Mark 7:24-30English Standard Version (ESV)
The Syrophoenician Woman's Faith
24 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. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 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.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Food From the Master's Table
Accompanying David Legge sermon: A Harsh Lesson in Grace
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: Faithful Pests
The gospel of Matthew gives us a little more detail on our passage today. At first glance, Jesus appears to be somewhat indifferent or even callous to this woman's plight. But as we dig a little deeper we'll see that the opposite is true.
First of all, Jesus is using this woman to teach that His ministry was expanding to include the Gentiles. Yes, He had been to the Jews first, but also the Gentiles - this has been the message of the entire Bible, though the Jews preferred to ignore that part about the rest of the world being included and rather focus on their special selectivity. And they had been set apart - but they had been set apart in order to show the world that they were different, and ultimately, to reach the world. The Jews had rejected Jesus, and He was now reaching out to the Gentiles.
Legge also submits that Jesus is playing "law's advocate":
you've heard the expression 'Playing the devil's advocate', haven't you? You know what it means: it means to pretend against an idea, to take on a role that you don't really believe in, but to make a point. You understand what it means? Well, here the Lord Jesus is playing the law's advocate, that's what He's doing. He's playing the law's advocate, He's standing in the place of what these religious, self-righteous Pharisees would say, and how they would behave. He wants to show the exclusiveness of the law in order to display the wonderful glory of His grace, as a contrast to it - that He was going to do something new. Ironically, through what seemed to be initially great harshness, the Lord Jesus is inviting this ostracised woman through the open door of His grace.
Jesus was also using her as an example of great faith - and how ironic that great faith was found in a Gentile (not only Gentile, but Canaanite!) woman. She recognized Him as Lord, recognized Him as the only solution to her need, she knew that she was unworthy, yet in her brokenness and desperation she reached out to Him, persistently, unwilling to give up until Jesus helps her. By delaying in His help, He is evidencing that her faith is genuine.
Are we persistent in our prayers to God? Do we bring the same request to Him repeatedly, never getting discouraged by the "no" or "not yet" answer we've consistently been getting? Don't give up! Especially if your prayer is for the salvation of a loved one. Never, ever give up. He may be delaying to build your faith, or for a myriad of other reasons only He is privy to, but do not give up!
There are certain circumstances where, in God's sovereignty, He doesn't give us what we are asking, because it's not according to His will. There is often a mystery in that, we cannot understand why He doesn't. So there are things like that in our lives, I'm not suggesting that those can be necessarily overcome by our prevailing - but what I will say is this: those, I think, according to Scripture, are the exception rather than the rule. When Paul came and said: 'Lord, take this thorn away from my flesh', three times he said it, he prevailed; the Lord said, 'No, my grace is sufficient for thee' - that is the exception, the rule is 'Ask, and it shall be given unto thee; seek, and ye shall find'. So there are many circumstances, perhaps, we have surrendered to, and said: 'That's the will of God' - but what we need to do is prevail more, and pray more.
MacArthur pointed out something else interesting.....
our Lord knew exactly what He was doing in driving at the reality of manifesting the character of relentlessly true saving faith, it just can’t be discouraged, it can’t be dissuaded. And she’s just...she’s just got a sweet wit about her and a humility. “Yes, Lord,” no offense, no defense, no resistance. “Even the dogs get to eat the children’s crumbs that fall off the table. I know I’m not a Jew. I know I’m not part of the covenant people. I know I’m on the outside. I know I belong to an idolatrous country, an idolatrous race. I know all that. I know You’re in the privileged position, the Jews are in the privileged position, I know that. But don’t the benefits spill off of them to the rest of us?”
She’s absolutely right...absolutely right. And by the way, if I may extend that metaphor, crumbs from the table, a little bit. Keep this in mind that the message that saves the Gentiles is the message that saves the Jews, it’s not a different message, not a different bread, it’s not a different table, it’s not a different meal. Okay? Gentiles are not given a separate revelation, a separate object of faith or a separate way of salvation. All Gentile salvation is the gospel that has overflowed from the bounty given to Israel. Romans 9, the covenant, the adoptions, the scriptures, the Messiah all came to Israel and we get the overflow. That’s what Romans 9 says. “Through Israel comes the blessing of salvation to the world.”
The Lord then is not ignoring the lady. He is simply eliciting out of her the evidences of this quality of faith that He calls mega faith, great faith. She’s really good soil.
And so Jesus meets her need. He delivers her daughter from demon possession without even having to be in sight of her.
Rayburn: Imagine that woman’s happy life from this point onward. If she never got another remarkable blessing again in all her days in this world, she had her daughter back from under the cruel yoke of the Devil, and she had spoken with the Son of God and had prevailed upon him. How do you suppose she prayed for the rest of her life? With what confidence? How do you think she reckoned with the unseen world? With what expectation of things to come do you imagine that she died when it came time for her to leave this world? She had spoken with the Son of God and had prevailed upon him.
This woman's faith is beautiful. She is the female version of Jacob - she wrestled with God and would not let Him go until He blessed her.
Her humility is beautiful. In truth, against the holiness of God our sinfulness makes us all even less than dogs in His sight. We are completely unworthy of Him. And yet, when we come to Him in humility, confessing Him as Lord, knowing we can do nothing to save ourselves, when we come persistently, relentlessly - He will not turn us away. That's what makes it mercy and grace.
Rayburn: He wants you to wrestle with him and he wants you to prevail.
Monday's scripture focus: Mark 7:31-37
Sunday's passage: Jeremiah 5-6
Monday's passage: Jeremiah 7-8, Proverbs 28, 2 Timothy 3
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