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MARK 7:24-37
Series:  The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Twenty two 

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 29, 2018

This morning we are looking at two miracles of Jesus.  Our introduction to the where and what of those miracles comes in verse 24.  Let me read this for us and then we’ll take a look at the map.


Verse 24 says:  And from there He [Jesus] 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.     


When we last saw Jesus - last Sunday - Jesus was in Capernaum.  The Pharisees had made an accusation against Jesus’ disciples about ceremonial hand washing.  An accusation which was actually the opening round of a smear campaign against Jesus - a campaign designed to discredit Jesus and give them the opportunity to kill Jesus.  And Jesus - in the way that only Jesus can - Jesus turns the accusation into a teaching opportunity for the crowd and His disciples.


So, coming to verse 24 - “and from there” Jesus heads northwest and up the coast and to the town of Tyre.


It is important for us when we think of Tyre to think of Gentiles.  As in there was history between the Jews and the Gentiles of Tyre.  Not all of it good.


Tyre was part of the area that God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.  But when the Israelites were conquering the Promised Land - they’d failed to take Tyre.  So Tyre was a neighbor to Israel.  Which was sometimes good.  At times they’d been allies.  And sometimes not so good.  There was time when Tyre had turned on Israel.


Tyre was a port city with natural defenses.  Alexander the Great had built a fortress there.  By the time of Jesus’ ministry the Romans had made it a colony.  Meaning Tyre had strategic and economic importance and the people were kind of arrogant about it.


The prophet Ezekiel described the arrogance of Tyre as being like Satan’s arrogant defiance of God.  And God - because of Tyre’s attitude towards God and His people - through His prophets God had blasted Tyre with some pretty ugly prophecies. 


So there’s history between the Jews and the Gentiles of Tyre.


And yet Jesus goes there.  Seemingly not to do public ministry.  Maybe to take the disciples there for some private instruction.  And - as is usually the case - Jesus is recognized.  That’s the where and what.


Would you read out loud with me beginning at verse 2 - which is miracle number one which begins with The Plea of a Gentile Mother.


But immediately a woman whose 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 the demon out of her daughter.

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.”


But she answered Him, “Yes, Lord: yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”


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.


Some things we need know about this women that are important for us to be aware of.


First - She’s a woman.  A female.  In the culture of the day her value being seen as less than a man.  A woman who’s husband is not mentioned.  Possibly a widow trying to survive or someone divorced which has its own set of horrors.


Second - The need is not for her son - if indeed she has a son.  But the need that brings her is for her daughter.  In the culture of the day sons are valued and daughters less so.  Who pleads for a daughter?  Why would someone plead for a daughter?


Third - the daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit - a demon.  Which let’s us assume that both of them - mother and daughter - were probably outcasts needing to live separate from everyone else in Tyre.


Fourth - she’s a Gentile.  Meaning - a pagan, Jews don’t touch those or speak to those - unclean Gentile. 


Fifth - she’s Syrophoenician by birth.


Northern Phoenicia - as in Phoenician - Phoenicia was the name for the geographic area where Tyre was located.  And Phoenicia had been conquered by Syria - as in Syro -  associated with Syria and annexed into Syria by the Romans.


Syrophoenician meaning by birth meaning she’s tied generationally to that area. 


Matthew in his account tells us that she’s Canaanite.  Meanings she’s not just tied into the area geographically - but ethnically. (Matthew 15:21-31)


The point of knowing that is that she has generational roots to Tyre. 


Generational roots meaning that her ancestors were part of Tyre’s betrayal of Israel and the people that God’s prophets had railed against.  They and their descendants.


Meaning this woman deserved the same judgment and poured out wrath of God that the Hebrew prophets and prophesied against her people.


What Mark is helping us to understand about this poor mother is that she should have been despised by Jesus and should have expected nothing less than total - well deserved - rejection.

And she knew it.  And yet she still comes to Jesus.


We don’t know how much this mother knew about Jesus.  But she’s heard about Him - enough to believe that Jesus could help her daughter.


So this mother - like any good parent - is desperate in wanting healing for her daughter - her little daughter - who is suffering in horrendous agony inflicted by this demon - so she sets aside whatever fear she may have had.  She comes - in sorrow and with respect for Jesus - she comes and falls down at Jesus’ feet. 


She begs Jesus.  The verb is in the imperfect tense.  She begs and keeps on begging.  Matthew tells us that she began to cry out begging for mercy.  Again in the imperfect tense.  She goes on crying out.  Begging and crying.


