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Hope for the Gentiles

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Introduction

Good morning and welcome again to Dishman Baptist Church. We are so thankful that you are here - and for those of you who are joining us online we’re thankful for you as well. It is always a highlight of my week to be here with you - and not because I am the speaker but that we get the awesome opportunity to open up the Word of God together and to study what it is that God has for us in His Word. Please take your Bibles and open them with me to Mark 7, Mark 7. If you’re new here or you’re joining us online for the first time please take a moment to fill out our connection card and if you give it to me after service or if you’re online and you give us permission to contact you we’ll give you a free gift from us as a thank you for joining us in the worship of our majestic and amazing God this morning.
It is always challenging to be a pastor and a preacher. I remember hearing someone talk about how they had responded to one of his college students, he was a college pastor at the time, who said he wanted to be a pastor so he could do nothing all week. He said that he asked the student how he liked preparing 10-20 page papers and true to most college students he wasn’t too thrilled by the idea. Then he asked him how he would like to prepare a 10-20 page paper every week for the rest of his life. The young man may have changed his mind right then. And there is an added challenge that I’ve been reminded of this week. There is the challenge of preparing a 10-20 page paper on a different subject or genre every week - the Bible is 66 books made up of different genres of writing and each of them have different structures and styles and interpretive points that need to be focused on. This morning we are continuing through the Gospel of Mark and we’re looking in to a narrative. And on the surface this story seems to be about one thing but I think as we dig down deeper we may see that there’s more than initially meets the eye to this story. With that in mind let’s read together Mark 7:24-37.
Mark 7:24–37 CSB
He got up and departed from there to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it, but he could not escape notice. Instead, immediately after hearing about him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she was asking him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, because it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she replied to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “Because of this reply, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.” When she went back to her home, she found her child lying on the bed, and the demon was gone. Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it. They were extremely astonished and said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Do you see it? What are these two stories about? They’re just about the healing of a little girl and a man who is deaf and has trouble speaking. Jesus demonstrates yet again His incredible power over the natural realm. Let’s move on to next week’s passage. Ah, but did you catch all of it. Let’s backtrack a minute and then we’ll dig in to this morning’s text. I want to back up a bit because this context is important for us to understand everything Mark desires to convey in this story.
Mark 7:14–23 CSB
Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean). And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
I know you’re all saying “yes, Chris, you preached that passage last week. We remember.” But having that passage again fresh in our minds - let’s now turn our attention back to these stories and see what the Spirit is seeking to teach us this morning. If you want to get a jump on our outline here it is: He Went Where?; Oh, the nerve of the woman; Another Journey; Another Healing? So that’s our outline now let’s dig in.

He Went Where?

