Mark 7:24-30 24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
At the age of 30 years old, about 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth entered into public ministry following His baptism and manifested the Kingdom of God upon earth. He was establishing a new kingdom that was unique and different from the nation of Israel that God had established through Abraham thousands of years earlier. The Son of God became flesh and entered into creation during a time in which the people of Israel were being led astray from a proper understanding of the Word of God (the Old Testament scriptures) by the Pharisees and the scribes who were the only people in Israel who could still read the scriptures in the original Hebrew language. They had all kinds of extra regulations on top of the 613 Old Testament laws that the nation of Israel was to follow but their man made laws actually contradicted what God had intended. The Jews naturally thought that they were better than all the other nations as eternal salvation could only be known through the teachings that God had given them but the Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing would be composed of individuals from all nations. At this point in Jesus’ ministry (as recorded in Mark 7), He has taught His disciples the basic fundamental principles of His new Kingdom and sternly rebuked the false teachers. He is now establishing that the Gentile nations would be a part of this Kingdom and further rebuking the self-righteous Jews by showing the genuine faith of Gentile believers in contrast to their own.
Jesus travels to the region of Tyre and Sidon in secret with His disciples but obviously His fame had reached here as well. A Gentile woman begged Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. Jesus’ response seems rather harsh. He seems to call her a dog. Why would he do this? Dogs were vermin and not regarded as we view them in our culture. They were not liked. And the Gentiles (the foreign nations) were considered by the Jews as dogs as all kinds of evil was practiced by them. Romans 1:26-32 describes the evil acts performed by the Gentiles.
Romans 1:29-31 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
But these evil acts were actually no different than what was in the heart of the unbelieving Jews as Jesus had just explained previously to the Pharisees and the scribes:
Mark 7:21-23 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
How would you respond when confronted with the reality that your upbringing was not a good one? We don’t choose what home we are raised in. Often we don’t fully comprehend whether our upbringing was a good one or not until we are much older. It is as our world expands and we learn from others and compare to our own that we get more perspective. It can be very difficult and painful to acknowledge that you were not raised as well as others let alone how God intended. It was a great privilege to be raised as a Jew as the laws that they followed most clearly reflected God’s desires as compared to all of the other nations. This Gentile woman understood and believed that she was a dog compared to the children (the Jews). What Jesus said to her, while it may have seemed to be offensive was in fact the truth.
How shocking was her response! The disciples must have been amazed. They had been taught growing up to look up to the Pharisees and scribes as men of great faith but Jesus now had exposed them to be hypocrites and rather it was this Gentile woman who showed great faith. And we know that the disciples had judged her wrongly. In the parallel account recorded in Matthew 15:22-23 the disciples begged Jesus to send her away. They had previously cast out demons among the Jews when Jesus had sent them out (Mark 6:7-13). Why did they not want to help her? Because she was a Gentile and they assumed she was living a wicked life.
The woman responded to Jesus by saying that even the dogs eat the children’s crumbs as they spill food from the table. She recognized Jesus as the Christ. She knew He could save her daughter. Even though she was a Gentile, even though she did not have a godly upbringing and had probably lived a wicked life in her past, she knew that Jesus was the only means of her salvation. She was looking for the Christ. She recognized Jesus for who He really was. She put her faith in Him and was willing to humble herself before Him no matter the cost. Her faith was desperate and persistent. She did not care if she offended the disciples. She needed Jesus and would know Him no matter what! She would not be denied in her pursuit of Jesus.
How does Jesus respond? Without even seeing her daughter, He casts the demon out. From a distance Jesus sets her free. He acknowledges the mother’s desperate faith and blesses her. She would be a part of His new Kingdom. Her home would not be as she was raised. Perhaps her daughter was demon possessed because of the past practices of her parents in their worship of a false god. But now this mother would raise her daughter in a godly home. She would teach her daughter to know Jesus Christ. She would live according to God’s commands as recorded in the Bible. The hardship that she had suffered would be replaced with joy and peace and love in knowing God and Jesus Christ who would later die for her sins.
Do you understand that Jesus is seeking those who are like this woman to be in His Kingdom: persistent, desperate, humble. He is seeking those who are willing to submit to Him and to recognize that Jesus is the only means of their salvation. It matters not how you were raised or how evil your heart once was. God wants you to seek Him with all your heart and He will regenerate it. He will make it new and pure and holy. It matters not that others judge you and condemn you. Seek Him with desperation! Jesus came to this earth to save you! He loves you!
Pastor Murray Hack