I have your Bibles with you today.
Turn with me, if you would, to Mark chapter 7, and we're going to be looking at verses 24 through 30. And he said to her, Now with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, I lift up to you this morning.
Jim Belk is in the hospital with cellulitis. I pray for Wanda Abercrombie and Karen Starcher and Karen Simpson, who deeply need your touch. Lord, we continue to pray for Nicole Loos, that you would set her free from the dizziness and vertigo. I also pray for our lost loved ones. We cry out to you for their salvation. Lord, we have a passage of scripture before us today that humbles me. It makes me realize that I should quit acting like a proud, entitled Christian. That I should realize that every blessing that God gives me is grace. I was blessed with a grandmother and a dad who pointed me to Jesus.
I was born in America, not Saudi Arabia, where Muslims rule. Lord, forgive me for not being more like the Syrophoenician mother who humbly said to Jesus, Lord, even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the crumbs. She was acknowledging her smallness and she was acknowledging your greatness. And she refused to quit persevering in prayer. Help us all to have the humility and faith and the heart that this mother had. Lord, use this sermon today for our good and for God's glory, for it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.
You may be seated. As the people of Israel started gravitating to Jesus, the religious leaders knew that they were losing power and influence. People used to come to them asking for prayer. People used to come to them when they had problems and they would ask counsel from these religious leaders and all of a sudden now that was not happening any longer. And the people said, we go to the religious leaders and we ask them to pray and they pray and nothing happens. We go to the religious leaders and we ask them for counsel for our problems and they give us opinions that are their opinions but it's not coming from the Word of God.
And they always ask for money when we go to them for help. So we go to Jesus and ask for prayer and Jesus prays and there's a median answer. We go to Jesus when we are sick and ill and Jesus heals our diseases and our sickness. We go to Jesus when we have problems and need counsel and he opens up the Word of God to us and he gives us what we need and tells us how to apply the Word of God to our life.
We offer him money and he never would take a penny. This is happening all over Israel and so the religious leaders know that they are losing political power and religious influence and they're losing money. They don't like it and so now what are they doing? They've sent a contingent of religious leaders down to Capernaum where Jesus is staying in the house of Peter and they come down there for a purpose and that purpose is try to destroy Jesus' reputation and do damage to his ministry. How are they going about that? What are they trying to do? Well, how are they going to do it?
What they decide to do is this. They said, we'll just accuse him of sin. That didn't work too well because Jesus had never sinned. He had no skeletons in his closet. There's nothing they can really accuse him of. He's not guilty of any sexual scandal. There's no laundering of money.
There's no foul language. They can accuse him of sin but he's not committed any sin. That's not going to work.
So they said, we'll do it another way. We will accuse him of leading the people to be unfaithful to the tradition of the elders. We will tell people that he is not ceremonially washing his hands and he's sometimes eating non-kosher food. Jesus sees this as an opportunity to rebuke them and he does rebuke them. He calls them hypocrites. He says, guys, you need to understand that this man-made tradition that you put so much stock in has nothing to do with your relationship with God.
It's surface and it's superficial and it's not doing you a bit of good whatsoever. But this was serious conflict and Jesus won this conflict hands down. Conflict makes you tired, doesn't it? So Jesus was tired. His disciples were tired. They went to Peter's house to finally get some rest and what happens, these religious leaders come spurred on by Satan, do everything they can to break up that rest. And so finally the disciples kind of breathe a sigh and say, what are we going to do now?
How are we going to handle this? Where are we going to go? That takes us to the passage that we have today. I want to share with you five points from this passage.
Number one, the foreign retreat. Look with me at verse 24. And from there he arose and he 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. Jesus decided that the best place they could go was to get out of Israel. So they went north and when they crossed over the border they had about a 25 mile trip up to the area of Tyre and Sidon.
Now that's the area that we call today modern day Lebanon. Did Jesus have a purpose in this? Absolutely he did. He was going to take an axe to the prejudice of the disciples. Now many Jewish people in Jesus' day believe that their race was the superior race. They looked at their ourselves and they said, well, we have a calling and we have an election from God and that makes us better than everyone else. They looked at it as privilege instead of responsibility.
