Sunday School Lesson 7 - Mark 7:24-37 - INCLUDES
LAST WEEK: In Mk. 6:7-13, 30-32 we studied Jesus' sending the twelve disciples in pairs on their first mission trip. The underlying truth of the lesson is that the basic mission of Christian disciples hasn't changed in 2,000 years and its relevance to you me and me today is pretty straightforward: (1) Any person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ is by definition a disciple. It doesn't involve any special qualifications or talents and has only one basic requirement: That you are willing to follow Him with a receptive and obedient heart. (2) The main job of any disciple is to simply make more disciples. Although most of us aren't called into full-time ministry, there will be times when we need to give up some things in order be obedient disciples, like giving the mission priority over our personal comfort and convenience. (3) A disciple on mission always needs to be walking in steadfast faith. Like the original twelve we should be prepared to encounter rejection and opposition. While we are accountable for our faithfulness, we must trust in God to produce the results.
THIS WEEK: We skip vv. 1-23 of Mk. Chapter 7, where Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees and scribes over His interpretation and application of Mosaic Law regarding the ceremonial cleanness of certain meals and keeping oaths that relieve a child from the commandment to care for his parents, ending in a lengthy dissertation on what makes a person clean or unclean. In today's lesson text, Mk. 7:24-37, Jesus takes His disciples to Gentile territory, where He acts in strict contrast to the elders' traditions by interacting closely with Gentiles. First, He heals the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman. Leaving there Jesus travels to the region of Decapolis and heals a deaf man. Healing the deaf is associated with God's direct blessing (Isa. 35:5) and the Old Testament does not record any account of a literally deaf person being healed; most mentions of ''deaf'' people are metaphors for people who are spiritually hardened. The people praise Jesus not only for healing the deaf and mute man, but for doing it well. We meet up with Jesus today as He's entering a house in Tyre.
Read Mark 7:24-30 - THE SYROPHOENICIAN WOMAN IN TYRE
24 Now Jesus got up and went from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know about it; and yet He could not escape notice. 25 But after hearing about Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician descent. And she repeatedly asked Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And He was saying to her, "Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 28 But she answered and *said to Him, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs." 29 And He said to her, "Because of this answer, go; the demon has gone out of your daughter." 30 And after going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
v. 24: "Now Jesus got up and went from there to the region of Tyre" - (See map). Note: the ancient Phoenicians invented the phonetic alphabet, later adapted to all Semitic languages, including Hebrew. Jesus is now in Gentile country in Tyre, the home of Jezebel, Elijah's worst enemy. It may seem remarkable that Jesus would visit such a place until we remember that He came to break-down barriers between people-to save, not to exclude them.
v. 25: "and when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know about it; and yet He could not escape notice" - Jesus purpose in being here isn't clear, but given the nature of the story, it's likely He's a guest at a Jewish home there. The phrase, "he wanted no one to know," suggests that He was seeking some relief from the constant crowds He encountered in Galilee; however, the comment, "He could not escape notice," indicates He wasn't entirely successful. One commentator said, "Just as the sun cannot be hidden in the sky, neither can the Son be hidden on earth."
v. 26a: "Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician descent" - We already know that Mark's readership was intended to be predominantly Gentile, and by the time it was written, the church had gone through considerable efforts to develop a right relationship between Jews and Gentiles. The story here about Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman reflects that tension in its earliest moments. Notice that Mark highlights the fact that they are in a Gentile area and that Jesus is dealing with a woman who is herself a Gentile.
v.26b: "And she repeatedly asked Him to cast the demon out of her daughter" - The words "repeatedly asked" in italics reflect that Jesus had ignored her pleas about her daughter up to this point. Like similar stories in the gospels, Jesus doesn't act until everyone's attention is where He wants it. What Jesus says next is a shock.