In the way that Matthew records this - Jesus doesn’t immediately acknowledge her.  So she just goes on begging and crying out.


So much so that - again in Matthew’s account - the disciples have had enough and the disciples beg Jesus to send this wailing unclean Gentile Syrophoenician woman with a possessed daughter - send her away.  And no one would have blamed Jesus - or thought twice about it - if He had.


Instead what Jesus did was beneath the dignity of a true rabbi.  Beneath the dignity of any self-respecting Jew.  Jesus chooses to actually engage this “woman” in conversation.


Finally, after all that begging, Jesus responds:  “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”


Which sounds harsh.  Doesn’t it?


The Hebrews referred to the Gentiles as dogs.  Not a household pet - like “Fluffy”  But an unclean - dirty - despised mongrel on the street.  Let God’s chosen children be blessed and not mongrels like you.


But the word Jesus uses - in the Greek - isn’t “dog” - it’s the word for  “puppy.”  Which - hearing that - sounds a whole lot different.  Beneath what seems harsh indifference Jesus is actually testing the faith of this woman.  Testing the nature of her trust in Him.


Woman response:  “Yes, Lord: yet even the dogs [puppies] under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”


Jesus did come first to the Jews.  The Messianic blessing must be first be given to the Jews.  But God also cares for the puppies.  Meaning, “I understand my position here.  But, God still cares about me.  And I’m will be grateful even to the scraps from God’s table.”


She doesn’t storm off or sulk about Jesus’ response.  Like so many people are disappointed when they think they seek how God is responding to them.  Assuming Jesus is being cruel and uncaring.  Her response isn’t to tell Jesus what He can do with His attitude.


Her response shows determination.  A persistence motivated by faith.

She never doubts Jesus’ ability to heal her daughter.  She never doubts His goodness.  She never doubts His desire to do what is best for everyone concerned.


Are we hearing her heart?  She’s not arrogant and demanding.  There’s no sense of entitlement - what Jesus ought to do for her.  In fact, her response doesn’t even have a sense of expectation.  It’s just a statement asking for mercy - crumbs from the table.


And Jesus - Who owes her nothing - responds to her faith by graciously granting this mother’s request and setting her demon possessed daughter free.


Matthew records Jesus telling her, “O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as your desire.” 


Notice as she leaves - she’s leaving believing Jesus.  She hasn’t seen the miracle.  She’s just taking Jesus at His word.  When she returns home she finds her child lying in bed and the demon gone.


The second miracle Mark records comes in verses 31 to 37 and concerns The Response of a Deaf Man.  If you would, please read these verses out loud with me.


Then He returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Decapolis.  And they brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on him.


And taking Him aside from the crowd privately, He put His finger into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.  And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.


And Jesus charged them to tell no one.  But the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.  And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


Jesus heads back to the Sea of Galilee via Sidon.  Sidon which is the next town north of Tyre in Syrophoenicia and definitely not on the direct route to the Decapolis.  Jesus having a purpose in everything He does they probably went there for more than coffee and kebab.  Probably it was a ministry opportunity to Gentiles.  Mark doesn’t tell us.


After Sidon then they head back south - through Capernaum - across the Sea of Galilee - to the Decapolis - to someplace on the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  How long that took we don’t know.  What Jesus did along the way.  We don’t know.  Where exactly they ended up we don’t know.  Mark doesn’t record it for us.  All that isn’t Mark’s point.


We’ve seen the Decapolis before on Jesus’ itinerary.  Chapter 5 - Jesus casting out the demons - Legion - and the herd of pigs getting dead in the Sea.


“Deca” - in Greek is the number... ten.  “Polis” meaning “city.” “Deca polis” because there were essentially 10 cities in the region that were Greek. 


After Alexander the Great conquered Palestine - back in the 330’s BC - these ten cities were set up by the Greeks to be everything Greek.  Greek government - Greek courts - Greek temples - Greek theaters - Greek schools - Greek sports - Greek money - Greek armies.  Everything Greek.  Even Greek people.  Meaning the area was mostly inhabited by people the Jews considered to be unclean and ungodly pagan and perverse Gentiles.


Sound familiar?  The Decapolis is full of - yeech - Gentiles.


It’s important for us to understand what Mark is showing us in all that.


