Saturday 2 August 2014

Even the dogs (Mark 7:24-30)

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.
Mark 7:24

  • Jesus is on holiday. That’s the reason he is Tyre and Sidon. That’s the reason he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s in Tyre and Sidon. Jesus is on a holiday.
  • In the build-up to this passage, Jesus has been hounded by the masses: The five thousand people in Chapter 6, the Pharisees in Chapter 7. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t have time for people. If you remember, he feeds the five thousand. He heals the sick. The bible tells us: “He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34)
  • But in spite of this, Jesus isn’t looking for attention. It is strangely comforting to see Jesus worn out by his popularity. Again and again, he slips away from the crowds - either to pray or to be with his friends (Mark 6:31,46). Even Jesus needs a break from ministry. Even Jesus needs time to be with God.
  • So here, in verse 24, Jesus crosses the border to the region of Tyre and Sidon. This was Gentile territory. Here, there would be no followers. No Pharisees.
  • But it didn’t work.

But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet.
Mark 7:25

  • This woman doesn’t care that Jesus is on holiday. She is a mom - and moms care about one thing: Their kids.
  • Verse 25 tells us that this woman’s daughter has an unclean spirit. Now I know we want to say that this little girl is “very ill”, but the truth is we don’t know what her illness is. Is she suffering? Is she dying? We don’t know. Instead what we do know is that this illness was caused by Satan. Four times, the passage tell us that a demon - or an unclean spirit - is behind the attack.
  • “And she begged him to to cast the demon out of her daughter.” (Mark 7:26) This woman is on her knees begging Jesus, “Please… I love my daughter. You must help her.”  
  • Some of us look at that and think, “I would never do that!” And maybe you wouldn’t. But do you know who would? Your mom, who loves you, who would do anything for you. She would do this.
  • This woman falls at Jesus’ feet. She doesn’t care about embarrassing herself or being an inconvenience to Jesus. She loves her daughter and she would do anything for her daughter.
  • The first thing we see is that she’s a mom. But the bible tells us another important thing about this woman and that’s verse 26.

Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth.
Mark 7:26

  • The point of this verse is to say: This woman has no connection to Jesus. She was born in a different country. She comes from a different culture.
  • And most importantly, she worships a different god. This woman has never stepped into a church building her entire life. Yet here she is kneeling before Jesus and calling him Lord.
  • What’s going on? Maybe she is desperate. “Who cares if Jesus is God? If he can help me, I’ll go to church. If he blesses me, I’ll worship him.” Many people think that way when they come to Jesus Christ. They want him to do something for them.
  • But as we will see from this passage, that is not the case with this woman. Even though she has nothing in common with Jesus - even though she desperately needs something from Jesus - she puts him above her needs. She humbles herself and calls him Lord.
  • What Jesus does next is test this woman’s faith. In effect, he says to her, “Do you understand what you are asking me to do for you?”
  • Look at verse 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.”
Mark 7:27

  • Why does Jesus say this? He is testing her. He says to the woman, “What you are asking me to do… is not OK.” “It is not right,” Jesus says, “to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” “You are asking me to give you something that does not belong to you.”
  • That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? How can Jesus speak to her like that? It’s bad enough that Jesus says, “This blessing does not belong to you,” but why does he have to talk about throwing food to dogs? That sounds disrespectful, doesn’t it?
  • How many of you, if Jesus said that to you, would get angry? Imagine that you are praying to God and a voice from heaven answers: “It is not right to take something that belongs in my family and give it to you, a stranger.” Would you walk out the door? “I’ll never worship you again.” If God said those words to you, would you get angry? I think I would.
  • But that is what makes this woman so unique. She doesn’t get upset. She keeps trusting Jesus to help her. In fact, what she says is, “You’re absolutely right!”

But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Mark 7:28

  • She says to Jesus, “I’m not asking for the full meal. I’m just want the leftovers.”
  • “Even the dogs the children’s crumbs.” “I’m don’t need a chair to sit on. I’m here for a crumb under the table.” In Chinese, we would say “Tah Pau.” “Jesus, all I want is a crumb.”
  • It is possible to read this as a cheeky response. She twists Jesus’ words into her favour. “Think of me as the family pet! The kids love sneaking a few chicken nuggets to Shelby when mum and dad aren’t looking.”
  • I don’t think so. She isn’t being cheeky or funny, though, she is being bold in bargaining with the Lord. No, she is admitting to Jesus, “I do not deserve a place at the table, I know that. But I also know that you are gracious and merciful Lord. With all the blessings that you pour out on your people, there will be leftovers. I just want a crumb.”
  • Because of her response, Jesus heals her daughter. “You may go… the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7:29) By the way, this is the most powerful healing miracle Jesus does in the whole gospel. Everywhere else, Jesus says a prayer, he puts his finger into the deaf man’s ears; he either says something or does something to perform the miracle. Except here. It just happens.
  • Meaning: It was a crumb. This powerful miraculous act of removing an unclean spirit was no big deal for Jesus. “You may go.” Could Jesus heal her? Of course he could. So why didn’t he? Why talk about dogs and food at the family table?
  • Because he wants to do more for this woman. He wants her to have a relationship. He wants her to be in the family.
  • Five hundred years ago, a man named Thomas Cranmer wrote a prayer. It goes like this:

We do not presume to come to this your Table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your Table. But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy.
  • It is a prayer that puts us in the woman’s shoes. “We are not worthy even of the crumbs.” Christians pray say this to God. “We know we don’t deserve your love. We know we don’t deserve the crumbs.”
  • But we also say, “Lord, please give us the bread.”

Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat this bread and drink this cup, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

  • “Grant us… gracious Lord, … to eat this bread.” It’s not talking about food. Jesus is the bread. Jesus is giving us himself.
  • Do you see why Jesus says, “It is not right to give the bread” He is saying to the woman, “Do you understand what it takes for me to answer your prayer? I will be kicked out so that you can be taken in.”
  • That is what happens on the cross. He dies in our place, he suffers our punishment so that we can receive his sonship. So that we can be in God’s family.
  • Have you met this Jesus? Who offers us more than crumbs; who offers us more than bread - who offers us his life to save us from death?
  • If so, accepting the offer means eating the bread. It means humbling ourselves and saying to God, “Thank you for Jesus’ death on the cross. Thank you for making your son/your daughter through his sacrifice.”

Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat this bread and drink this cup, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.


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