Summary: A sermon on Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman from Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28. (Material adapted from Mark Garland in "NIV Application Commentary", SermonCentral Contributors, and Jack Peters)
Sermon for 4/30/2006
He’s not safe. He’s a lion.
College English class: Table Talk. I could say that paper was out of character.
Thesis: Let’s examine the two main characters in this story: Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman
I. Jesus Christ
A. In our minds this does not seem like the words, actions or attitudes of Jesus Christ. He seems so mean! A few commentators say that this account was incorrect, that Jesus never did this and that it should not be included. After John Mark through the help of Peter penned this gospel, someone came along and wrote this account in.
B. Mark is not the only gospel that has this account. Maybe there are some things left out. Let’s read that account: Matthew 15:21-28. That doesn’t help us out at all. It makes Jesus seem even worse!
C. Why does Jesus act that way? Jesus was trying to get away for it all. Many times we are told in the gospels that Jesus wanted to get away to meditate and get some rest.
D. Here is Mark 7 Jesus has just had a run in with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. This group had come from Jerusalem looking to trap Jesus in something and the only thing they can find is that Jesus’ disciples are breaking the traditions of the elders by not washing their hands before they eat. How ridiculous! Jesus gives them some food for thought by telling them of instances where they set aside God’s Word to uphold their traditions. Jesus is probably tired of being harassed like this and so he retreats for a time into Gentile territory.
E. Also, right after this he tells the crowd: (Mark 7:15 NIV) Nothing outside a man can make him ’unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ’unclean.’" The crowd evidently doesn’t understand him but even Jesus’ disciples don’t understand this saying because they ask him about it.
F. Maybe Jesus is teaching his disciples a lesson here, especially as we look at the account in Matthew. At first Jesus did not answer this woman at all so his disciples begged him to send this Gentile woman away. What he says to this woman is exactly what the Pharisees and the teachers in the law would say to her. Only to the lost sheep of Israel. Take the children’s bread (meaning the children of Israel) and toss it to their dogs (meaning the Gentiles). This is exactly what the Pharisees would say to such a woman. But still isn’t Jesus being somewhat mean with this woman! Yes, he might have a playful spirit, but still these statements are like he is trying to upset this woman!
G. When we look at these two statements of Jesus: I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel & It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs, both of these statements are correct. They might not be nice but they are correct! Time and again Jesus makes it clear that His ministry, and the ministry of his disciples, is to be directed to the house of Israel.
H. (Mat 10:5 NIV) these twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. (Mat 10:6 NIV) Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
I. Jesus is obedient to the covenant of the Old Testament. Still under the Old Covenant here. Also, after the beginning of the New Covenant: (Rom 1:16 NIV) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
J. In another account where a Samaritan woman is trying to pick a fight with him (John 4:21 NIV) Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. (John 4:22 NIV) You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
K. Jesus is not being prejudice or bigoted here, this is really the truth. The Messiah had to come from the Jews, and then the Messiah was preached to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles.
L. Most of Jesus ministry was with Jewish people and in Jewish lands.
M. Now, the statement about the children’s bread is also true. The children of God at this time were the Jews, those who were faithful to the Old Testament, and had a blood line from Abraham. Evidently she did not observe the Jewish religion and laws. She was a Gentile and of the worst kind, she was from old time enemies of the Israelites, the Canaanites.