Jesus’ interaction - the Hebrew Messiah - and the Gentile women of Tyre.  Then Jesus’ purposeful movement and return to the Gentile Decapolis is profoundly significant.


Significant in that we’ve turned a page in Jesus’ ministry. 


Let’s be clear.  Jesus wasn’t afraid of conflict.  The rich and the powerful didn’t intimidate Him.  The religious hierarchy didn’t phase Him.  He hasn’t run away from any of that.  But conflict and drama with all that hasn’t fit into His agenda.  Until now.


Now - after several ministry tours around Galilee - the time has come to turn His attention towards Jerusalem - the stronghold of theological and religious error - to confront the different factions in Jerusalem - all that is now on His agenda.


What were beginning to see - what Mark is introducing us to - is Jesus becoming increasingly assertive in His approach to ministry.  Increasingly out-of-the-box in His approach to ministry.


We saw some of that last Sunday when Jesus went after the Pharisees - calling them hypocrites.  Here Jesus is moving through Gentile territory.  He’s out of Galilee.  He’s bypassing Galilee.  He’s expanding His ministry.


Which is significant for us in that Jesus is now ministering to Gentiles - not just Jews.  We’re seeing the reality of Jesus coming for the whole world - for us.  And Jesus is turning His attention to Jerusalem and what will lead to the cross. 


When Jesus arrives in the Decapolis a group comes to Jesus bringing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.


This group who brings this man has somehow heard about Jesus ability to heal.  Somehow they’d heard about they process of “laying on of hands.”  Maybe they’d heard some of that from the formerly demonized man that Jesus had told to tell everyone about what Jesus had done for him.


However they heard - this group comes - begging Jesus to heal this Gentile man who’s deaf and has a speech impediment.

Deaf - meaning he couldn’t hear.  Speech impediment - meaning he had difficulty speaking.  James Moffatts’ translation describes him as “a deaf man who stammered.”  (1)


The word in Greek means he had to work hard at being understood.


Which is understandable.  Isn’t it?


People we know who haven’t heard speech - or can hear themselves speak - they have a difficult time with the proper sounds of speech.


And it’s not a stretch to imagine that being front and center before Jesus - in front of this crowd - is the last place this man wanted to be.  He can’t hear what’s going on.  He’s got a speech impediment related to his hearing.  And here he is dragged in front of Jesus by his neighbors.


Maybe we can relate to that.  Being at the center of attention - awkward - uncomfortable - exposed - vulnerable.  Ever felt like that?


Jesus responds to this man - embarrassed - singled out by his disability - made to stand there in front of everyone - notice how Jesus responds to this man.  He does something we haven’t seen Jesus do before.


Do you see it?  He takes the man aside to deal with him privately.  Jesus totally gets it.  Jesus gives the man respect - courtesy - privacy.


And then - when the two of them are alone - Jesus pantomimes.  Like He’s using sign language.  Jesus demonstrates for the man the process of healing so that this man can understand what it is that Jesus is about to do to him.


Isn’t that cool?


Jesus puts His finger into the man’s ears - giving the indication that He’s going to restore his hearing.  Then He spits - probably on His finger - we don’t know - but it seems that somehow Jesus touches the man’s tongue - probably with the spit - indicating that He’s going to restore his speech. 


Someone say “yuck.”  But if Jesus wants to spit in my mouth I’m down for that.  It’s all good cause it’s Jesus. 


Then Jesus looks up to heaven - meaning we need to understand that what’s coming is coming from God.  Jesus - God alone - Who is able to heal this man.


And Jesus sighs - a word in Greek that has the idea of a groan or a sound that expresses some gut level - too deep to express in words - feeling of discontent.  Jesus sighing as He feels the need of this man.


Jesus gets this man.  Where he is emotionally - physically - spiritually - in all of his awkwardness and fear and hesitancy.  And Jesus has heart level compassion for this man - longing to see him set free from his misery.


The word “Ephphatha” is Aramaic.  It’s a command:  “Be opened”  The form of the word in Aramaic is even more emphatic:  “Be completely opened.”  Which happens.


His ears are opened - completely.  His tongue is released - literally it’s “set free” - released from what had bound it.


Mark tells us that “he spoke plainly.”


