Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 7:24-37. He spoke of how Jesus not only came for the Jews, but also the Gentiles. Jesus came for the unexpected people in our lives.
- We are going to start in Isaiah. We usually don’t flip around in our Bibles a lot, but today we are going to go between Mark and Isaiah. We will be going to chapter 49 of Isaiah first. Starting in verse 5 look what it says.
And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
- This is about the suffering servant of Isaiah. Remember branch man, the servant of God who will suffer and die for his people and create a highway to God where all the nations will flow in to see his glory. This is about that guy, which we know as Jesus, and notice what it says in verse 6.
- It is too light a thing that the servant should only go to Jacob and Israel, but he will also be a light for the nations. The servant will take God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, not just Israel.
- And we see this happen in the book of Acts. The mission in the book of Acts is first to the Jews then it moves to the Gentiles. The people of Israel are the Jews. Everyone else outside of Israel are Gentiles. It goes from Israel to the nations, to the end of the earth. And this happens in the Gospels as well. Today we are going to see this shift take place in Jesus’ ministry from Jew to Gentile. From Israel to the ends of the earth.
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.
- Jesus goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon, which would have been west of Judea. Jesus has gone outside of Judea before, when he cast out the legion of demons, but this is a long ways out. This is definite Gentile territory. The location of this story is very significant in understanding what is going on.
- And again, Jesus can’t get alone. He is a long ways from home, a long ways from Jews, and people still recognize him and come to him.
- So this woman comes to him immediately because her little daughter has an unclean spirit. She hears that Jesus is there, she has heard all about Jesus, so she comes to him and falls down at his feet.
- But notice the detail given about this woman. It says she was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. She was not Jewish. This is very important. We just talked about uncleanliness last week, and ritually this woman who approaches Jesus is unclean in a lot of ways. She is a woman, a Gentile, and her daughter is demon possessed, she has an unclean spirit. But none of this bothers Jesus, because remember uncleanliness is about the condition of your heart, not what is on the outside.
- Now what Jesus says here is so interesting. He says let the little children be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and feed it to the dogs.
- But then the woman answers yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs. And it is this statement that Jesus affirms, then he tells the woman to go home because her daughter has been healed.
- What in the world is going on? This is a significant moment in Jesus’ ministry, and a turning point in Mark’s gospel. Like we read in the beginning, the Messiah’s mission was to the Jews first, to Israel first, but not just to Israel but to all the nations. Up until this point, except for one incident where Jesus cast the legion into the pigs, Jesus’ ministry has been to the Jews. He has been interacting with Jewish people regarding the Sabbath and fasting and their religious traditions. He has been going around Galilee and his hometown. Jesus began his mission to the Jews, but like it talks about in Isaiah 49 the Messiah’s mission is not to the Jews alone, but to the whole world.
- And this story is the turning point in Mark’s gospel, when Jesus shifts his mission from the Jews to the whole world. In Jesus’ saying the little children are the Jews and the dogs are the Gentiles. Jesus is saying that the children should be fed first. The Messiah came for the Jews first. The dogs, the Gentiles, shouldn’t get what is for the children.
- But then the woman responds, and says yeah, but even the dogs eat the crumbs from the children’s table. The woman knows who Jesus is. She knows the Messiah came for the Jews first, but also knows there is hope for the Gentiles. She is acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of not just the Jews, but all the nations, the whole world.
- And it is this statement that makes her daughter well. Jesus is aware of his mission to the Jews then the Gentiles, and this is the turning point for him. So because of what the woman said the demon left her daughter. Notice Jesus doesn’t even have to be there, he just speaks and the demon obeys him.
- This turning point in Jesus’ ministry continues though, and it gets super interesting. Look at the next story.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 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. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
- So Jesus was in Gentile nations to the west of Judea, and now he has traveled to Gentile nations to the east of Judea. Notice what is going on with the locations here. Jesus is going all around Judea. He is going to the Gentiles on both the east and the west. And here, in the Decapolis, they bring Jesus a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. And they begged Jesus to heal him.