Have you ever just needed a break? A vacation? A chance to get away from all of the stress and challenges of life, to rest a bit and to recharge. We take great pleasure in vacations - in the planning and the preparation. The anticipation as the day approaches - and then we board our flight, or our cruise or maybe for some of us we just load every one into the car and point it towards the horizon and we’re off to destinations unknown. Maybe as I’m saying this your mind drifts to where you would want to take a vacation to right now. The Bahamas. Florida. Hawaii. Maybe for some of you it is to Alaska. Europe. Australia.
I would say that it is a fair bet to say that for most of you places like Iraq, North Korea, Syria or Lebanon made the list.
But that is essentially where Mark tells us that Jesus goes when He wants to get away. Not only is Tyre the physical location of what would be Lebanon today but it was a city state that had maintained a tenuous relationship with Israel for much of it’s history. Tyre lies on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea northwest of Galilee. It was founded in 2700 BC and consisted of two areas - a port city on the mainland and an island city about half a mile out in the bay. The city was meant to be a part of Asher’s inheritance
Joshua 19:29 CSB
The boundary then turned to Ramah as far as the fortified city of Tyre; it turned back to Hosah and ended at the Mediterranean Sea, including Mahalab, Achzib,
But was never actually conquered by the Jews.
2 Samuel 24:7 CSB
They went to the fortress of Tyre and all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites. Afterward, they went to the Negev of Judah at Beer-sheba.
Being a port city Tyre was a hub of commerce and information, a crossroads for the world. Tyre wasn’t always at odds with Israel - during the time of Kings David and Solomon the city provided lumber, building materials and skilled labor for the construction of David’s house as well as Solomon’s Temple.
Another contribution that Tyre made to the history of Israel, albeit an infamous contribution, Jezebel the wicked queen alongside King Ahab was from Tyre. Tyre and Israel became enemies and Tyre is the target of some of the most virulent and strongest prophetic denunciations in Scripture. Isaiah dedicates all of chapter 23 to denouncing Tyre. Jeremiah writes
Jeremiah 25:22 CSB
all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coasts and islands;
The prophets Joel and Amos add comments
Joel 3:4–8 CSB
And also: Tyre, Sidon, and all the territories of Philistia—what are you to me? Are you paying me back or trying to get even with me? I will quickly bring retribution on your heads. For you took my silver and gold and carried my finest treasures to your temples. You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks to remove them far from their own territory. Look, I am about to rouse them up from the place where you sold them; I will bring retribution on your heads. I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation, for the Lord has spoken.
Amos 1:9–10 CSB
The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing Tyre for three crimes, even four, because they handed over a whole community of exiles to Edom and broke a treaty of brotherhood. Therefore, I will send fire against the walls of Tyre, and it will consume its citadels.
The most scathing prophetic comments come from the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 26-28. Look at these words that he writes in Ezekiel 28:2.
Ezekiel 28:2 CSB
“Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Lord God says: Your heart is proud, and you have said, “I am a god; I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the sea.” Yet you are a man and not a god, though you have regarded your heart as that of a god.
These are often applied not only to Tyre but also to Satan. Tyre was a proud city that would play both sides of an argument, such as between the Egyptians and the Assyrians, and had become wealthy off of both of them. It was also a place of idolatry, sexual immorality and the natural pride that comes with being a city state in a globally strategic location. Ezekiel prophesied that the city would become “like the top of a rock” and become a place for the “spreading of nets” (Ezek. 26:4-5) and while this would eventually happen it wouldn’t be until 1291 AD. In Jesus day it was still a thriving city of bustling income and, much like Jonah, was the place that Jesus chose to get away and get some time alone with His disciples. But it seems like a very odd choice.
He was the Messiah. He was the chosen One of Israel that had been prophesied about and promised. He was the One who was to lead Israel back to prominence. The Jews hated Gentiles. They would only go to Gentile nations for business and then when returning home they would shake the dust off their feet before crossing over the border back into Israel so as not to bring the Gentile filth back into their nation. Another non-cannonical text found in the Septuagint the Psalms of Solomon contained a prophecy regarding the Messiah’s treatment of the Gentiles. I include this here as a historical reference to provide some background for us as to how outrageous it was that Jesus would visit a Gentile city.

23 See, O Lord, and raise up their king for them,

a son of David,

for the proper time that you see, God,

⌊to rule over Israel your servant⌋.

24 And undergird him with strength to shatter unrighteous rulers.

25–26 Cleanse Jerusalem from the nations that trample it in destruction,

to expel sinners from the inheritance in wisdom, in righteousness,

to rub out the arrogance of the sinner like a potter’s vessel,

to crush all their support with an iron rod;

27 to destroy lawless nations by the word of his mouth,

for Gentiles to flee from his face at his threat,

and to reprove sinners by the word of their heart.

28 And he will gather a holy people whom he will lead in righteousness,

and he will judge tribes of the people sanctified by the Lord its God.

29 And he will no longer permit injustice to dwell among them,

and no person who sees wickedness will dwell with them.

30 For he will know them, because all of them are sons of God,

and he will divide them among their tribes upon the earth.

31 And no longer will an expatriate or foreigner dwell among them;

he will judge peoples and nations by the wisdom of his righteousness.

The Messiah was supposed to crush the Gentiles - not go and take refuge among them. But Jesus had a divine appointment and a divine purpose for taking this trip. And Mark introduces us to the conflict and the climax of this narrative in short order as a woman approaches Christ in the house where He was staying.

