As promised, here is a quick little post about the portions of Mark that I skipped a few Sundays ago, but didn’t want you guys to miss. So I’m gonna be writing out and explaining this curious piece from Mark 7 because it is so incredibly interesting… and many of us may not like very much if we don’t FULLY understand what’s happening. Remember that in reading the gospel of Mark, we should always wonder why we’re being given the details that we’re given.
Here’s the text itself. Read it a few times before reading my explanation.
24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
So as I explained a few Sundays ago, Tyre is past the north end of Galilee. (Check out this map here… It’s one of the highest cities on the map.)
Now why is knowing the location of the city of Tyre important? Because Jesus is in Gentile territory. (Gentile means non-Jew. If you’re Asian, guess what? You’re a Gentile.) Up until this moment in Mark, he doesn’t do ministry with a lot of Gentiles. He was hanging out in Galilee, and most of ministry was by the Sea of Galilee. But now he’s traveled outside of Galilee, and is in Phoenicia. That’s Greek territory. What’s he doing there and why of all the stories that Mark could’ve told us about what he did there does he tell us this story?
Well let’s talk about the story and what actually happens. Jesus is chillin at someone’s house trying to rest. He doesn’t want people to know he’s there. Maybe he’s there to rest. Maybe he’s there to get away from the crowds that were gathering in earlier chapters of Mark. But then people figure out that Jesus is in town, and this woman comes, falls at Jesus’ feet, and begs him to heal her demon possessed daughter. Jesus looks at her, and tells her, “The children should eat first, and then the dogs will be fed.” Now what does that mean? Who are the “children”? Is Jesus calling this woman a “dog”? What’s going on here? Well for more insight, we can look at Matthew’s version of this story, and we’ll see that he fills us in with more details:
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Jesus’ first response to her is that he was sent for Israel first. So in that “offensive” statement, he’s saying that the children at the table were Israelites. The dogs then? Gentiles. And in fact, that was common Jewish slang for Gentiles: dog. So is Jesus saying then that he’s only Messiah for Israel? That he didn’t come to save the rest of the world? No. He’s saying that he is there to fulfill the prophecies as Israel’s Messiah, and the rest of the world. If you notice, when Jesus gives the Great Commission at the beginning of Acts to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, he starts by mentioning Jerusalem first. This is the “order” in which the gospel is to travel. But the woman’s response to Jesus made him say that she had “amazing faith”. And what kind of faith was it? A humble one. She could’ve been insulted by what Jesus said. She could’ve said that he was being unfair. She could’ve said that Jesus wasn’t being “loving”. But instead, she appeals to his mercy. She asks him for his mercy in healing her daughter. Rather than being offended or discouraged, she knows that he is merciful and loving and so presses even FURTHER.
So where does that leave us? Press INTO Jesus. Even though your current circumstances may leave you feeling like you’re not being heard by him or that your prayers aren’t being answered… appeal to his mercy and his love. Appeal to his power to provide for you. And if the answer is a definitive no… press INTO Jesus anyway. Jesus is the best answer to prayer anyway.
More to come soon guys.