And so they just didn't have much use for the Gentiles. Back in 1977 I had the privilege of going over and visiting in Israel and we stopped off at the Sea of Galilee and there's a little restaurant right down beside the Sea of Galilee and we went in the restaurant and I sat down. I looked across from me and there was a table of Jewish men and they looked at me and they laughed and then one of them looked at me and he looked at the rest of the guys and he looked back at me and then he said, Goyim!
And spit on the ground. I didn't know what in the world he was talking about. So we got back in the van and I went to the guy and I said, what does the word Goyim mean? He said, oh, that's the Hebrew word for Gentile. I meant I got hot.
I was not happy with that. I said, what's he doing? He's mocking my race. He's saying that I'm no good because I'm a Gentile. He's saying because I'm not Jewish, I don't measure up to them.
And I can remember feeling terribly upset and offended by what they said. 2,000 years ago, Jesus knew that the disciples had a prejudice problem. He knew that it wasn't going to be long before they were going to be taking the gospel out to a lost world. And he knew that the disciples needed to learn how to love the world like he loved the world.
Look at verse 24 again. And from there he arose and he went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon and he entered a house and did not anyone to know yet he could not be hidden. Mark chapter 3 verse 8, which took place several months before the story that we're looking at here, we are told that huge crowds began to follow Jesus. And Mark adds a little statement in that in this huge crowd there was a group of people from Tyre and Sidon. There were men and women that had come all the way down from the north on the other side of Israel and they've come down there following Jesus. They know what all is going on. So they hear now that Jesus is going up to Tyre and Sidon and what do they do? Do you think they kept quiet?
Absolutely not. Man, they went up there and they told their family and they told their friends, Listen guys, buckle up your pew belts. Jesus is coming to town. Come on, we got to go.
You got to see this. And they anxiously came together as Jesus was coming up to the house where they were going to stay and they were waiting for him when he got there. The Scripture says here that Jesus could not be hidden. Now that was true literally when Jesus was in Tyre and Sidon. I want you to know that is also true spiritually for us every single day.
Jesus cannot be hidden. You ever get tempted with a sin? You commit that sin and all of a sudden there's a deep hurt in your heart. You feel guilt. What do you want to do? Well if you're like me, I just want to run away from Jesus. I don't want to just have to feel his pleasure with me because of my sin.
And I want to run away. This is exactly what Adam did. When Adam sinned in the garden and he ate of the forbidden fruit.
What did he do? He ran away. Genesis chapter 3 verses 8 through 10 says this, And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, Where are you? And he said, I heard the sound of you in the garden. And I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.
Adam could not hide from God. I remember when my daughter Beth was just a little girl and she would realize that she had done something wrong. She put her hand over her face. She'd say, Don't look at me!
Don't look at me! That's the way she tried to handle that. Folks, we can't run away from the conviction of the Lord. And we need to go back to Psalm chapter 51 verse 3. David had committed sin adultery with Bathsheba. He had had her husband Uriah the Hittite killed. And Nathan came to him and just leveled him with what the Lord's will was.
And what happened with David? David got under conviction and David said this in Psalm 51 verse 3, For I know my transgression and my sin is ever before me. When I have unrepentant of, unconfessed sin in my life, you can rest assured of this. My sin is going to be right there in front of me.
But guess what else? My Savior is going to be right there in front of me too. And what is He doing? What is He doing?
He's breaking my heart and He's drawing me back to Himself. This is exactly what the writer of Hebrews was talking about in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 6 when he says, Whom the Lord loves, He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives. Praise God! I am glad that Jesus cannot be hidden.
Alright, point two. The fervent request. Look at verse 25 through 26. But immediately a woman, his little daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to cast a demon out of her daughter.
A desperate lady comes to see Jesus. She's not Jewish, she's a Gentile. The scripture says that she was a Syrophoenician. In other words, she came from a Canaanite culture. She in all probability had worshiped idols at one time.
She probably worshiped the false goddess Astarte. But we are told that this woman has a huge problem, for she has a daughter who was possessed by a demon. This tells me that this woman is spiritually very perceptive, for she realizes that her daughter's problem is not a physical problem, it's not a mental disorder, that she has been attacked by a terrible, horrible demon.
