JESUS MINISTRY TO GENTILES
Last week we saw Jesus dealing with the religious leaders who were more interested in outward rituals than in inward faith. They had a religion but no relationship. God is more interested in your heart than your actions. Because, if your heart is right with Him your actions will be right. If you try to do good and yet your heart is far from Him, then your actions are empty and they tend to deteriorate into a law relationship, much of which is mans ideas, not Gods, when God desires a love relationship with us.
Now here in chapter 7 we are going to see Jesus move out of Jewish controlled land into the region of Tyre, which was gentile controlled and some 40 miles northwest of Capernaum, which is called Lebanon today. And the two stories we will deal with this evening will both relate to gentiles that are in need of being touched by Jesus and their faith they had in the power of God to heal. In one the mother is going to intercede for her daughter, and in the other friends will bring this man to Jesus. So lets pick up our study in Mark chapter 7, beginning in verse 24.
1. Jesus wanted to spend some time with His men, but this woman recognizes Him and begs Jesus to heal her daughter who was demon possessed. To the Jews, this gentile land was considered unclean. In fact, the Jewish religious leaders, as well as many of the people, believed that the gentiles were created by God to fuel the fires of hell. That was their only function in life. And yet Jesus was willing to go where most Jews would not, and while He is there He will share Gods love with the people of this region.
2. This woman is called a Syro-Phoenician which means the land she was living in was controlled by the Syrians and Phoenicia was the country. This was the place of her birth and she was brought up in the Greek culture. And in Matthew 15:22, which relates this story, tells us she was a Canaanite, a descendant of those who were to be removed from the land when the children of Israel entered it. And it is these people, these gentiles, that the Jews called "wild dogs," ferocious, untamed, vicious dogs! It was a derogatory name for gentiles. The Jews had no love for these people, but Jesus did!
3. Demon possession was not an uncommon thing for these people who were heavily into the occult. But this woman, in seeing how it was destroying her daughters life, did the only thing left to do, she came to Jesus for help. And think about how word of all that Jesus had done spread, and this woman was aware of the things He did, and now she sees Him, and does the unthinkable. She approaches a Jew, begging this man, Jesus for help. In fact, it speaks of her grabbing the legs of Jesus and holding them tight, begging Jesus to do something. And that may seem strange until you have children and they are sick. It is amazing what you will do to see your child healed. You will do anything for them just as this woman was doing. And the reality is, she did what was best, she brought her concern, her fears, her request to the feet of Jesus!
4. Now Matthew gives to us a little more insight to what took place, he fills in some of the details. In Matthew 15:22 we read "And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." This was not just your average possession, if there is such a thing. And notice that she calls Jesus "Lord," a term of respect. And she says that He is the "Son of David!" which is a Messianic title. A gentile recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah! And as she cries out to Jesus, He is silent! He says nothing to this woman crying out for help. Doesnt that sound strange? Doesnt that seem out of character for Jesus? Someone once said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. You see, an attitude of not caring, not noticing, not responding. And as you read this account, that is what the appearance seems to be showing us, but as we are going to see, that was not the case, nor is it ever the case with Jesus.
5. Now the disciples responded by saying in Matthew 15:23, "...And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, Send her away, for she cries out after us." It is almost a whine, they are complaining to Jesus that this woman who is passionately seeking help for her daughter is getting on their nerves and they want Jesus to get rid of her. She was bugging them! These are future pastors and leaders in the faith, and their solution to this problem was to kick them out and hope the door doesnt hit them on the way out! That was not the heart of Jesus for Jesus drew people to Himself.
6. We can easily see the disciples were wrong in their attitude, but what about Jesus, what was He doing? In His silence He was stretching her faith. And Jesus, attempting to do this said to her, "...I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 15:24. But this woman doesnt give up and we read in Matthew 15:25, "Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, Lord, help me!" She believed that Jesus could help her and was willing to do all she could to see that become a reality. She was not going to give up. But neither is the Lord in stretching her faith, as we are going to see.
