Mark 7:24-37

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

July 19, 2012

 

In this section of Mark we have recorded two interesting encounters between Jesus and an unnamed woman (Mark 7:24-30) and an unnamed man (Mark 7:31-37).  There is much for us to learn from each of these encounters.

 

Mark 7:24-30 – The encounter between Jesus and this woman provides us an amazing demonstration of faith that is great.  This woman is one of only two people in the gospel records who were commended by Jesus for having great faith.  In Matthew 8 Jesus complimented a Roman centurion for his great faith.  In Matthew's account of this event, Jesus told this woman, "...your faith is great; be it done to you as you wish..."  From her example I want share with you today some characteristics of faith that is great.  Faith is essential to our existence.  It is just as important as the air we breathe or the food we eat.  We cannot really live without faith.  Harold Blake Walker put it this way: "Either we live by faith or we do not live at all.  Either we venture or we vegetate... This story reveals three characteristics of great faith.

 

I.  Great faith is courageous

1.   Because our culture/customs are so different from those in NT world, hard for us understand kind of courage it took for this woman to approach Jesus...all kinds of things were working against her...

--  She was a woman - In that day women did not have same rights as men...were considered more property than persons...Jesus was recognized as a rabbi/teacher...no respected rabbi would converse with a woman in public, and especially true of woman who had ethnic/religious background this woman had...was a sect of Jewish rabbis called "The bruised and bleeding Pharisees"...called that because when saw woman coming their way would close their eyes and move away as quickly as possible...along way would bump into things putting bruises on their bodies ...the fact Jesus conversed with this woman would be scandalous to such people...took courage for a woman to approach an important teacher...

--    She was a Gentile - Mark says in v.26 she was "of the Syrophoenician race"...that is, she was from the coastal district of Phoenicia in the country of Syria...that was Gentile territory...she would have been considered unclean by almost any rabbi in the religious establishment...for all she knew, Jesus could well have had same view of her... took courage for a Gentile to approach an important teacher...

--    She was a Canaanite - Mark doesn't tell us that, but Matthew adds that piece of information...the Canaanites were ancient enemies of Israel...the Israelites had attempted to exterminate them when they entered the Promised Land...even in Jesus day, for a Canaanite to approach a Jew was risky...took courage for her to do so...

2.   No doubt if she told any of her friends/family that she intended to approach Jesus they would have said, "Don't do it!  The odds are too great.  There is too much against you.  You might be rejected...ridiculed...or worse.  Play it safe and you won't get hurt."...but her courage helped her overlook such bad advice...and she has become for us a wonderful example of courageous faith...

3.   An un-named philosopher wrote:  "There are not great people; rather, there are great challenges that ordinary people are forced to meet." Great faith doesn't look for reasons why something won't work; it looks for ways to make things work...doesn't shrink from big challenges; welcomes them!...

 

II.  Great faith is persistent

1.   Mark tells us in v.26 the woman "kept asking" Jesus to help her daughter...didn't ask once or twice or three times...but over and over again until got what she wanted...behind that statement is entire sequence of events which took place between Jesus and this woman...have look at story in Matthew's Gospel to get full picture...

--    First Jesus ignored her...perhaps to see how disciples would respond to her...she had no way knowing His motives but kept on asking...

--    Then disciples became impatient with her and said, in effect, "Lord, do what she wants and send her away."...Lord's response must have been devastating to her...said, "I was sent only to lost sheep house of Israel..."...believe again was testing disciples and perhaps the woman...she had no way of knowing  that but kept on asking...

--    Then, Lord turned to woman and tested her faith directly...said, "...it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."...the word "children" in that statement refers to Jewish people...the word "dogs" was common way for Jews to refer to Gentiles...in making that statement Jesus was asking the woman, "Aren't you aware of the conventional wisdom of the day?  Haven't you heard that some people are more important to God than others?" ...Jesus certainly didn't buy into such philosophy...however she had no way of knowing that but even that didn't discourage her...with quick wit she said, "...but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs."...

2.   What want you see in all that is this woman had kind of faith simply would not  give up...it would not quit...she kept asking and asking and asking until she got what she came to get....

3.   That's kind faith God wants His people to have...faith that doesn't give up...faith that overcomes obstacles...faith that keeps on keeping on...faith that as Apostle Paul said in Philippians "presses on toward the mark of the high calling  of God in Christ Jesus..."

 

1.   This month the summer Olympics are opening in London.  One of most moving moments in Olympic history took place on October 20, 1968, about 7:00 p.m. in Mexico City...only handful of spectators remained in the Olympic stadium....more than an hour before the winner of the 26 mile marathon crossed the finish line...not long after runner after runner made way into stadium and finished the race...when everyone thought the race was long over, a single runner entered the stadium...was John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania...had seriously injured his knee in fall early in the race...leg was bloody and bandage and he grimaced with each step...but hobbled around the 400 meter track, crossed the finish line, and slowly walked off the field...when was asked why he did that here's what he said:  "My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race.  They sent me 7,000 miles to finish the race."[Proclaim, OND, 1994, p.37]

2.   The Christian life is like a race...it's a journey...a pilgrimage ...faith that is great is persistent...it perseveres to the very end...