And so she knows that she doesn't need a doctor, she doesn't need a psychologist, she doesn't need a psychiatrist. There's only one who can help her out, and that's the Lord Jesus. He's the only one who can help her out as she approached Jesus with reverence. The scripture says that she fell at his feet in a prostrate position.
This is a position of worship. And over in Matthew's Gospel, we are told that she kept persevering, that she kept asking Jesus to cast the demon from her daughter. She asked over and over again, what did she do? She prayed big.
She prayed big. I want to share something with you from William McDonald's book, The Disciple's Manual on Prayer. And it spoke to me, I think I really needed to hear what he had to say.
I want us to be careful though, because when I read this to you, you may think, what in the world is Doug saying here? Is he saying that we ought to be like the faith word people, the prosperity gospel, the name it and claim it and blab it and grab it group? That when we pray, we're supposed to manipulate God to get out of him all that we can get, all the wealth and all the health and everything, supposed to always go our way.
That's not what I'm saying at all. Listen to what he said. We honor God by the greatness of our prayers. A beggar asks Alexander the Great for a farm for himself, a dowry for his daughter, an education for his son. When reproached by his aid for granting all these requests, Alexander said, I get tired of these people who come asking just for a coin.
That sassy beggar treated me like I'm a king. He asked big. We should ask big. John Newton, who's the writer of the great hymn, Amazing Grace, wrote this poem. He said, thou art coming to a king. Large petitions with thee bring, for his love and power are such that you can never ask too much. Too often our prayers are puny, as suggested in this poem. If you had been living when Christ was on earth and had met the Savior kind, what would you have asked him to do for you, supposing you were stone blind? The child considered and then replied, I suppose that without doubt I would have asked the Lord for a dog with a chain to lead me daily about. How often thus in our faithless prayers we acknowledge with shame surprise we have only asked for a dog and a chain when we might have asked for open eyes.
When we get to heaven, we're going to wish we prayed more. Folks, this lady prayed big. She refused to give up. She knew that Jesus was her only hope. And so although Jesus was not responding to her, she kept coming back to Jesus and repeating the request over and over again. And in Matthew's Gospel we are told that she called Jesus Lord.
She called him the Son of Man. Now what did the religious leaders, what would they have thought about this woman? They said, she's not Jewish, she's a Gentile. She's a Syrophoenician, she's a Canaanite.
She in all probability is a worshiper of idols and she has a daughter who is possessed by a wicked demon. So what would they have done? They would have avoided her at all cost.
And if she came to them, they would have laughed at her request and said no. Let me tell you something, this lady knew something that smug religious leaders did not understand. She knew that Jesus was the Son of David.
What does that mean? She knew that Jesus was the Messiah, that Jesus was sovereign, that Jesus had total power over Satan. She knew that Jesus was worthy of her worship.
And so what did she do? She knows that Jesus can cast out the demon from her daughter. Brothers and sisters, that's the difference between religion and Christianity. Religion is surface and superficial.
Christianity is a relationship with the living God and they are not the same. All right, point three, the focused reply. Look at verse 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. Wow. That's not the response that we would have thought Jesus would have given.
I mean, that sounds rough. It sounds like Jesus is saying to her, listen, you're a Gentile. We Jews, we are the chosen people of God. We are the children of God. And the Gentiles are just dogs. And you, my lady, are just a Gentile.
Hmm. In our society, we have great affinity for our dogs, don't we? We have two dogs, Cindy and I. And one of them's almost 18 years old now.
Her name's Edie. And then we have Kate, who's almost nine years old. And we love them immensely. They eat when we eat. They sleep in our bed at the foot of the bed. And when we go on vacation, Julie and CJ come over and they stay there at our house and they dog sit.
If you were to call me a dachshund, I would probably think that was a compliment. But in Jesus's day, most of the dogs were mongrels. They were half wild scavengers. And people would treat dogs back then pretty much like we would treat a possum or a rat.
Shoo them away, maybe even shoot them or kill them or get them out of here. That's the way they would treat them. One of the derogatory terms that was used in that day and time was to call someone a dog. And in Matthew chapter seven, verse six, Jesus said, do not give holy things to the dogs, to people that had no use for the word of God.