v. 27: "And He was saying to her, "Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." This is one of the most slippery verses in the New Testament unless it is understood contextally. It must have been extremely difficult for this Gentile woman to ask Jesus, a Jewish man, for help, but like Jairus two weeks ago, her need for her child was so great that she humbled herself (Mt. 15:25 adds that she knelt before Him and begged). What more could Jesus ask? Well, as it turns out, He's asking her to be a Jew by stating a Jewish saying (repeat it), which uses metaphors in which Jews are the "bread" and the "dogs" are Gentiles. (Note: Before going further, we need to grasp that Jesus was sent to focus His mission as Messiah on the Jews. While He occasionally visited the Gentile shore of the Sea of Galilee, this visit to a Gentile area with a significant pagan history is an unusual and brief departure. As we know from the Book of Acts, the time will come when Gentiles will be welcomed into the church, but that time is not yet.
v. 28: "But she answered and *said to Him, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs" - Hah, she nailed it!-she becomes a Jew (temporarily) with the right answer. Since Jesus is God and all-knowing, He knew this woman's heart before He asked the question. He said what He said-which was callous any way you look at it-to give her the opportunity to make her case, and she answers well, acknowledging the special place of the Jews while calling attention to her own need-then using Jesus' own words to support her plea for help. She uses the metaphors to simply ask what's wrong with allowing the "dogs" to eat the crumbs the "children" drop on the floor.
v. 29: "And He said to her, "Because of this answer, go; the demon has gone out of your daughter." What we need to notice here is that Jesus didn't go to the woman's house and never touched the child. In fact, He never issued a healing command but simply reported that a healing had already taken place. The emphasis of this narrative is not on the healing but on Jesus' relationship to (or more accurately lack of) to Gentiles. This is very distinct from what we saw two weeks ago in the healing of Jairus' daughter, a Jewish girl, whom He spoke to and touched (Mk. 5:41).
v. 30: "And after going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone" - Notice that this woman never begged Jesus to come her house and visit her daughter. She expressed a simple but profound faith by coming to Jesus for help in the first place, and now, by simply departing, she displays honest faith in Jesus' word and indeed, upon her return, she found her daughter completely healed. Her faith bares similarities to that of the Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant from a distance, as reported in Mt. 5:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10.
Read Mark 7:31-35 - EPHPHATHA!
31 Again He left the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 And they *brought to Him one who was deaf and had difficulty speaking, and they *begged Him to lay His hand on him. 33 And Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers in his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He *said to him, "Ephphatha!" that is, "Be opened!" 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly.
v. 31a: "Again He left the region of Tyre and came through Sidon" - ( See map). Jesus' travel itinerary seems a little odd: Since Sidon is north of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee is to the southeast, Jesus is going out of His way to visit Sidon. Some scholars suggest that Mark misunderstood the geography of the area, but it appears to be more likely that Jesus simply decided to visit that city before leaving the vicinity.
v. 31b: "to the Sea of Galilee within the region of Decapolis" - The word "Decapolis" comes from two Greek words meaning "ten cities." Although it had more than ten cities over time, most of them were located south and east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. The population of the region was predominantly Gentile, but some Jews lived there as well. The region had originally been part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel but was later reorganized by the Greeks, and for centuries, the Jews had resented this Gentile presence on their border. The current Roman overlords saw Decapolis as a means of limiting Jewish influence in the region.
v. 32: "And they *brought to Him one who was deaf and had difficulty speaking, and they *begged Him to lay His hand on him" - This should remind us of the healing of the paralytic (Mk. 2:1-12 a month ago), whose determined friends went out of their way to bring him before Jesus. Mark tells us practically nothing about this man or his friends. Some scholars suggest this man and his friends were Gentiles, but it's possible they were Jews because Mark, unlike the case of the Syrophonician woman, doesn't specifically identify them as Gentiles, and the friends asked Him to lay hands on him, which is customarily a Jewish healing practice. It's common for deaf people to have great difficulty in speaking, since they can't hear the sounds that form the words.
v. 33a: "And Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself" - We don't know why Jesus took this man aside for healing. It could have stemmed from His desire to keep His whereabouts secret as inferred earlier by v. 24.
v. 33b: "and put His fingers in his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva" - This healing represents a complete contrast to the one involving the Syrophoenician woman's daughter. If Jesus appeared too little engaged in that example, he seems over-the-top in this one.