1. Now the response by Jesus can be taken two ways. First of all Jesus departed to this area to be alone with His men, to teach them. So the feeding of the little children can be speaking of His men. And first He wanted to teach them before He taught others, to prepare them for the work of the ministry. I think that is very legitimate and I think this verse may be speaking of that, but I also think it is broader in scope than this.
2. You see, the second way you can take this is that the children represent the children of Israel, the Jews, and thus, Jesus came to them first before He came to the gentiles. I think this is also the thought.
3. It is also interesting to note that the Jews called the gentiles "wild dogs" but that is not what Jesus calls this woman. He calls her a "little dog" or a puppy. Something that is lovable and this woman picked up on that and she was encouraged by that, she thought she had a chance for Jesus to help her, that He was not going to ignore her. She felt so strongly about this that in verse 28 we read...
1. She once again comes humbly before the Lord and was willing to wait for just the crumbs to fall off the table so that she might partake of the bread of life that came from Jesus. What faith, and Jesus is going to recognize that fact in the following verses.
1. The disciples wanted to get rid of her and Jesus wanted to stretch her faith. Who won? Her faith came bursting forth and her child was healed! Now dont get the idea that grace is being earned here, or that you have to work for it, because grace is a free gift of God. She had a hunger in her heart for God and was humble in her heart towards God. In Matthew 5:6 we read "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." God will fill you if you hunger for Him. But I think something else that is truly needed is given to us in Matthew 5:3, where we read "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." You cant obtain those things on your own, only through God. A great combination of qualities to have in your life, a hunger for God and a humility before Him!
2. God wants us to patiently and persistently seek after Him so that He may fill us, touch our lives and use us for His glory. How hungry are you? This woman was very hungry and it showed in her faith, and God healed her daughter without even touching her and at a great distance. Can God do that? Of course He can, He is God!
1. As Jesus leaves this area He heads towards the region of the Decapolis, which was a confederation of 10 cities on the east side of the Sea of Galilee and this too was a primarily gentile area.
1. It would seem that this person wasnt born deaf, but has been losing his hearing to the point where now his speech has been affected. And that is a terrible disability because you cant communicate, and when you try to talk, because you cant hear, the words come out distorted and people look at you with this strange look, like there is something wrong with you.
2. Now the interesting thing is this area known as the Decapolis was near the area of the Gadarenes, the area that Jesus healed the demon possessed man who hid in the tombs. And after he was healed, the people wanted Jesus to leave. They didnt want Him around any longer. He was ruining their pig farm. And this young man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus had him remain to be a witness to what God can do. Now these people that are coming to see Jesus with their sick friend may be the fruit of this young mans ministry.
1. This is very different than what Jesus did in healing that demon possessed girl. Here we see Jesus look, touch, and speak to this man. He takes him aside so this man is focused on Jesus. Jesus then thrusts his fingers into this mans ears, spits and touches this mans tongue. And then Jesus spoke and said that he was healed.
2. Notice that before this man is healed, Jesus looks up to heaven. I think that is a great lesson for all of us. We cant do it on our own but we must look to God to work in us and through us, to be the strength of our life.
3. It also says that Jesus "sighed," and it is a word that speaks of a "rumbling of grief that causes you to shake." Jesus was torn over what sin has done to people, how it destroys their lives, both physically and spiritually. In Jeremiah 9:1 we read "Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" Jeremiah was broken over his people who were lost in their sins and refused to turn to God who could heal them. Before we can reach out and touch people, I think we must be broken over their condition which drives us to reach out to them and see them saved!
1. As soon as this man was healed they couldnt shut him up. He kept talking. He was overjoyed at what God had done and he wanted to share that with others.
1. Once you have been touched by Jesus, it is hard to stop talking about Him and what He has done in your life!
1. At one time the people of this area warned Jesus to leave and not to come back. Now what they saw blew their minds and it caused them to desire more of Jesus, not less. They wanted to bless Him and honor Him for His love and compassion. No longer were they interested in themselves, but the Lord. It is as Lamentations 3:22-24 says, "Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I hope in Him!" There is no one or no place else to go except to the Lord, the giver of life!