7:24 From there he set out and went away
to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone
to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 7:25 but a
woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately
heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 7:26 Now
the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him
to cast the demon out of her daughter. 7:27 He said to her, "Let
the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the
children's food and throw it to the dogs." 7:28 But she answered
him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's
crumbs." 7:29 Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go
the demon has left your daughter." 7:30 So she went home, found
the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. 7:31
Then he returned from the region of Tyre,
and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region
of the Decapolis. 7:32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an
impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on
him. 7:33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and
put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.
7:34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha,"
"Be opened." 7:35 And immediately his ears
were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 7:36
Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered
them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 7:37 They were
astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he
even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
The Gospel of the Lord . . .
In this morning's Gospel lesson we hear of
Many People Begging Jesus to Help Them . . . . and yet one of the
overarching themes contained in these two stories is that Jesus
begins to minister to the Gentiles, the Gospel will not be
constrained to the Jewish people only, but will go forth to all
those who live around Israel . . . .
The Miracle is that the Salvation of God
now becomes available to the Gentiles -- Jesus Ministry will now
touch All People!
Another interesting part of the lesson is
that Jesus provides deliverance for people who begged him to act
on behalf of others. We heard about the woman who forcefully seeks
out Jesus to deliver her daughter from an unclean spirit (a
demon). And then there is the group of people (the "THEY") who
bring their companion to Jesus in order that he might be delivered
from Deafness and unclear speech.
Hearing these stories about people who
were very specific and intentional about getting Jesus' attention
can also cause us to become more aware of the effort that is
necessary on our part when we desire for Jesus to intervene in a
critical area of our lives or the life of another. Let us examine
for a moment the role of the Syrophoenician woman. We don't know
her by name but she stands out in scripture as one of the most
profoundly faithful persons in the Gospels.
Note that in the beginning of the lesson
-- Jesus was not wanting to be around any people, he had withdrawn
from the Jewish territory of Galilee and went to the northern
Gentile area of Syria. He did this in order to escape the crowds
who were continuously following after him. Perhaps he needed time
to rest and to instruct the disciples in the next phase of their
missionary work. But as soon as Jesus has gone into hiding, we
learn that this woman finds out where Jesus is and she will not be
deterred in her mission to plead with Jesus to deliver and to heal
her little daughter who suffers from an illness, described as an
In considering her actions we must
remember that she is violating multiple rules of social engagement
for that time and place.
Most obviously, she is a Gentile, a Greek,
she is considered to be an unclean person in view of Jesus and the
disciples, who are just a day or so away from Jesus' argument with
the Pharisees about what is clean and unclean (remember last
Sunday?!). Jews could not associate with Greeks because these
people were ritually impure!
Also, as we learn more in depth about this
story we need to recognize that She should not approach Jesus
because she is of Syrophoenician origin -- (a Canaanite) and the
Jews of the Galilean countryside had not only held an age-old
grudge against her people, but there was a present hatred because
there was a kind of "food war" going on.
As it turns out, Galilean stomachs were
grumbling because certain agricultural trade rules had been put
into effect during this time. The Jewish farmers in Galilee had to
grow and supply a certain percentage of their produce to the
region around Tyre, a seaport town. Because of the quota that was
established and possibly enforced by Roman political and military
authority, there would be times when the Galilean farm families
themselves would not have enough to eat!! (Does this sound
familiar in light of today's World Trade rules and our farmer
neighbors who struggle to remain on their farms?)
Back to our story . . .
So there is animosity to say the least
between the Jewish people where Jesus is from and the people from
the area where this woman is from and therefore, she should not be
expecting a warm reception as she boldly enters into the house
where Jesus is staying. But enter she does, and the text indicates
that she 'throws herself down' at Jesus feet, begging him to
deliver her daughter from the demon. Let us pause here for a
moment in order to consider how we visualize this woman's
It seems to me that our image of her is
one that includes her being poorly dressed--wearing drab clothing,
she has scraggly hair, an unkept appearance . . . she's not much
to look at; she must be poor and illiterate. . . . But, as we
learn by her actions and presentation with Jesus . . . perhaps we
should picture her with a different image?
How does it feel to change our image of
her to a woman who is well dressed in a colorful gown-- her hair
is not scraggly, but "smartly groomed" for the period. She is not
illiterate, but she speaks Greek, the language of trade and
commerce during those times. She has a 'keen sense' of what is
happening in the social and religious culture where she lives --
and because she is informed, she has been inspired to seek out
Jesus. She has determined that He is the only one who can deliver
her daughter. Obviously, she is a concerned parent, and her
actions demonstrate a high level of concern for the little girl --
the same kind of protective love that any of us can appreciate.
