The 7th chapter of Mark opens up with Jesus having yet another showdown with the religious leaders of the day. They tried to trap Him, It did not work and the disciples, once again, had no clue as to what had taken place. I love the NASB rendition that says, "Jesus got up and went away from there ... He wanted no one to know of it ... ". Jesus wanted to get away and not be recognized. He was fed up, didn't want to be bothered and went one hundred miles away to Tyre in Syria a Gentile region. Where His "fame" and "notoriety" should have been obscure to unknown.
He just wanted an escape.
This revelation is perhaps startIing to some, Jesus wanted a break from the "rigamorole" of dealing with the religious leaders and explaining parables to His disciples. He wasn't trying to encounter a Jew that had a philosophical question or challenge. He didn't want to heal the masses. He just wanted to "get away from there". He and His disciples (so much for a full break) went 5 days journey to a region where He wasn't supposed to be recognized so He could just relax and not be concerned with the sheep in Israel.
I am not troubled by this at all, in fact, I am encouraged. Jesus, in His humanity, just wanted to be left alone. I sometimes struggle with serving in ministry and just wanting to be left alone. Sometimes, I don't want to speak a word of encouragement, pray for various needs, or rebuke the devil from throwing fiery darts…I just wanted to be left alone! The fact that the Ruler and Creator of this universe sometimes felt like He didn't want to be bothered helps me tremendously. It shows me that when I feel like that it's okay! Sometimes we unnecessarily feel guilty about how we feel. And truth be told, they are just feelings. It is what we do with those feelings that matters. We cannot allow our feelings to overtake us and cause us to sin against God. We have to be wise and responsible with our feelings - not let our feelings get the best of us and cause us to become bitter and full of unforgiveness. But, it is okay to have feelings! Acknowledge your feelings, but don't let your feelings master and overtake you.
We then see a shift in the story. A Gentile, a Phonecian woman, living in the Roman province of Syria, attempts to converse with Jesus. The gospels Mark and Matthew both record this story so we will switch between the two for the details.
But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. (Mark 7:25-26 NASB) ... And ... began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." (Matthew 15:22-23 NASB)
(On an aside, I can see why Jesus occasionally looked at the disciples and shook His head. They were a whinny bunch at times weren't they?!)
Here is a mom. A non-Jewish mom imploring, beseeching Jesus on behalf of her little girl. The Bible says this little girl had an unclean spirit ... those of us who have children have probably wondered about our own offspring at times! However, here is a mother who is clearly undone because she knows without a shadow of a doubt that her daughter is not well and needs help.
Before we get into Jesus' reply, I don't want us to hurry past this woman's desperation coupled with her determination. She had never heard about Jesus and what He was capable of before that particular day. The scripture says after hearing about Him she fell at His feet. There is no mention of how she heard about who Jesus was. It could have been because the privileged three, Peter, James and John were "talking amongst themselves (loudly)" about the things they had seen Jesus do as His personal entourage. Or, perhaps someone had been to Jesrusalem on a business trip and saw Jesus heal many people. Or, perhaps they encountered other Gentiles that had experienced what Jesus was capable of - like when He cast out the legion of demons into the herd of pigs (Mark 5). How ever this desperate mother heard about the guest among them, she was determined that the same power she had heard about was the power she needed to save her daughter from her affliction. So she didn't just sit next to Jesus, make small talk and then politely asked Him to heal her daughter ...
SHE. FELL. AT. HIS. FEET. AND. CRIED. OUT. "HAVE MERCY ON ME!"
She was desperate, but most of all she was determined. The Bible says the disciples couldn't take the pleading from her. It was too loud. Her request was so bold, so in your face it made them uncomfortable and they began to beg Jesus to make her go away! There was an urgency in her plea, a heart wrenching despair coming from a mother who loved her child.
I can only imagine what she was going through. Loving adorable daughter some months ago was so sick she had a fever that reached 106 degrees for days ... At 107 doctors say brain damage sets in. I imagine if I had just found out Jesus could heal my daughter, I would have screamed to the top of my lungs too. But because I do live in this era, I have history on my side and I knew Jesus would bring my daughter through ...