 

III.  Great faith is strengthened by adversity

1.   The woman obviously distraught over illness daughter...Mark simply says her daughter “…had an unclean spirit…”  Matthew is more graphic describing her as being "cruelly demon possessed…"for some time had watched child suffer...and, of course, that was terribly difficult...

2.   But did not weaken faith...strengthened...didn't cause her turn from God in bitterness...drew her to Him…Difficulty, adversity, tragedy, heartache will affect our relationship with God...that's a given...but question is how will it affect that relationship...will either make us bitter, resentful, and drive us away or will make realize how dependent are and draw us to...great faith is kind which causes us turn to God and is strengthened in adversity...

 

I realize that many people scoff at the concept of and need for faith in our lives.  They say that faith is for the emotionally and intellectually weak.  But those who make such assertions generally misunderstand biblical faith.  They think of  faith as "blind acceptance of that which cannot be  proved" rather than commitment to the God of the  universe.  The woman in this story demonstrates faith as commitment...commitment that is courageous...that is persistent...and that is strengthened in adversity...That's the kind of faith God wants His people to have...

 

Mark 7:31-37 – This particular encounter is unique to the Gospel of Mark.  After leaving Tyre, Jesus traveled north through Sidon.  Then He turned to the southeast and went to the mountainous region south and east of the Sea of Galilee known as Decapolis (league of ten cities).

 

We live in a culture that is becoming increasingly secular.  We in the United States now live in what many theologians refer to as the "post-Christian era.”  In the book, How to Reach Secular People, George G. Hunter III points out the church in the western world no longer enjoys a "home court advantage."  He points out that in the United States alone there are at least 120 million secular people whose lives are not significantly influenced by the Christian faith.  The Scripture makes it clear that the mission of Christians is to impact our culture with the good news of Jesus.  In this paragraph Jesus provides a model of how to do that. 

 

I.  Be sensitive and compassionate

1.   Can't read the story without seeing the sensitivity and compassion Jesus displayed toward  this man.  Verse 33 tells us two significant things Jesus did: 

·         "And He took him aside from the multitude by himself..."...all of his life this man had been a public spectacle...even though he couldn't hear what the people were saying, no doubt he knew that some people would make jokes about his condition...he'd probably seen children pointing at him as if he were some circus freak...Jesus in no way wanted to add to that burden... He had no desire to embarrass the man or make the man's healing a public attraction...with tender, understanding, compassionate spirit Jesus pulled the man away from the crowd and dealt with him in a private manner...

·         “He touched…”  Jesus didn't have to do that...could have merely spoken a word and the man would have been healed...or could have had one of the disciples touch the man for Him...but Jesus reached out and put His hands on the man...why did He do that?...one person said it was just "the instinct of a his loving heart" [Hughes, p.181]... I like that!...was just the natural thing for Jesus to do...

2.   Can't read v.33 without seeing the great sensitivity and compassion of Jesus...to impact people in a positive way with the gospel we must have the kind of compassion Jesus had...the kind which causes us to reach out and touch people in a gentle, understanding, sensitive, caring way...

 

II.  Be dependent on God

1.   At same time Jesus reached out to the man in need, He also looked up to God...look at the first phrase of v.34 - "...an looking up to heaven with a deep sigh..."...the looking up to heaven was an outward, visible indication of Jesus' dependence on the Father...Jesus wanted the man to know the source of His power...

2.   The "deep sigh" was probably a prayer...in Romans 8 the same word that is used here is used in connection with prayer...and the point of all that is Jesus was able to help this man because He was in touch with and dependent upon God...

 

III. Be simple and direct

1.   Mark records that Jesus said only one word to this man...it was an Aramaic word which means "be opened or be released" ...but that single word radically changed this man's entire life...

2.   And basically, God has given us one word to share with our world...the word Jesus...whatever else we do and whatever else the world hears from us, if we are not clearly proclaiming the gospel/good news of Jesus, we are not doing what God has called us to do...

3.   The message the world should hear from us clearly and consistently is, "For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

4.   Charles Haddon Spurgeon once walked into what he thought was an empty auditorium where he was scheduled to preach later that day...decided to test the acoustics of the room, so he repeated several times the words of I John 1:7 - "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin."...Spurgeon later learned that a worker in the auditorium heard those words and gave his life to Christ...

5    .To reach people for Christ, we must be faithful in proclaiming that wonderful word God has given to us...

     

That’s a good formula for impacting our increasingly secular culture:  Be compassionate, be dependent on God, and be clear.

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