Summary: The obverse side of the previous conversation: what comes out of the mouth when the heart is full of faith.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN FAITH COMES FROM WITHIN
In the earlier part of this chapter Jesus had disputed with some Scribes and Pharisees about ritual and tradition; and had taught those who would hear that defilement does not come from without, but from within (Mark 7:1-23).
It is also true to say that FAITH flows from within, as the next two incidents demonstrate. We have the faith of a non-Jewish woman on the one hand (Mark 7:24-30); and (if we will receive it) the faith of Jesus Himself on the other (Mark 7:31-37). In both instances Faith arises in the heart and comes forth out of the mouth (cf. Romans 10:8-10).
Our Lord withdrew for a while into the region of Tyre and Sidon. Jesus sought privacy but could not find it (Mark 7:24). Sometimes when God’s workers would rest, the work pursues them.
We meet first a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit (Mark 7:25). This alerts us to the fact, straight away, that the girl has a spiritual battle going on within her. Our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Sometimes, often, that battle is going on within us.
It is good when parents bring the needs of their children to Jesus. We should pray for them constantly and, like this woman, persistently. She cast herself down at His feet (Mark 7:25); “kept on asking” Him to cast the demon out of her daughter (Mark 7:26); and she would not take no for an answer (Mark 7:28).
Now this woman was a Gentile, born in that region (Mark 7:26), and strictly speaking had no claim upon Jesus. His initial answer sounds harsh but let us not be deflected by that. The key word is “First”: “Let the children be filled first” (Mark 7:27). This is a theological priority of which Jesus was very much aware.
In the parallel account Jesus explains to the woman, ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24). When Jesus first sent out the twelve Apostles, He warned them not to go into the way of the Gentiles, nor to enter a city of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). This was His priority for the time being: ‘to the Jew First’; and then, thankfully, ‘also to the Gentiles’ (Romans 1:16). So, the key word is “First”, not “dog”.
However, such was the faith of the woman that she simply accepted the insult and turned it to her advantage. The faith in her heart knew that even a crumb would suffice: such was the power of Jesus (Mark 7:28). In the context of the previous conversations about what comes out of the mouth arising from what is within, Jesus tells her: “For this Saying go your way, the demon has gone out of your daughter” (Mark 7:29). In the parallel account Jesus says, ‘O woman, great is your faith’ (Matthew 15:28). She went home, and it was as she had asked: a miracle conducted at a distance (Mark 7:30).
Jesus next headed towards the Sea of Galilee (Mark 7:31). The next people we meet are the friends of a deaf man who had such an impediment in his speech that it sounded like his tongue was tied up in knots. They brought him to Jesus, begging that Jesus would put His hand on him (Mark 7:32). Just as it is good to pray for our children even when they are not with us in the place of prayer, so it is good to bring the needy to Jesus for prayer.
Jesus took him aside and put His fingers in the ears of the man, spat and touched his tongue (Mark 7:33). Again, a spiritual battle was going on, perhaps inside the man himself. Jesus sighed (cf. Romans 8:26); and spoke forth in His own tongue what was in His heart: “Be opened” (Mark 7:34).
That Jesus thus spoke from the Faith within His own heart is demonstrated in the book of Hebrews, where the author places an Old Testament saying in the mouth of Jesus: ‘I will put My trust in Him’ (Hebrews 2:13). Jesus trusted in His Father, even when the whip was to His back (read Isaiah 50:6-9). So yes, when Jesus sighed and spoke that word, it was an act of faith: and thus, He is the forerunner of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The effect was immediate. The man’s ears were opened, and his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly (Mark 7:35). Notice the order: when a person’s ears are opened to hear the word of God, then their tongue is loosed to give Him praise.
By now, Jesus could not keep who He is and what He was doing secret, try as He might. The more He commanded silence, the more widely the news was spread (Mark 7:36). No wonder the people were astonished. It was the fulfilment of prophecy: ‘The ears of the deaf’ are unstopped, and ‘the tongue of the dumb’ sings (Isaiah 35:5-6). “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” (Mark 7:37).