- Jesus takes the man away, does this really weird thing with his fingers and spit, then looks up to heaven and says, “Be opened.” And the man is healed. His ears are opened and his tongue is released. He can hear and he can speak.
- Like always Jesus tells them to tell no one but they just go out and start telling everyone like crazy. And it says they were astonished beyond measure saying “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
- This is a similar story to what we have encountered so far in Mark. People bring someone to Jesus, Jesus miraculously heals them, tells them to keep quiet, they go tell everyone, and people are amazed. But remember this one is different, because they are in a Gentile nation. And remember the shift that happened according to Jesus’ conversation with the woman right before this. So what is going on?
- Turn to Isaiah 35.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing;everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
- We have heard this language before, remember? At the very beginning of Mark he quotes a section of Isaiah that is talking about the same thing. It is talking about this highway that will be made for people to flow into the mountain of God. People will be coming from all over on this highway to see the glory of God.
- And we remember from our time in Isaiah on Thursday nights that this highway is a major theme throughout Isaiah. That God is going to make a highway for all to come see his glory. And in this particular passage in Isaiah 35 we get an addition that connects our story in Mark.
- Look at verse 4, the end, when God comes and saves you, the eyes of the blind shall be opened ,the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame man will leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy. When God comes to save you, these things will happen. Jesus is making these things happen, has God come to save?
- This is fascinating what Mark is doing here. When Jesus began his ministry Mark quoted Isaiah 40 which talked about God saving his people and making a highway for them to flow to him. Now at the hinge point in Mark’s gospel, when Jesus shifts his ministry from the Jews to the Gentiles (which was also talked about in Isaiah) he is referencing another passage in Isaiah, chapter 35 that we just read, to say the same thing. God is going to save his people and make a highway for them to flow to him. But this highway isn’t just for the Jews. The mission of the Messiah is the same, it’s just for different people now.
- This is fascinating, and cool to see all these connections, but why does it matter? Well because we are Gentiles. We are the nations, the world, that God desires to bring to himself. And this is bigger than just Jew and Gentile, this is expected versus unexpected. We have been saying this over and over again throughout Mark that the people you would least expect to recognize him as the Son of God are the ones who do.
- So far the Jews aren’t getting it. His disciples aren’t, the Pharisees aren’t, the crowds aren’t. So Jesus moves on, he shifts his mission to the Gentiles. He shifts his mission to the unexpected because the expected aren’t getting it.
- So who are the unexpected people in your life? Who are the Gentiles that you would never expect to believe in Jesus? Who are the people that you know that you are sure would have nothing to do with Jesus, or Jesus would have nothing to do with them? Maybe it’s the atheist kid at school that talks bad about Christianity or God. Maybe it’s a family member who is deep in sin and addiction and you think they are too far gone. Maybe it’s a friend you have invited to church countless times and they still say no. These unexpected people who we would never think could come to know Jesus are exactly the type of people Jesus is in the business of going after.
- So don’t give up, and don’t lose heart. Jesus is in the business of going after the unexpected. We are at a point in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus’ mission shifts from the Jews to the Gentiles, from expected to unexpected, and it is a reminder to us that Jesus came to save the whole world. That the highway he is making is for everyone who would believe in him.
- Now, we always have to ask how this can happen. Because last week we talked about our evil hearts, and how that is true for everyone. Universally everyone is baseline bad. So how can God save us if we have evil hearts? How can we come on the highway he has created to see his glory if we are unclean?
- Before there can be salvation, before there can be redemption, before there can be a highway that all the nations flow to God on, there must be judgment because of sin and evil. God’s wrath must be satisfied.
- And this is where Jesus comes in. The violent judgment that the nations deserve, that you and I deserve, the death and destruction that the world deserves because of its sin was placed on Jesus. The blood we deserve to pour out because of our sin was poured out by Jesus. He was judged in our place. He experienced death and wrath in our place. And he did it so that we could have salvation. So that we could experience hope and redemption.
- Salvation is offered to us freely, but not without judgment. And that judgment was placed on Jesus, in our place, so that one day we can live with our creator forever.