So, wow. Was Jesus purposely trying to hurt this woman's feelings? Was he mocking her? Was he trying to discourage her?
No, not whatsoever. What was he doing? He was testing her faith. He could see this woman's heart and he was wanting this woman to step out in faith in order that she might be a witness to the disciples and also to her fellow Gentiles. Now, skeptics down through the century have used this passage to accuse Jesus of sin. And they have said that Jesus is being harsh here, that he is being mean-spirited, and he doesn't care for this woman.
I'll tell you, that's not what Jesus is doing, but that's what many have said. I remember back in my first church that I pastored, I was witnessing to a very intelligent man. He was a building contractor and he started coming to our church and he thought a Bible. And so I really thought, man, he's growing, this is good.
Call me up one day. And I mean, he was mad as a wet hornet. And I said, Dennis, what's the matter? And he said, I've been reading in Matthew chapter 6. I mean, Matthew chapter 7, Mark chapter 7. And he said, I've been reading there and he said, it bothers me what Jesus did.
This woman had a great need. Her daughter was in trouble and she came to Jesus for help. Jesus called her and her daughter a dog. He said, I don't like that. I don't like what Jesus did.
Took me about an hour and a half to get him off the ledge. And finally, I could tell him what Jesus was doing. What was Jesus doing? Jesus was in no way being insensitive to this woman. He was using this situation to test this woman's faith and to teach the disciples a lesson. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told how the disciples responded to all this. Evidently, when Jesus didn't answer this woman's request and she kept pleading with him, the disciples thought Jesus was annoyed with her and that he was just ignoring her, hoping that she'd go away and leave him alone. And so in Matthew 15 23, the disciples said, send her away because she keeps shouting at us.
They found this woman to be loathsome, bothersome, and they simply wanted to send her away and to get her quieted down. Let me share something with you from the Greek text I think that's helpful. In the Greek text, there are two words for dogs that you find in the New Testament.
One is the one that I shared with you a moment ago. It has to do with dogs that are mongrels. They're half scavengers, and they're always causing trouble.
They knock over garbage cans, they bite little children, they're like a pack of wild wolves. There's another word that's used for dogs, and it's the word that's used here. And that word in the Greek is kunarion.
And that word means a tame little pet that stays in the house. I wonder if Dennis, my friend there, and Creedmoor in my first church, I wonder if he had been able to read the Greek if he had seen this to begin with if he wouldn't have been a little less critical of Jesus. But Jesus said, let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. Jesus was using a simple analogy to explain that his ministry was first to Israel.
His priority was to preach to Israel the kingdom of God that the time would come, especially after his death is on the cross, his resurrection and his ascension, where the gospel would move out to the lost world. This lady could have very easily been offended by the words of Jesus. She could have pooched out her lip and said to Jesus, that's not fair. I didn't choose to be a Canaanite. I didn't choose to be born in the land of Tyre.
God gave me my place of birth, and God chose my race and God chose my ethnicity. Jesus, that's not fair. You should not be treating me this way.
It's not right. She could have done that. Was Jesus being cruel?
No. Jesus was testing her faith. Takes us to point four, and that's the faithful response. Look at verse 28. But she answered him, yes, Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs. Wow.
Just wow. That attitude blesses my socks off. She could have gotten offended and run away in tears. She could have said, Jesus, I thought you were loving and caring, and I thought you were not a prejudiced person, and Lord, look what you've done. I've come to you desperately needing help. My daughter needs help.
You're the only one that can help, and you seem to be walking away from that and not caring and not helping my daughter when you have the power to do so. We're Gentiles, Lord, and we can't help being Gentiles. Now, that was the response that I would have expected from this woman. That was not the response she gave. There's no pouting. There's no accusing. There's no anger.
Instead, there was a glorious, persevering faith. She recognized her unworthiness, and she acknowledged that this was not something that we deserve. She didn't go thinking, Jesus, you ought to do this for me. I deserve it.
No, no. She said, I don't deserve this, but Lord, I know that you have the power to give it. And what did she say? She said, yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the crumbs of the children.