But the Syrophonecian woman did not have a history of tried testimony of Jesus' ability to heal. She just heard that He was capable of it ... But would He do it? Would this Jesus that just so "happened" to come to Tyre in that particular house, on that particular day, at that particular time actually heal her little girl?
"But He did not answer her a word."
What?! Jesus?! Come on! You didn't even answer her? As shocked as it may be to us, for a Gentile in that day and age it could not have been too surprising that a Jewish Rabbi did not acknowledge her presence. But it seems to get even worse than that!
When Jesus finally answered her at the disciples urging He replied,
"... I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:24-26 NASB)
He was only sent to help those that were Jews - and then referred to the Jewish people as children and to her, as a Gentile, a dog!!!!
It is at this point in our narrative Gary Coleman would have exclaimed, "Whatchyou talkin' 'bout Willis?"
There are those that intimate that Jesus exhibited some sort of racism here. Suffice it to say, the God of the universe does not to be defended. He made us all in His image and says we are all fearfully and wondrously made. So, I won't deal with that argument. But I will look at two things.
The first, we already dealt with and it is plain and simple. Jesus walked 100 miles so He wouldn't be bothered ... I can be pretty intolerant when I don't feel like being bothered! Just ask my l.a.d.! I love her dearly, but sometimes when she has requests, well within reason and that I am fully capable of granting, I just don't feel like acquiescing at that particular moment. It doesn't mean I hate 3 year olds, that I feel any less love for her, or that her request will go unanswered indefinitely. It just means that right then and right there I don't want to. Nothing more, nothing less.
The second, Jesus traveled 100 miles to a Gentile region and that was no accident. He could have traveled anywhere: west to the Gaza region, south to Egypt or east to Arabia ... But He didn't. He went north. Could it be that Jesus left the traditionally entrenched hypocritical religious leaders and their traps to search out true faith?
But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. (Matthew 15:27-28 NASB)
The Gentile Syrophonecian woman had something that Jesus probably had not seen in a while, great faith. It wasn't just that she was so desperate to try just anything, or that her insistence wore Jesus down, it was her faith - her belief in Jesus and His ability to heal. She heard that He could heal and she believed in Him. So much so she trusted Him for her child's well being.
I have to agree with her faith. I don't trust many people with my child, but I whole heartedly trust God.
In verse 22 of Matthew 15 she called Him, "Son of David". This is no ordinary title, but the title of the King, the Messiah. I believe Jesus was sent to this woman because she dared to have faith in the Jewish Messiah. There is one other instance in which Jesus talks of faith greater than the faith of those in Israel, it was the faith of a Gentile Roman soldier. It was to another Gentile woman in which Jesus declared He was in fact the awaited Messiah. Jesus was not prejudiced, He just had a different assignment in dealing with the Gentiles. Just as it is today, their faith in Him proved to be their salvation ...
This conversation with the Christ is where faith and divine providence intersect. This conversation is living proof of the saying Jesus gave about having mustard seed faith. A woman who initially had no idea who He was - heard, trusted and believed. Based on that belief, she dared to converse with the King of kings, she dared to implore - even scream - to the God of creation to help her. She defied cultural norms and, as a woman, approached the Promised One on behalf of her child. All of this with no tangible understanding about the history of the Jewish people or fully understanding the depth of her trust in Him.
If you have yet to scream out to God since you have put your trust in Him for every need you have, the Syrophonecian woman would surely tell you, "Do it - it's worth it!" Whatever or whomever may need His healing touch, physically or spiritually, Jesus is available.
You may feel you are unworthy, so did the woman, she agreed to the comparison of a "dog". You may even feel Jesus doesn't have time for your particular need, He doesn't want to be bothered ... The truth is Jesus will always respond to our requests. It may not be when we want the answer, and sometimes the answer isn't what we expect, but we should never, ever be afraid to pray and ask - to have a conversation with the Christ.
Just Around the Corner,