Let us consider her actions:
She knows that it is a "double" risk to
enter into the house where these Jesus is lodging . . . so?? Does
she knock on the door? NO! . . . , for she does not wish to be
told to go away. Instead, she throws herself into the presence of
Christ -- he cannot simply tell her to leave, but he must now deal
with her and the object of her design -- the deliverance of her
To be honest, I continue to have
difficulty imagining her as a sophisticated woman -- throwing
herself into a submissive position at the feet of the Lord, and
yet if you consider Mark's Gospel teachings up to this point you
may recall that the Synagogue Ruler, a man of authority, Jairus,
has also fallen at the feet of Jesus and pleaded for healing for
his daughter who was deathly ill.
One of the lessons that we should gain by
this text is that there is grace and mercy extended to ALL at the
feet of Jesus -- although there is not an automatic answer from
God, a degree of faith, genuine conviction and a depth of
character are required.
In both stories from the Gospel lesson we
heard of people begging Jesus for what they hoped for -- this
action required the getting-down on one's knees before the Lord.
It Is Humbling!! And it is not an easy position for most of us to
assume, neither physically nor spiritually. Few of us have had to
beg for the "things" we've needed or have desired in this life.
Nevertheless, this woman has cast herself at Jesus feet . . . not
in a pathetic begging, instead, her actions are calculated: She
has heard about Jesus, of all of the wondrous things and
miraculous healings he has done for the Jewish people in and
around Galilee. She must have thought to herself, "He could do the
same for me in delivering my little girl from this terrible
demon--this dreadful illness."
She must have been able to read through
Jesus' actions of compassion and love amongst the people of Israel
-- and she must have reasoned to herself, "Christ the Healer will
not ultimately discriminate against me, even though I am a 'Greek
lady,' but his mercy and power will work for me -- on behalf of my
daughter." As she thinks these thoughts --
She must have considered that Christ, the
one who delivered people and healed them, would not play a part in
the religious segregation established in that day and would not
deny her request because of hatred between the two peoples caused
by unjust agricultural trade policies.
As we know from the outcome of the Story,
Jesus grants her request because she has demonstrated her own wise
thought. Remember the exchange: "He said to her, "Let the children
be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and
throw it to the dogs." 7:28 But she answered him, "Sir, even the
dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 7:29 Then he said
to her, "For saying that, you may go the demon has left your
Institutions of hatred and discrimination
that have always so easily divided people groups cannot remain
valid when the ministry of Christ's salvation and deliverance
--The Gospel -- are to be spread throughout the world!
Indeed, this woman's interaction with
Jesus seems to have been the "catalyst of opportunity" that opens
up Jesus' ministry to the Gentiles and indeed this new outreach of
Christ to the NON-Jewish population is confirmed by His healing of
the deaf and mute man that also takes place outside of Jesus'
ministry to the Jewish people.
Finally, we must address the difficulty of
this passage: Jesus frankly insults this woman . . . how should we
think about this? Is this the Jesus we have always known?
Or perhaps we can view this story in
another way, Both participants, Jesus and the Woman, play equally
important roles in teaching us How to interact with people we have
not been accustomed to being with. Jesus does not deny the social
and religious realities of the time and place. Neither does the
woman, but in the end we are drawn to her persistence:
When at first it seems that Jesus will not
speak with her, and that her request is about to go unfulfilled --
because Jesus is sent "first" to serve the Jewish people, she does
not give up!. . . but instead, she enlists her intelligence, her
faith, and she invests her character! "Lord, even the dogs eat the
crumbs from the children's table." Her's is a faith that triumphs
in the midst of God's challenge. She is like Jacob who wrestled
with God all night. The testing times do come and we are forced to
wrest an answer from God!
You and I have known these times . . .
when it seems that God is not answering our prayers, when it seems
that things are not going the way that we thought that they should
and discouragement sets in. This is the time when we must enter
into the house where Jesus is present, these are the times when we
must fall on our knees and pour out our needs and prayers on
behalf of others . . . these are the times when we should go with
the strength of Character that God has given us . . . even as did
the Syrophoenician Woman and the unnamed "THEY" who brought the
deaf and mute man to Jesus.
When we commit ourselves to Beg Jesus on
behalf of others' Welfare, Righteousness, and Justice -- then we
shall know the full measure of his power working in and through
us, both now and forevermore, Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, we come to you at various
times in our lives with great needs for ourselves and for our
loved ones. Give us faith like this woman whom you conversed with
so long ago, and may we also remember that we must welcome
strangers into our midst and extend to them the Gospel, for the
Church is your eternal family. In the name of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit. Amen
more writings of Pastor Jon