontation with the Pharisees over a hand-washing ceremony. And Jesus may have been tired of it.
Have you ever been around a brand new Christian lately? He hasn’t learned all of the cliches. He isn’t trying to put on a show of looking spiritual. He is like a breath of fresh air.
Sometimes I get tired of being around stuffy religious people. In those times, I want to pack up and run away. And that is what Jesus did.
A PERSISTENT REQUEST (7:25-26)
But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet.
Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. (Mark 7:25-26).
There is something special about this request. This woman was...
· A woman - as such she was doing something out of the ordinary in coming and speaking to Jesus.
· A Gentile - The text calls her a Greek, but this is used as a general term to describe one who was not Jewish.
· A Syrophoenecian - from an ancient race of idol-worshipers.
· A mother - this was the source of her need.
Her daughter “had an unclean spirit.” She was demon-possessed. And so she came to Jesus. The Greek tense indicates that she continued to ask Jesus to cast out the demon. She did not stop with a single request. She asked and then she kept on asking.
A RADICAL REFUSAL
And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27).
The reply of Jesus seems harsh in the extreme. That is because we tend to feel that He owed her something. He did not. His mandate, “Let the children be satisfied first,” seems to point to the disciples. Jesus had not come here in order to draw a crowd. He had not come here in order to heal. He had come here to spend time with His disciples. They seem to be the object of the reference to “children.” His time on earth was limited. And His time with His disciples was equally limited.
In spite of this, the reply of Jesus still seems overly harsh. Especially in view of his referring to the woman and her Gentile ancestry as “dogs.”
The Jews called the Gentiles “dogs” in the same way we would call someone a "bitch" (Matthew 7:6; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15). It was a term of contempt.
But Jesus does not use the normal Greek word for “dog” - . He uses instead the diminutive form - - “puppy.” And perhaps this gives us a clue that we should not be imagining a harsh tone in His words. Perhaps there is a twinkle in His eye as He makes a play on the words which were so commonly used by the religious Jews to insult this woman.
A HUMBLE RESPONSE
But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28).
The woman was not insulted by the words of Jesus. She accepts His judgment. And then she asks Him again for His help. There is no false pride here. She does not become offended. She recognizes her unworthiness, even as she continues her request, pointint out that “even the little puppies under the table eat the little crumbs of the little children.”
This woman is a loser. She is a woman in a man’s world. She is a Gentile before a Jewish Messiah. But that is the kind of person to whom God can respond in grace. He only reaches out to losers. If you are going to Christ because you want Him to tell you how wonderful you are, then don’t bother. But if you are a loser, then call out to Him and He will help you.
A GRACIOUS REWARD
And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left. (Mark 7:29-30).
Against all odds, the woman had come to Jesus and had continued to petition Him until her prayers were answered. She had faced a challenge to her faith and she had persisted, wrestling with the Lord until she received the blessing she sought.
The reason God doesn’t answer our prayers is because we really don't believe that He will. When you pray for rain, do you take your umbrella? If not, then you don’t really believe.
There is a sense in which this woman represents the Gentile world. Jesus had come to His own people - the House of Israel. But the leaders of the Jews rejected Him. That bread of heaven which was rejected and thrown away by the Jews is now received by the Gentiles. But there is a warning. If we do not receive that same bread of life from the hands of Jesus, then it will be taken from us.