Summary: Have you ever noticed that Jesus often does things that we don’t expect him to do? Take the stories we read in Mark 7:24-37, for example. He does two things that we don’t expect him to do.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus often does things that we don’t expect him to do? Take the stories we read in Mark 7:24-37, for example. He does two things that we don’t expect him to do.
First, Jesus gave an uncharacteristically rude and abrupt reply to the woman’s request for her daughter to be healed. Jesus is often portrayed as a gentle, kind and caring person, but in this case he gave a harsh response. The woman made a bold move by approaching Jesus in the first place. At that time, women did not boldly approach men. She was also bold by continuing to engage him when he attempted to dismiss her because she was a Gentile.
There was a reason for his reaction. He wanted to encourage the woman to keep asking him to cast the demons out of her daughter. This should remind us that God doesn’t always answer prayer right away, and sometimes he doesn’t answer prayers in the way we want him to answer them. Sometimes he says, “yes’”, sometimes he says, “no,” sometimes he says “not right now,” and sometimes he says, “no, I have something even better in mind for you.”
The Jews hated the Gentiles and referred to them as “dogs.” In Jewish households at that time, people ate with their fingers and then wiped their hands with a piece of bread, which was given to their pet dogs to eat. Since dogs were considered to be unclean, Gentiles and dogs were on the same level in Jewish society. Dogs also ate any crumbs that were dropped from the table. When the woman referred to dogs eating the crumbs from the table, she meant that the Gentiles would accept any scraps from Jesus’s initial ministry to the Jews. Because of the woman’s faith, Jesus healed her daughter without seeing her or touching her.
Jesus was right when he told the woman that he was sent to minister first to the people of Israel, but there would come a time when his ministry of God’s salvation would be extended to the whole world. After all, Jesus was in Gentile territory, and even in Gentile territory his fame preceded him, so he could not move about in anonymity.
The woman with the demon-possessed daughter knew that Jesus’ first earthly ministry was to the Jews. She was willing to accept this, and she was willing to be called a dog, but her love for her daughter was so great that she was willing to endure Jesus’ harsh remarks. She did not give up, and neither should we. When we persist in spite of harsh treatment and ridicule, Jesus will meet us at our point of need and bless us richly. Everyone who accepts Jesus as Lord will never be turned away. (Pause)
God sometimes tests our faith for various reasons, just like Jesus tested the woman’s faith with his rude reply. The reasons for these tests range from strengthening our faith to teaching us something. When Jesus was abrupt with the woman, he was testing her faith. Jesus and life can be hard teachers at times. They give the test first and then they teach the lesson. Our response to their tests influences our character, faith and future. By the way, the woman passed her test with flying colours!
Sometimes the life of faith doesn’t turn out the way we want it to. When this happens, we must continue to believe not only because we want to, but because we have to. Jesus is the only one we can rely on in our deepest sadness. Jesus is the only one we can hope in when all hope is lost. Jesus is the only one we can seek out, fall at his feet and ask for even just a small amount of help. Jesus can take our belief and call it faith.
Another way Jesus surprised the people was by healing the deaf man who had a speech impediment. He healed the man in a very personal way-by touching him. Such a miracle was expected of the Messiah, but the fact that this miracle would be done for a Gentile was a complete surprise. By healing the deaf man, Jesus’ popularity reached a new high. He told both the man and the crowd not to tell anyone about what happened (because it was not time for his ministry to be extended to the Gentiles), but they disobeyed him.
In Jesus’ time, sickness was thought to be the result of sin. When Jesus touched the deaf man, he touched someone whom many people considered to be a sinner. Jesus came a long way physically, religiously and socially to get to this man, open his ears and loosen his tongue. By healing the deaf man and the woman’s daughter, Jesus reached out to people who were eager to hear him.