Plainly is the Greek word “orthos” - which is at the root of our English words like… “Orthodontia”  “ortho” meaning “straight” or “correct” and “odous” meaning “tooth.”  Meaning the straightening of teeth.  Or “orthodox”  “ortho” meaning “straight” or “correct”  and “doxa” meaning “opinion” - meaning a “correct belief”


The man instantly started speaking correctly - without any distortion - no accent.  Not like someone who’d been deaf and had to learn how to speak.  But instantly he’s speaking as if he’s been clearly hearing and speaking all his life.


The point being that this an instantaneous - without question - only God can do this kind of miracle - miracle.  Which Jesus - from a heart deep with compassion - for this Gentile man - what Jesus has done for this man.


Then Jesus charges the man.  Which in Greek means that Jesus... charged the man.  “Tell no one.”  Which we know never works.  Especially with a man who’s speaking plainly with a set free tongue - perhaps for the first time in his whole life.

The verb “speak plainly” is in the imperfect - meaning he was speaking plainly and he kept right on speaking plainly.  A non-stop uninterrupted verbal stream   Apparently he had years of things to say to people.


But Jesus’ charge reminds us that Jesus’ ministry is about the message not the miracles.  Jesus desiring that people understand why He’s come - even to the Gentiles - and what’s being offered to them.  The good news of who Jesus is and how to respond to Him.


Then - finally in verse 37 - Mark records that they were “astonished beyond measure.”  Which means that they were literally - jaw dropping - beside themselves with amazement - blown away.  They couldn’t believe their eyes - and their ears.


They said, “He has done all things well.”  All things being that the deaf hear and the mute speak. 


“Well” which describes how God does things.  What God does is always done well.  Perfect.  Complete.  Good.  Always.


Centuries earlier Isaiah had prophesied that one of the blessings of the Messianic age would be that the ears of the deaf would be unstopped and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy.  (Isaiah 35:3-6)


A student of prophecy should have picked up on that.  Whether this Gentile crowd understood that or not we don’t really know.  But they did understand that they were seeing God at work.


They get it.  What Jesus has done is a God thing.

Which is a way different response than Jesus got from the Jews on the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  From God’s children who had priority seating at the table.  The Pharisees and others - who’d accused Jesus of working for Satan and who wanted to kill Him.


Matthew’s record of what happened concludes with the crowd - that after all they saw - “They glorified the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:31c)


They told everyone.  It’s well.  It’s a God thing.  For Who God is.  For What God does.  Even in His undeserved love and grace and mercy towards each of us - undeserving Gentiles - God alone deserves the glory.


Processing all that...


There’s a reason why Mark puts these two miracles back-to-back.


None of the other gospel writers put these two miracles back-to-back.  None of the other writers even record the details of the second miracle. 


Mark records these two miracles and puts them back-to-back because Mark is writing to Gentiles - Romans and Greeks and beyond the Romans and Greeks on down through the pages of history.  Mark is writing to Gentiles about God’s heart towards Gentiles.  Towards us.


In what we looked at last Sunday (7:1-23) Mark makes the point of telling us that Jesus was erasing the dividing line between clean and unclean foods.  Tearing down the traditions of the Jews in favor of connecting people directly with God and His grace.


Here Mark is making the point that Jesus is erasing the line of ministry between supposedly - have a seat at the table - clean people - Jews - and unclean people like us.


As Jesus is entering this new season of ministry - Jesus is way outside the box blowing open the door to God’s kingdom - opening it wide for Jews and Gentiles - Jesus revealing the heart of God for the nations.  For us.


The same God who responds to the faith of a desperate and undeserving mother and with such heart level compassion to the needs of a deaf and mute man is the same God Who reaches to us this morning.


Whatever our handicap or our hang up or our baggage of our background - the same compassionate God that travels to Tyre and Sidon and the Decapolis is the same God that took on human flesh and traveled to the cross for us.  For you.  For me.


God does all things well.  A question for us this morning is - are we responding well to what God has done?


Two takeaways for how we can respond to what Mark is opening up to us this morning.  The two back-to-back miracles show us two ways that we can respond to Jesus.


First:  Prayer 


Thinking about the example of this Gentile mother.


At some point all of us are going to be at a place of desperation.  Maybe not with a daughter who’s demon possessed.  But in a lot of ways we can relate to where this mother is coming from.  Maybe you’ve got a pressing need this morning.  Something that’s more impossible than anything you’ve ever faced.


If not.  Keep going.  It’ll happen.


How do we deal with that?  How do we cope?  How can we rise above that and keep moving forward?


What’s here reminds us to go to God in prayer.


