Mark 7:24-26… And from there He arose and went away 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. 25 But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syro-Phoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
Jesus and his disciples in v. 24 continued their quest to find rest. From the day they got back from their missionary journeys (6:30-32) Jesus had been trying to withdraw from the crowds with them in order to find rest. Their first attempt failed when thousands awaited them on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus taught them and fed over 5,000 of them from five loaves of bread and two fish. After that, their retreat to the other side of the lake also ended without rest, for many awaited them in Gennesaret, and it was there that a sharp debate broke out concerning the tradition of the elders (eating with unwashed hands) versus the teaching of Scripture (7:1-23).
Now from Gennesaret in Galilee Jesus was determined to find the rest he and his disciples needed in order to be refreshed, escape from Herod’s clutches, and to put off his arrest the Jews sought. But in order to do so they would have to journey into Gentile territory – the region of Tyre which is the ancient territory of Phoenicia – modern-day Lebanon. This is the same region where Elijah was sent to gain rest by God some 800 years prior (1 Kings 17:9). Jesus wasn’t going into Gentile territory to preach, for his preaching was primarily for the Jews alone, for salvation is given “to the Jew first, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16). That said, Jesus, however, never refused a person from any race or city who came to him in faith. He came to call the Jews to salvation, but the Jews would be sent to call all Gentiles to the same salvation.
Now when they arrived in Tyre they realized that they could not go unnoticed. Back in 3:8 a delegation from Tyre had actually witnessed one of Jesus’ miracles, and his fame in Tyre became known. A woman of the Syro-Phoenician race living in Tyre apparently got word about Jesus, and her story of faith is in stark contrast to the faithless scribes & Pharisees who had just witnessed and rejected Jesus. This Canaanite woman (a general designation for pagans in Palestine) lived in a society where the prominent pagan god was named Astarte. The Canaanites had been targeted for annihilation 1,500 years prior by God throught Moses and Joshua, but Israel failed to achieve this. Now God was working His perfect will through their disobedience, and this woman would be part of that. It seems that her pagan gods were not fulfilling her longings, and she sought Jesus even while he attempted to sneak into town unnoticed.
The reason this Gentile woman sought Jesus was because her daughter was demon-possessed. Mark later records an account of demon-possession in a young boy (9:17-26) where sharp convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and uncontrollable falling into fire and water are the symptoms. The woman simply fell at Jesus’ feet (a show of worship and respect) and kept asking Jesus to exorcise the demon from her daughter. Like Jairus before, her sick child led her to Jesus.
Food for Thought
It takes faith to worship God, and without it it is impossible to please Him. Some have great faith, and some have small and weak faith. The Canaanite woman, however, had great faith, and this was in stark contrast to those who had actually seen Jesus’ miracles. Amazingly, she didn’t need to see the miraculous first-hand. What little she had heard about Jesus was so much better than what her pagan religion had to offer. Her belief drew her to seek Jesus and with simple yet bold faith ask him to save her child. That’s all it takes to please God... simple faith.
Mark 7:27-30… 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.” 28 But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having departed.
As the Canaanite woman continued to ask Jesus to cast the demon from her young daughter, Jesus did an interesting thing, he ignored her! Matthew 15:23 says that Jesus would not even answer the woman’s continual pleas. Furthermore, his behavior prompted the disciples to think he didn’t care about her, so they pleaded with Jesus to get rid of her. Jesus, however, was not only testing the woman’s faith but also that of the disciples (who were failing!).
Not only did Jesus ignore her (cf Matt. 5:23), but when he did address her his comments appear very insulting. In v. 27 he told her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Though Jesus’ words sound awfully rude at first glance, all he was telling the woman was that his first priority was to his disciples. After all, he was escaping the crowds in Palestine to instruct them in Tyre. And just as it was inappropriate to interrupt a family meal to give the dogs food from the table, so too was it inappropriate for him to interrupt his ministry to his disciples to give his attention to her, a Gentile. Broadly speaking, the children Jesus spoke of are a reference to Israel. Matthew 15:24 records Jesus as saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” The “lost sheep” were the elect of Israel chosen by God’s grace, and Jesus was sent to be their Messiah. His first task in doing that, however, was to train his disciples who would take his message to the Jews who would then take it to the Gentiles. In calling the woman a “dog” Jesus used it in reference to house pets who were oftentimes fed scraps from meals served. They ate crumbs off the floor.
What’s even more interesting is how the woman responded so quickly and with such wit after being seemingly insulted by Jesus. She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” Her faith was persistent and yet so humble. She knew that she was not part of God’s chosen people, Israel, and unworthy of anything Jesus could give her. But contrary to this woman, the Israelites (Jews) were filled with pride and self-righteousness because of God’s favor toward them. She, however, was willing to settle for the mere crumbs that fell from their table – a crumb that would deliver her daughter from demon-possession.
Jesus’ response to the woman’s unshakable faith in him appears to be one of great joy as he addressed her (probably with a big smile) and tells her that her daughter had been delivered from the demon. After testing the woman’s faith most severely Jesus heard what he wanted to hear. She then went home to find her daughter in her right mind and free from the demon.
Food for Thought
All of us have requests that we offer to God. We come to him without seeing Him or hearing Him. We only believe in His existence through humble faith, and He saves us by His grace. When we pray to Him sometimes, in His mercy, He spares us what our selfish heart desires. At other times He waits long periods of time before answering us – much like Jesus did with the Canaanite woman to test our faith. At times it will appear as if God is ignoring us and even basking in our sorrow when things only get worse. But because He loves us He withholds His answers at times. We must respond in humility, and when the time is right, and if our faith holds strong, He will grant our request, and tell us, “Your faith is great! Here is your answer.”
