Period of Opposition: Battle Royal with the Religious Establishment.
Ultimate Silliness: While Jesus is miraculously feeding the multitude, supernaturally walking on water, demonstrating power over storms, healing people of diseases, liberating those afflicted by demons.... the religious leaders were more interested in debating the issue of ceremonial hand washing.
Undercurrent of the Conflict: The religious leaders were looking for a way they could build a legal case against Jesus.... the cross is coming into focus on the distant horizon.
[Mark 7:24a] “From there Jesus arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon....”
“From there” - Linguistically, there are 3 ways you can read this:
1. Directional Marker: “From there” - the north shore of the Sea of Galilee will be Jesus’ starting point for traveling NW into the “region of Tyre and Sidon” (located on the eastern banks of the Mediterranean - approximately 40 miles away - Jordan).
2. Emotional Indicator: “From there” - the point of emotional exhaustion Jesus “arose and went.” You can imagine with the strain of John’s death + the constant demands of ministry + the anxiety concerning the future, coupled with the pressures of preparing the disciples for His departure + this growing conflict with the “religious right” determined to destroy Him.... Jesus decides He needs a break.
3. Educational Signal: “From there” - can be seen as a continuation of the lesson He’s been presently teaching the disciples. Jesus “arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon” because He had a lesson set up for them.
This is the only time Jesus travels into the “region of Tyre and Sidon.”
Jesus is contrasting His ministry with the religious leaders.
Sending out the disciples.... Mark 6:7
Praying before the meal.... Mark 6:41
Rejecting manmade traditions like ritual hand washing.... Mark 7:9
Dismissing the kosher diet.... Mark 7:15
These were all ways Jesus has contrasted Himself with Judaism in the last 2 chapters.
Traveling to Tyre and Sidon can be seen as a continuation of this trend.
Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities that existed outside the promise land.
Just as the Scribes and Pharisees refused eat anything deemed “unclean” they also refused to associate with people they considered to be “unclean.”
By traveling into this region Jesus was doing 3 things:
1. He was breaking with their tradition.
2. He was contrasting Himself with their prejudice.
3. He was also highlighting their legalism.
400 years earlier Nehemiah had encouraged the Hebrew people to safeguard against 3 things that had originally lead to God’s judgment.
1. They were to keep the Sabbath Day.
2. They were not to marry the Gentiles.
3. They were to keep the movements of the temple continuing.
Sadly, these same 3 things had become the source of much of their religious legalism. It’s fitting Jesus goes out of His way to address these 3 topics.
1. Jesus addressed their legalistic view of the Sabbath (Mark 3).
2. Jesus will address their legalism concerning the Temple (Mark 13).
3. Jesus address their legalism towards the Gentiles (Mark 7).
It’s been said, “Legalism always takes a good thing to far.”
Jesus had just finished teaching the disciples that there was no difference between clean and unclean food. “From there” indicated that Jesus is now going to build off of this idea by teaching them a related lesson: from God’s perspective there is also no difference between what they considered to be clean and unclean people.
It seems the lesson on food was always symbolic lesson concerning people.
Same teaching pattern God will use again in Acts 10 with the Apostle Peter.
. . . . . . .
[Mark 7:24b-26] “And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden (B-Sides). For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
Discuss the Woman:
1. She was a Gentile.... “a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth.”
2. She had a problem... Her “young daughter” was possessed by “an unclean spirit.”
This poor little girl was demon-possessed.
Matthew says she was “severely possessed.”
KJV says she “was vexed.” She was miserable, tormented.
How does a young girl become demon possessed? Worship of Ashdod?
Imagine as a mom living this life.
This poor woman no doubt experienced the torment of regret.
3. She had a real faith in Jesus.... Mark says she “heard about Him, and she came.... asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.”
She “Heard and came.” Faith is always evidenced by action! (B-Sides)
“Asking Him to cast the demon out.” She believed that with one sweeping motion Jesus could permanently free her daughter (who mind you was at home).
She was persistent.... Mark says “she kept asking.”
Matthew’s account helps us gain a little further insight into the Scene of Activity.
[Matthew 15:21-25] “Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 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.”
But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
Scene of Activity
This woman comes to Jesus and explains her problem.
She demonstrating a real, undeniable, and persistent faith through her determination.
Matthew says Jesus “answered her not a word” which served 2 functions:
1. It forced this woman to remain persistent.
2. It allowed her passionate request to catch the disciples attention.
After an undefined period of time passed, the disciples ask Jesus to “send her away.”
Their prejudice is revealed by the way they handled this woman.... they could have taken up the woman’s case or encourage Jesus to act, but they did neither!
Jesus declares, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
The woman remains persistent. She’s not to be deterred.
Matthew says she came to Jesus “worshipping Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
It’s at this point Jesus says to her....
[Mark 7:27] “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.”
In order to understand what Jesus is saying please keep in mind the context.... in His foreknowledge Jesus has set up this situation to teach His disciples an important lesson concerning God and His heart towards people.
To understand what Jesus is saying consider 2 things....
1. Substance of what He said.
In these two statements “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” Jesus is communicating two things:
He’s Affirming a True Reality....
The Jewish people had indeed been afforded preferential treatment. At this point in His ministry the Hebrew people were Jesus’ focus.
He’s Illustrating a Sad Manifestation of this Reality....
God’s preferential treatment of the Jews had manifested into an inflated, hierarchical perspective God had never intended.
Beginning in Genesis God had called the Hebrew people out of the world so that He could use them to reach the world.
Their special position had a specific purpose.
Just because God choose to use the Jews to reach the Gentiles, didn’t make them any better than the Gentiles.
2. Tone of what He said.
The Jews would often refer to the Gentiles using the derogatory term “dog” - Greek word “kyôn” - “a man of an impure mind, one who obey his own impulses.”
Matthew 7:6 - Jesus says “not to give what is holy to the dogs.”
Philippians 3:2 - Paul tells us to “Beware of dogs.”
Revelation 22:15 we’re told that “outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
We should point out that Jesus doesn’t refer to this woman using the term “kyôn,” but He instead uses the word “kynarion” or “little dogs” - instead of a derogatory term it was a diminutive term of affection.
In referring to this woman as a “little dog” Jesus is contrasting His view of the Gentiles with the predominate bias of the Jews.
It’s as though Jesus is saying to His disciples.... “You view the lost world with prejudice and contempt, but I view them with love and affection.”
[Mark 7:28] “And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”
“Yes, Lord....” Greek word “kyrios” is a masculine noun meaning “he to whom a person or thing belongs.”
This woman agrees with the substance of what Jesus has just said, but her faith is incredibly demonstrated by the words that proceed next. She’s basically saying, “if the crumbs are all I can have, then I’ll gladly take the crumbs.”
The contrast between this “Gentile dog” and the “Religious Jews” is stark:
This woman valued the crumbs that fell to the floor more than the entire nation of Israel valued the table full of food that had been set for them.
Jesus came to Israel.... He offers them everything.... but they believe nothing.
Jesus comes to this woman.... He offers her nothing.... but she believes everything.
[Mark 7:29-30] “Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter. And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.”
2 results of this woman’s faith in Jesus:
1. Her faith saved her daughter!
Her daughter was lying quietly on the bed. A total liberation from the devil.
2. Her faith impacted a region!
Acts 21:3 Luke tells us that he and Paul “sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. And finding disciples....”
Significant: there is no record of Paul or any of the early missionaries visiting Tyre between this event in Mark 7 and when Paul docked in Acts 21. This woman’s faith in Jesus impacted an entire region with the Gospel