Not with wishful thinking.  Not with a spirit of entitlement or arrogance or demanding things from God.  Not trying to manipulate God by our works of righteousness.  Not rushing ahead of God and not waiting for His clear direction.  Not getting all bent out of shape when God doesn’t do what we want when we want God to do it.


But believing that God is Who He says He is and believing that He will do what He says He will do.  Trusting Him completely.  Having faith and being in prayer.   


Looking at the example of this Gentile mother - four things we can learn about faith and prayer.  What that can look like for us.


First:  Persistence.


God - Who is our Heavenly Father is like any parent who desires his children to come to him.  God Who is infinitely patient with us.  God gives us permission to bother Him.  To keep coming with boldness.  And when we don’t see the results we expected to keep coming back to Him.  To not stop.  To not back off.


God is always at work within us and through us in ways we don’t yet get.  He may be growing our faith or accomplishing something amazing and using us to do it.


God gets us.  He hears us.  His voice mail doesn’t get full.  He’s not being cruel when He makes us wait.  So we need to be persistent.


Second:  Humility.


The mother is a women.  In her culture that meant that she was borderline human.  The Pharisees considered her on the level of mongrel dog.


And yet she comes to Jesus - acknowledging that she deserves nothing.  She has no racial claim to what God offers.  She has no claim of righteousness - right standing before God.  Only faith and need and desperation for God’s mercy.


We live in a culture of a growing spirit of self-focused entitlement.  Everything we desire is seemingly a click away.  Delivered by a drone to our door.  Our phones unlock the world at the tap of our fingers.  We drive around in our cars listening to our music to shop at stores that are bent on catering to our needs.  We have so much food in so many varieties.  Even here in Merced.  Home of the best Mexican restaurants outside of Mexico.


Who needs God in all that?  We are god.


That spirit of self-focused entitlement has invaded the church - the Body of Christ.  We can sing songs that focus on what God does for us and fall into the trap of thinking that all this is about us.  It is way to easy to gather for worship that’s about us.  Or serve God in what focuses on us.  What fits our schedule - our needs - what’s going on in our family - our well deserved time off.


It’s almost like God owes us.  Like God should be pleased with us for showing up to worship Him or to serve Him.


Are we clear on this?  The Holy - self-existent - transcendent - omnipotent - omniscient - omnipresent - God - our creator and sustainer and savior - owes us nothing but eternal punishment.  We deserve nothing but Hell.


A Chuck Swindoll quote:  “When our expectations begin with the truth of what we are really entitled to, everything else becomes a gift.” (2)


Let me just have the crumbs that fall off the table.

There is no attitude of entitlement in a spirit of humility.


Third:  Focus.


She was looking to Jesus.  No one else.  With whatever else was going on in her life.  She knew her answer was in Jesus.


She may not have totally understood that.  Like which of us really does.  But she knew her answer was Jesus and she stayed focused on the only One who could meet her needs.


Which is exactly where our focus needs to remain regardless of the distractions and discouragements that Satan throws up against us.  Other concerns that we sometimes allow to seem greater and more powerful than Jesus.


Fourth - Confidence.


When Jesus told her that the demon had left her daughter and He sent her home.  She went home.  She didn’t hesitate.  She didn’t ask for clarification or some sign.  She went home.


Confidence to act on what we see God opening up to us.  To step forward in faith.


Knowing that God does all things should encourage us to come before Him in prayer.  With persistence - humility - focus - confidence.


Second take away - responding to God:  Praise.

Thinking about the example of this Gentile man - with ears wide open and tongue set free - who wouldn’t stop talking - and the crowd in the Decapolis who declared that Jesus had done all things well - to the glory of God.


Do you remember the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn?


O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise.

The glories of my God and King,

The triumph of His grace!


My gracious Master and my God,

Assist me to proclaim,

To spread through all the earth abroad

The honors of Thy name.


Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,

Your loosened tongues employ,

Ye blind, behold your Savior come,

And leap, ye lame, for joy! 


As those who’ve experienced the underserved mercy and grace of our loving Heavenly Father - who’s ears have been made to hear Him and our tongues that have been set free to praise Him.  How are we doing at responding to God?


In what we say and how we live may we respond well.  To God alone be the glory.



1. James Moffatt, The Bible, A New Translation (New York, NY, Harper Brothers, 1950)

2. Chuck Swindoll - series reference (below), page 200


Series references:

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).

Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2:  Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.