Oh, the Nerve of the Woman

This woman had nothing in her favor as she approached Jesus. First of all in that society women didn’t just approach men and men didn’t address women. That’s one reason why the woman at the well in John 4 was so shocked that Jesus would talk to her. No man, let alone a rabbi, would interact with a woman. And this woman was a Gentile, a foreigner. And if those things weren’t enough, she came from a region that was well known for its religious idolatry and paganism. Matthew illuminates us more regarding this woman. Keep your finger in Mark 7 and turn over to Matthew 15 with me for a few moments.
Turn in your Bible to Matthew 15:21
Matthew 15:21–24 CSB
When Jesus left there, he withdrew to the area of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.” Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples approached him and urged him, “Send her away because she’s crying out after us.” He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
This woman was a Canaanite - a historical enemy of the Jews. But this woman had heard of Jesus, was concerned for her daughter and had come to see Him to ask for help. Notice verse 12 here - she kept crying out. This wasn’t a one time “Hey Jesus would you come and heal my daughter” she cried out to Him several times. And notice what she says “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David!” She has a more correct understanding of who Jesus is than the Jewish leaders or the Jewish people. She may be at the end of her rope, she’s tried everything that her pagan religious practices could offer and nothing had worked to free her daughter and so she hears of this Jewish teacher who has come to town. Mark has previously told us that Jesus wanted to remain secret but the His presence could not escape notice. Previously Mark tells us that people had come from the regions of Tyre and Sidon to see Jesus (Mark 3:7-8). And so this woman has come to implore this Jewish rabbi to heal her daughter. But if that’s all we see in this passage - a miracle healing then we really miss the point of their entire conversation.
Look briefly back at Matthew with me before we continue to explore the story that Mark is telling. Matthew has filled in the detail for us that this woman isn’t just a Gentile but a Canaanite and that she is persistent. He has also filled in for us that she, contrary to all of the Jews, seems to have a correct theological understanding of who Jesus is. His disciples were a bit slower to catch this understanding and all they saw was another problem - a Gentile woman with the audacity to approach their Master. Look at what they say in verse 23 - “Send her away because she’s crying out after us.” The disciples were always trying to get rid of people at this point in their ministry - the crowd on the hillside they wanted to send away, this woman they want to send away.
Jesus reply here is meant more for the woman than it is for His disciples - “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But this woman is not to be deterred. Matthew gives us one more key point here as he chooses the word knelt in Greek this is “proskyneo” (PRO-sku-neo) which carries the meaning of paying reverence or homage by kissing the hand, or to pay reverence of homage by prostrating oneself before someone. To worship, to pay divine homage. This woman recognizes that she is not kneeling before just another man - but instead is offering worship.
Flip back to Mark with me now as we look at the rest of our text from his perspective. He makes an interesting statement to her - “Let the children be fed first,” now stop there for a second. Let me ask you - what does this mean? What is He talking about? And why does He say first? Is Jesus saying that He is not willing to heal a Gentile? We know this isn’t the case because in chapter 5 He’s already demonstrated a willingness to heal a Gentile when He cast 5000 demons out of a man on the shoreline in the Gentile region of the Decapolis. So what is Jesus referring to? Let’s get to that answer so we can understand the key of this text for us.
He says “because it isn’t right tot take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” And we need to look at her reply here as well “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Now it is important for me to say right up front that this isn’t a conversation about whether or not Jesus would heal this little girl. And one other point to cover quickly is that the reference in this passage to dogs is not the pejorative manner in which Jews would refer to Gentiles or that Jesus and Paul would refer to either those who are hostile to the Gospel or false teachers. Jesus is using a parable to express to this woman the purpose of His coming and, to her credit, she not only understands it but actually enters herself into the story at the right place. What the disciples, who had been with Jesus for two years at this point, couldn’t do, this woman was able to do - she had ears to hear what Jesus was saying.
The point is that His primary mission was for the Jews first - notice that word because it is important. Jesus isn’t telling her that there would never be a day when Gentiles were not welcome at the table but that at the moment His redemptive mission is primarily for the Jews. And she not only understands it but accepts it. It is so important to recognize the physical illustration that comes out in this passage for His disciples as well as for us if we read with careful eyes. Jesus has just pronounced that it is nothing external that can defile us - not what we eat, not where we’re from, not our skin color… nothing external - but instead it is what is internal. Now here He is in the heart of what the Jewish nation would consider unclean amongst the idol worship, the pagan eating habits, the Canaanites and He finds one who has been granted faith and a pure heart to hear the truth and recognize who He is. What amazing faith this woman shows. Oh is only we had a measure of the same faith. Jesus marvels at her faith - flip back over quickly to Matthew 15
Matthew 15:28 CSB
Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was healed.
He grants her desire but the change that was wrought in that woman and her daughter was of a greater nature than just the removal of a demon. She returns home to find her child lying in peace on her bed resting - and her heart is at peace because of the faith that she has demonstrated and having been granted spiritual ears to hear - even though she is a Gentile. There is great hope in this passage that the Gospel was not coming just for the Jews - that Jesus message to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand was for all nations and would reach to all nations.
Greater than any verbal training the disciples could have received - which they probably would have missed anyway - this was a vivid physical example of what true faith looked like and a preview of what was to come, when they would begin to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But it is not the only example they would get on this trip - but first, briefly we have to take another journey.

Another Journey

Mark tells us that Jesus leaves Tyre, passing through Sidon and ends up in the region of the Decapolis. This is a stunning route.
I love to backpack and I’m constantly looking for longer and longer trails to go visit - but Jesus wasn’t out for recreation. He was traveling and many of us would have taken the shortest route. This circuitous route took Him 120 miles around when there was a much faster and shorter route - right through Galilee. Scholars have speculated on why Jesus chose this route. The most plausible explanation I think is that He had gone to Tyre to escape the constant scrutiny and threat of the Pharisees and Herod Antipas and so rather than running back in to them as He crossed Galilee He chose to go around and avoid a confrontation that would soon be thrust upon Him anyway. So He took this long journey to a region that, when He was last there, was almost equally as hostile to His presence. As a reminder look back with me at Mark 5:17
Mark 5:16–17 CSB
Those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and told about the pigs. Then they began to beg him to leave their region.
Jesus had traveled into the Decapolis region and healed this man who had tormented himself and the entire region and their response was to beg Him to leave. What could He possibly expect to find this time?