Mark 7:31-37… And Jesus went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and spoke with difficulty and asked him to lay his hand upon him. 33 He took him aside from the multitude by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, he said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the barrier of his tongue was gone, and he began speaking plainly. 36 Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; he makes even the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.”
After leaving Tyre Jesus came back into Galilee into the region of Decapolis – literally “the ten cities.” This was the place where the Gerasene demoniac who had been delivered from a legion of demons had gone to preach following his deliverance by Jesus (cf. Mark 5:20), so it makes sense that Jesus would be known there. A group of people met him there bringing a deaf man who had a speech impediment and asked him to lay his hands on the man. The word Mark uses to describe the man’s speech impediment is an allusion to Isaiah 35:5ff. which gives glory to God as the One who comes to unclog the ears of the deaf and give song to the dumb. The Jewish rabbis of Jesus’ day were looking for this fulfillment as evidence in the coming Messiah.
In v. 32 all the people asked of Jesus was that he lay hands on the man. This request indicates the fact that whoever brought this man to Jesus, whether Jews or Gentiles, were familiar with this Jewish custom which they connected with blessing. But Jesus took the man aside, put his fingers in the man’s ears, spit on the ground, and said, “Be opened!” The man was healed immediately, and he was able to speak which points to the fact that his loss of hearing and speech problem came about later in his life. Jesus then ordered the people to keep quiet about what he had done so that he would not be simply labeled a “miracle worker” in Decapolis. But they disregarded this and spoke freely about the miracle. They were so amazed by Jesus’ healing that they proclaimed, “He has done all things well! Even the deaf hear and the dumb speak!”
Food for Thought
In the previous scene, a Gentile woman sought for Jesus and with great faith pursued him even when it appeared that Jesus was ignoring her. Her persistent faith in waiting for him to heal her daughter resulted in her daughter being exorcised of the demon that possessed her. In the scene of Mark 7:31-37 Jesus left the Gentile territory and came back into the Jewish province of Galilee. Instead of one coming of their own volition, like the Gentile woman had done previously, the one needing help in v. 32 is brought to Jesus for healing by the will of those who cared for him. He was deaf and spoke with difficulty, so he was likely ignorant of Jesus and his ministry. As such, he can’t be called a man of faith, at least not from what the text gives us. This presents an interesting contrast in how Jesus deals with those who approach him in faith. He tested the woman’s faith by ignoring her and even seemingly insulting her standing in society as a “dog.” But he does no such thing with the deaf man whose faith is never spoken of. Possibly the real faith was in those who brought the man to Jesus. One way or the other, however, Jesus miraculously caused him to hear and enabled him to speak. Clearly God has various ways of working in and with His people. Some call out in faith, and He makes them wait. Others seem to get what they want without even asking for it. Either way, God does what He does to bring glory to Himself. He indeed “does all things well!” Look around today and acknowledge His goodness.
The Qualities of Great Faith (Mark 7:24-37)
- Faith… weak, strong, bold, rich, abiding, steadfast, bold, precious, common, unfeigned, working, and obedient. Also, little faith and great faith.
- Great faith in the NT is commonly seen in Gentiles as opposed to Jews. Those who didn’t know anything about God came to God humbly and without question. Those who knew God were proud and hindered due to their hardness of heart – a result of being Jewish.
I) The Setting (7:24 [Matt. 15:21]) – In Tyre to escape and find rest
A) Elijah found rest in this same region (1 Kings 17:9)
B) From those who wanted to make him king
C) From Herod who wanted him killed
D) From the Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus destroyed
E) Primarily to train the Twelve in private
1) Gospel to begin through the Jews (Jew first, then the Greek in Rom. 1:16)
2) The Twelve would take the message to the Gentiles
II) The Qualities of Great Faith (7:25-26 [Matt. 15:22-27])
A) Repentance (Matt. 15:22a) – “Have mercy on me Lord, son of David”
1) She was tired of her pagan gods (Astarte), so she “turned” from them
2) Repentance adds nothing to faith but is rather an integral part of it.
3) Saving faith = repentance: “Repentance to God = faith in Christ” (Acts 20:21)
4) Spurgeon: “Faith & repentance are joined together like Siamese twins”
5) “The kindness of God leads us to repentance” [Rom. 2:4]
B) Rightly directed and reverent (7:25) – must have the right object
1) Like Jairus he knew only Jesus could heal
2) Like the bleeding woman she knew only Jesus could help her
C) Persistent (26) – would not go away b/c of her great need
D) Humble (25, 28)
1) She fell at Jesus’ feet signifying her need
2) Recognized that she only a “dog” – a Gentile; she had no pride to get in the way
III) The Lord’s Response (27, 29-30)
A) Seemingly indifferent – [Matt. 15:23-24 says he didn’t even answer her]
B) Painstakingly evasive – he kept putting her off to test her persistence
C) Unmistakably attentive
1) Jesus heard and rewarded her tested faith and called it “great”
2) Her own faith delivered her daughter from the demon
- Both people were healed through the faith of others
- Jesus established his need for rest in 1:35. He shows how much he and the disciples need it by pursuing so diligently even though they never seem to find it.
- Jesus is focused almost entirely on teaching the Twelve. When he heals and/or teaches they are his primary audience, but he never shuns those who seek him along the way. As the pastor of this church my task is the teach those who come to learn and grow – as my primary pastoral focus. People come along as I go about my task, and I take time for them too (counseling families outside HBC, leading Bible studies outside HBC, etc.).