Updated: Nov 25, 2021
THE SIMPLYREVISED PODCAST
Mark begins his gospel account by stating his purpose for writing "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (Mk. 1:1). Mark informs his readers that this is the account of the Messiah's Good News. Jesus, Himself, speaks of Good News (Mk. 1: 14-15).
"Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
We are given descriptions, accounts, parables, and miracles that help us see God's kingdom has arrived in Jesus through the first six chapters. As we enter chapter 7, yes, it is still about the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, but Mark is also revealing Christ to us. The teaching and miracles recorded through chapter 10 are accounts, in part, designed to help us understand who Christ is.
Mark 8: 27-29
"Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ."
Peter answers, "You are the Christ" - You are the anointed of God. This is what Peter is confessing, the true identity of Jesus. As we continue our studies through Mark, part of the larger story is seeing and understanding who Christ is, who Jesus truly is.
Continuing in the second half of chapter 7, Jesus departs Galilee and goes to Tyre and Sidon (ref. 7:24) on the coast of the Mediterranean. Later, He travels toward the Sea of Galilee (ref. 7: 31). We are not told "why" Jesus leaves at this time and travels to these regions. However, one thing noticed is that this was a Gentile or an unclean area, at least in the mind of Jews living in the time of Jesus.
Jesus has just finished teaching about what truly makes a person unclean. It is not what is on the outside that makes a person unclean, but it is the heart that defiles a person (ref. Mk. 7:15). In an area where He should have found faith, Jesus saw those who honor him in word only, and their hearts were far from Jesus. (ref. Mk. 7:6). However, it is in this Gentile region that Jesus finds people of great faith. A woman whose daughter has an unclean spirit and a man who is deaf and mute. Could it be that Jesus is providing a valuable, practical, hands-on lesson for His disciples about the kingdom of God? I can only join others in speculating. I do believe there is a connection, and a reason Mark is pointing us to these accounts.
The Syrophoenician Woman
Mark 7: 24-30
"From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.”
Considering this passage, does Jesus call this woman a "dog"? If He does, this would be remarkably offensive. I don't believe this to be what Jesus is saying. He is not calling her a dog. Jesus is teaching about God's kingdom through the form of a parable. The "children" in the parable would be the children of Israel. The dogs represent those who are outside of God's covenant with Israel, Gentiles, or Greeks. Jesus is stating God's purpose in the Good News. The gospel or Good News is to be delivered first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (ref. Rom. 1:16; Acts 1:8). The gospel was to go out from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. The gospel is for all people. Jesus is demonstrating this through grace shown to this woman and her daughter.
What Jesus was not able to find among the scribes and Pharisees who questioned Him about the washing of hands, He saw in this Syrophoenician Woman, faith.
The Deaf-Mute Man
From this account, Jesus departs to the region to Decapolis by the Sea of Galilee. There was a man, brought to Him, who was deaf and who has a speech impediment. Jesus quietly pulls him aside and motions to him what He is doing.
"And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
In (Isaiah 35:4-6) we read:
Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.
When the Messiah comes, the eyes of the blind will be opened, ears of the deaf will hear. The words of the prophets are fulfilled in Jesus. This is good news!
From these two accounts, what can we learn for ourselves today?
First, we can understand God's kingdom is for all people. Jesus is not concerned with our history. He is not concerned about where we live, what we may look like, or the language we speak. Jesus is searching for people of faith, people who believe in Him.
Second, Jesus wants us to see and hear His words. The grace of our Lord is for those who are willing to see His truth and hear His words. If our eyes are closed and our ears dull of hearing, we will not be ready to receive Christ.
Part of what we see through these accounts are pictures of ourselves. We see people oppressed with heavy burdens. Spiritually, those who are blinded and dul