Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mark 7:24-30 Jesus Heals a Syro-Phonecian Woman's Daughter

24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” 28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.

Jesus having taught the disciples in Galilee that defilement does not come from the outside; from not observing the commandments of men, which cannot purify the heart and soul from its sins. But rather what we say, for the things we say is often a reflection of the sins within us. Now moves into a region of the Gentiles. Northwestward, roughly fifty miles along the Mediterranean coast to Tyre and Sidon, metropolises and their surrounding regions in what is modern day Lebanon. If you remember early on in Jesus’ ministry many Gentile people having heard of His mighty works had already come to Him from this region, as well as Idumea (ancient Edom) and regions beyond the Jordan (Mark 3:8). Thus early on Jesus had quite an eclectic following, seeing He did not discriminate against anyone based on nationality (John 4:1-42), gender (John 11:5), occupation (Matt. 8:5-13), reputation (Luke 7:36-50), or really anything else (Luke 8:1-3), which made the Pharisees at times very hostile towards Him (Matt. 9:9-13).

So it will be that while Jesus is there, in the land of the Gentiles, in the regions of Tyre and Sidon with the twelve Apostles. That Jesus having entered a house did not want it to be made known, yet it becomes known. In fact the Scripture says He could not be hidden (vs. 24). Now Jesus entered the house of a foreigner, with the twelve Apostles’ in a foreign land. Not a big deal unless you are a Jew living under the Law. Yet this is not the first time Jesus had done something “controversial” like that. For Jesus freely entered the homes of both the Pharisees (the Jewish religious leaders) as well as Tax collectors and sinners (people the religious leaders went to great lengths to avoid coming into contact with), even Samaritans (a neighboring people group whom the Jews shunned), simply at their invitation and without reservation, which is something everyone should take note of, for Jesus Christ will enter the heart of anyone who simply invites Him in. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20

Now the Scripture says that while Jesus was staying in this particular house that a Gentile woman, a Syro-Phoenician by birth meaning this woman had absolutely no claims or means of appeal to God by belonging either to the common wealth of Israel, or even having a share in Israel’s ancestry; as the Samaritan woman at the well did, (see John 4:12), comes to Jesus, and falling at His feet she begins to plead with Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter. Jesus’ though does not initially respond to her request as is so often the case in the gospel, instead He replies to her request by saying: …“Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Vs. 27 Now Jesus’ response taken at a glance is startling, some might even say harsh, and is utterly out of character with His dealings with people. Nonetheless His demeanor will immediately change towards her as she exemplifies a truly humble faith with her response to Him, when she says: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” vs. 28 And with that Jesus says to her …“For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” Vs. 29 And so it was when the woman had returned home she found the demon had gone out of her daughter and she was lying on a bed (vs. 30).

Now what do we make of this? Why was Jesus being rude towards this Syro-Phoenician woman? Are Gentiles really just dogs in His eyes when compared with Israelites? And did He yield to her request just to make her go away? If all one knew of Jesus Christ was from this one passage, one might come to that kind of erroneous and ill considered conclusion. Nonetheless the gospel does not endorse or support such a view of Him and His views of others. For Jesus had already demonstrated a genuine concern for and willingness to heal all kinds of people from this region. And not just this region, but every region He visited, or where people came from seeking Him. Jesus received all who sought Him or He allowed Himself to be received by people from every imaginable culture and walk of life. Even expounding two Gentiles as true people of faith in His first sermon to His hometown in Nazareth, one of which was a widow from this region in the Elijah the prophet’s day; yet Jesus exonerated only her, though there were many widows in Israel in days of Elijah. Similarly Jesus only exonerated Naaman (a leper) and commander of entire Syrian army in the days Elisha the prophet, though there were many lepers in Israel during that time as well (See Luke 4:24-27). His Words than so enraged them that they sought to throw Him off a cliff. Nonetheless Jesus walked away from them unscathed. Therefore though the gospel prophetically was to first come to the Jews, in no way is it partial or limited to them. Simply stated John 3:16 has no boundaries.
***It seems then Jesus was demonstrating the nationalistic pride and exclusivism of His own disciples. To show them (and us) how rude they (and often we) appear in our dealings with people, especially people outside of the covenant community of faith. Make no mistakes about it God’s heart is that no one should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). For God is not partial towards anyone, whether individuals or nations, as God profoundly enlightened the Apostle Peter when the gospel was unwittingly being restricted by the disciples (Read Acts 10); thus Peter went on to declare …“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Acts 10:34-35

Now regarding Jesus’ visiting with a foreigner consider King David upon whom God has established Jesus’ Everlasting throne had many dealings with foreigners. Even trusting his own parent’s welfare to the King of Moab when King Saul began seeking his life (1 Sam. 22:3-4). Later King David while in exile made many close and deeply loyal friends with people who sadly some would classify as “pagan.” Yet it was these so called “pagans” that King David when he attained to the throne as God decreed appointed them as his own bodyguard. In essence he trusted them with his life (2 Samuel 8:15-18). Later King David would also trust them with his son King Solomon’s life as God’s chosen heir to the throne (1 Kings 1:38-40). For it was these men, the Cherethites and the Pelethites from the Philistine city of Gath and surrounding territory; where Goliath the giant dwelt, whom David slew; and where David briefly dwelt in exile, that David developed a loyal following of valiant men (1 Sam. 27:2-3; 2 Sam. 15:17-18). Now these men remained faithful to him throughout his life. Even when his own two sons, first Absalom, than an unrelated Benjamite named Sheba, than Ammon, Absalom’s younger brother, with the people of Israel rebelled and tried to seize the throne. Yet these non-Israelite men fought for King David even when the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against both him and them (See 2 Samuel 15:13-18; 20:4-7). Now during this time one “pagan” man’s self sacrifice in particular stands out. A commander named Ittai the Gittite; (a nokriy, a foreigner, the same word Ruth the Moabitess used to describe herself when Boaz promised to be her Redeemer; see Ruth 2:10), who having just the previous day fled from his own territory near Gath sought refuge with King David. And so it was when David fled Jerusalem from Absalom’s attempted overthrow of him, Ittai the Gittite though a foreigner and newly arrived will swear loyalty to King David, whether in life or death, even when King David granted him an unconditional release from the upcoming battle (2 Sam. 15:19-22). Later King David will appoint Ittai the Gittite as commander over one third of his forces (2 Sam. 18:22). Now after the battle Ittai the Gittite is never mentioned again in the Scriptures giving rise for some Bible scholars to speculate that he was killed in the ensuing battle with Absalom’s forces (Nelson’s Bible Dictionary). For God’s servants, and those who are loyal to Him often come from many different nationalities, backgrounds and life experiences.

Note: This is a draft version

Scripture Quotations
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.
*** Though not a direct quote this notion was gleaned entirely from Mark 7:24 in the Thomas Nelson, Inc., Word in Life study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996. 

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