v. 34: "and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He *said to him, "Ephphatha!" that is, "Be opened!" - Looking to heaven," Jesus demonstrates His dependency on the Father. "Ephphatha" is an Aramaic word that translates to "be opened."
v. 35: "And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly" - Taken together, the Greek words for "impediment" and "removed" literally mean the release of something from bonds. So, the image was that of a man whose tongue was in bondage-literally tongue-tied-and whose tongue, at Jesus' command, finds freedom of movement and expression. And notice that although Jesus put His fingers in the man's hears and touched his tongue, it was only when He spoke authoritative words that the man's tongue was released.
Mark 7:36-37 - THEY WERE UTTERLY ASTONISHED
36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 And they were utterly astonished, saying, "He has done all things well; He makes even those who are deaf hear, and those who are unable to talk, speak."
v. 36a: "And He gave them orders not to tell anyone" - It's ironic that the deaf-mute man can now speak clearly-the most significant event of his life-but Jesus forbids him and his friends to speak of it. Jesus has issued this command on other occasions in order not to publicize Himself.
v. 36b: "but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it" - But the healed man and his friends were way too ecstatic to obey the order and proclaimed it all the more.
v. 37a: "And they were utterly astonished, saying, "He has done all things well" - In any case, the proclamations about Jesus are altogether positive and joyful. The phrase, "He has done all things well," is evocative of Gen. 1:31: "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good."
v. 37b: "He makes even those who are deaf hear, and those who are unable to talk, speak." This statement alludes to Isa. 35:5-6a: Then the eyes of those who are blind will be opened, And the ears of those who are deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then those who limp will leap like a deer, And the tongue of those who cannot speak will shout for joy. This passage looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and the crowd's proclamation of this verse reveals that Jesus is Him, the Messiah. Amen?
APPLICATION-One Very Basic Principle:
Faith in Jesus Christ makes all people equal, regardless of gender, race, culture, or national origin. Although Jesus earthly mission was focused on the Jewish people, Jesus was and is available to all who come to Him in faith. Faith does not require wealth, earthly status, or any form of religious affiliation (i.e., Judaism) but simply requires humility, admitting powerlessness, and a willingness to act. This offer is available to all people who are willing to place their faith in Him.
OBSERVATIONS-Common threads in Both Stories:
1. Both the Syrophoenician woman and the deaf-mute man in Decapolis gained access to Jesus. Jesus crossed social barriers in both situations: He actually spoke with a Gentile woman in a Gentile city against Jewish custom and a touched a man that would have been forbidden.
2. Both the Syrophoenician woman and the deaf-mute man had problems that no one else could heal. They were both desperate and utterly powerless to help themselves.
3. Both the Syrophoenician woman and the deaf-mute man demonstrated faith in Jesus. This aspect is the greatest similarity between the two stories. The woman asked for a crumb while the man willingly allowed himself to be taken to Jesus. Yet, both people expressed humble and simple faith.
PRAYER: Lord God, our Almighty Creator and Sustainer of all life, we come before You this morning with thankful and humble hearts, praising and thanking You for your love, mercy, and underserved grace toward us. And Father, we especially thank You that You loved us enough to send Your only Son Jesus to die for us on a cross so that we can may be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity in heaven with You. We thank you, dear God, for this good church and the fact that we are now able to gather together again in-person to study and learn the truth of Your Word. The lesson we studied this morning in Mark chapter 7, Dear God, reminds us that You are an equal opportunity Savior. I pray that anyone listening to this lesson-whether in person or watching on Facebook-anyone who does not know or understand who You are, Father, will be encouraged to hear that there are absolutely no barriers-that things that divide people like race, nationality, culture, skin color, rich or poor don't matter to all to your, that we are all equal before You. Lord God, I pray that they will hear Your offer this morning to become a member of Your heavenly kingdom, and I pray that they will understand that it only requires faith that You are God and that You have the power to save them. I ask these things in the Names above all names, Jesus Christ, AMEN.