What she was saying was this. The crumbs, Lord, for me are sufficient. Can you say that?
Can you say the crumbs are sufficient? Lord, if all I've got is you, that's enough. Matthew 15, 28, this woman's faith is called great faith. This reminds me of another Gentile in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter eight is a Roman centurion that comes to Jesus and said, Lord, I've got a servant back at home.
He's got paralysis, he is suffering terribly. Lord, would you heal my servant? And Jesus said, yes, I'll go with you right now. He said, no, no, no, Lord, I'm not asking that. I'm not worthy for you to come under my roof.
I would not ask you to do that. I'm just asking you to say the word and I know that my servant will be healed. Jesus was blessed by that.
And he said, I have not seen faith like this. No, not even in Israel. Jesus is dealing with a very similar situation here. Both the centurion and this mother were Gentiles. They were not raised in a home where their parents taught them the Torah, the law of God. They did not ever get to go to the temple and see lambs sacrificed.
They never were able to go to the synagogues and hear the word of God expounded. They came from a pagan country. They were in an idolatrous culture and yet they were given spiritual crumbs and they took those crumbs and they believed and their prayer was answered. This lady had faith and humility.
Let me tell you what else she had. She had hope. The English word for hope is not like the Greek word for hope. The English word for hope is like a wishful desire or an iffy expectation. If I say I hope, it's like I hope it doesn't rain, which means it might rain, probably will, but I hope it doesn't or I hope I pass this test.
I might pass this test, but I probably won't. And so it's an iffy expectation. That's not the word in the Greek.
The word in the Greek is elpis and it means a confident knowledge, an expectation with no doubt. Folks, men can live about 40 days without food. Men can go about eight days without water. He can go about three minutes without air, but he can't go one second without hope. Point five is the favorable reaction, verse 29 through 30. And he said to her, for this statement you may go your way, the demon has left your daughter.
And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. Jesus was not maligning this woman. He was stretching her faith.
That's what he was doing. And what kind of faith was it? It was a humble faith. It was a simple faith. It was a fervent faith.
It was a persistent faith. She didn't care if she was mocked or maligned. She didn't care if she was laughed at or neglected.
That didn't matter. What mattered was that her daughter would be healed. She grabbed hold of Jesus.
She would not let go. I've often wondered if Jesus was not thinking about this woman right here when he told the story that he did that we have recorded in Luke chapter 18 about the judge and the persistent widow. Let me read you that again from Luke 18. He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said in a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. There was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, give me justice against my adversary. For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming. And the Lord said here what the unrighteous judge says, and will not God give justice to the elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? Folks, when Jesus responded negatively, she dug in her heels and she persistently kept asking Jesus, what was she doing? She was praying big. She was praying big. Jesus was deeply pleased with this.
And what did he say to the lady? He said, you can go on home. Your daughter has been freed from that demon. Your daughter is well. She didn't doubt that one minute. She went home rejoicing and praising Jesus. Finally she got back to her home. And when she got back to her home, she ran in the house to see her daughter, and her daughter was lying in the bed sleeping soundly, the demon completely gone, and she was at perfect peace, finally able to get some rest, finally able to get some sleep. I can imagine this lady, this mom, as she falls down on her face before the Lord, praising Jesus for what he did, for answering that prayer, and for delivering her daughter from a horrible demon. What's this story do to me? I'll tell you what it does to me.
It shames me. For how often do I have a need in my life and I pray once and I pray twice? If I don't get an answer immediately, I just give up.
How horrible that is. How often do somebody have a bad attitude toward me and I get offended by that and I have a wrong attitude myself? How often do I just not trust the one who created the heaven and the earth and who went to the cross to purchase my salvation? This woman had faith that Grace Church needs to emulate. You say, Doug, what kind of faith was it?
It was humble, it was reverent, and it was also persistent. Folks, may we all strive for that kind of faith. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, I get offended too easy.
I get my feelings hurt over nothing. My prayer today is that you will help me be so wowed by you as my God that I would be grateful for the crumbs from the table. Lord, you said in your word that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Help us to live as if we really believe that was true, for it is true, for it's in Jesus' holy and precious name that we pray. Amen.
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