Another Healing?

Mark only tells us of one singular healing but Matthew tells us in chapter 15 that “large crowds came to Him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others.” He was mobbed by people this time. Why? We can attribute this to the efforts of one man - and this is a great demonstration of the power of evangelism. Look back at Mark 5:18-20
Turn in your Bible to Mark 5:18
Mark 5:18–20 CSB
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged him earnestly that he might remain with him. Jesus did not let him but told him, “Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.
The reason for the welcoming committee that meets Jesus this time is the efforts of one man in evangelism - in telling others what the Lord had done for him and how He had mercy on him - and the changing of people’s hearts.
Mark tells us of one man - a man born deaf that had a difficulty speaking. Imagine trying to learn how to speak correctly when you couldn’t hear the words that you were trying to learn. Couldn’t hear the sounds of the letters you were trying to pronounce. It would be incredibly difficult and this man had lived his whole life being thought of as mentally incompetent not only because he couldn’t hear but because he couldn’t speak rightly. So Jesus removes him from the crowd and, ignoring the fact that He was touching a Gentile, puts His fingers in His ears, touches His tongue looks up to Heaven and says Be opened.
Mark tells us that immediately his ears were opened and his tongue was loosened and he began to speak clearly. Think how amazing this is. In our culture there are people who need help with speaking for various reasons. But it takes months, sometimes years of therapy, for them to be able to speak clearly. And this man is capable of doing so immediately. But again this is not just an ordinary healing story where we are to marvel at the power of Jesus over the physical ailments that befall us. Look back with me at verse 32.
Mark 7:32 CSB
They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him.
Notice the word speaking - this is a very special word that Mark chooses purposely. The common word for speaking throughout the New Testament is laleo (La-Lao) - used 295 times in the New Testament. But the word that Mark uses here is mogilalos (Mo-Gi-La-Los) and it is only used in this one instance in the New Testament. And only one other time in the whole Bible - Isaiah 35. Look briefly at that passage with me.
Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 35
Isaiah 35:1–10 CSB
The wilderness and the dry land will be glad; the desert will rejoice and blossom like a wildflower. It will blossom abundantly and will also rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, steady the shaking knees! Say to the cowardly: “Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God; vengeance is coming. God’s retribution is coming; he will save you.” Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the parched ground will become a pool, and the thirsty land, springs. In the haunt of jackals, in their lairs, there will be grass, reeds, and papyrus. A road will be there and a way; it will be called the Holy Way. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks the path. Fools will not wander on it. There will be no lion there, and no vicious beast will go up on it; they will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk on it, and the ransomed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee.
Notice in verses 5-6
Isaiah 35:5–6 CSB
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
The tongue of the mute will sing for joy - mogilalos. This entire passage is about the Messiah redeeming the world and the ransomed of the world returning to Zion. This is an end times promise that it is not just the Jews who will be redeemed when the Messiah arrives but the whole world will be redeemed through Him. What an amazing promise for us today.

Conclusion

And that’s what ties everything together for us today - that’s the hope of this passage that Mark was seeking to convey to his readers in Rome and that the Holy Spirit is conveying to us today. Paul says it well in Ephesians 2:11-13
Ephesians 2:11–13 CSB
So, then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
And this was always the plan. We were always meant to be included. But we have to release our defiled hearts and submit to Him. He gives us a poignant demonstration here, a clear counterpoint of the effect of faith on the human heart that by all outward appearances has everything going in the wrong direction but inwardly is repentant and submissive to Him. Do you see it? Have you done it? Do you see that the promise that this passage made to the woman in Tyre is the same promise that is made to us today. That we will be grafted in - that we’re not even subject to receiving just the crumbs off of the children’s table anymore but that, because of the cross and the full revelation of who Christ is, we are welcomed at the table!
But it takes the efforts of faithful evangelists for this to happen. Jesus travelled 120 miles from Tyre to the Decapolis first to demonstrate for His disciples the power of true faith in the life of an individual but also the power of the efforts of one man to change the mindset of an entire region toward Jesus. The same calling that they would have shortly this man - the first Gentile missionary - had done well. To the point that instead of begging Jesus to leave, they were extremely astonished and said “He has done everything well.” We should hear echoes of creation in that statement
Genesis 1:31 CSB
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.
The Man who had created the earth was working to recreate hearts - to remove the defilement and replace it with purity - and He is still doing the same thing today.
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