Note from Jesus
During My ministry on earth, I talked about how important a person’s heart is (Mark 7:1-23 is just one example.). The Jewish religious leaders had made all sorts of rules to be sure the people of God kept themselves ritually clean. Matthew and Mark placed My words about the importance of the heart right before the events you read about today. This sequence can help you see a key point I made with My life. While My earthly ministry was focused primarily on Jews, “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), I reached out to all kinds of people who were normally considered “unclean” by many of My fellow Jews.
Tyre and Sidon were places where old enemies of the Jewish people lived. My very presence there, especially with My ministry to these non-Jews, was very shocking. Then I traveled back to Decapolis or “the area of the Ten Cities,” another largely non-Jewish area on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. I blessed, taught, and healed in this region just as I did in Tyre and Sidon. The focus of My work was once again on people’s hearts. Were they open and receptive? Were they seeking after God? Did they long for grace? My focus was not on race, nationality, or ethnicity. I was willing to help, bless, and be with people many of My fellow Jews considered “unclean”!
This background is very important for you to know when you read the following story of the woman from Syrophoenicia. My words are a little distorted by your translations because you can’t hear the subtle nuance of one letter. The little “i” in Greek makes a big difference and turns the word for a dog (kunaron) into the word for a puppy (kunarion) and changes My words from an ugly ethnic slur into an invitation for faith.
So often people of different races use slurs to dismiss the value of another person. I used a play on words similar to a racial slur to invite the woman from Syrophoenicia to display both her wit and her faith. She was desperate and wanted help. She came expecting to be called a strange and mangy dog — the way many Jews would have referred to her and she would have referred to them. However, I took the term and softened it to mean puppy or lap dog — something that was often considered a part of the family. She instantly seized on this play on words. Instead of taking offense, she responded showing her heart: “O yes, Jesus, you are right. But in a family, the little puppies eat the crumbs that fall from the table!” She wasn’t just prostrating herself before Me; she came with her heart bowed down to receive My grace and help for her daughter!
She got it! I wasn’t pushing her away, but inviting her in close if her faith could see through the fog of racial and cultural separation and suspicion. Thankfully, she did! She displayed incredible faith because she was determined to have My powerful grace change her daughter’s condition.
After My resurrection, I sent My disciples to share My message and My grace with every nation of the world and every ethnic group on the planet. But even during My earthly ministry that was primarily for the people of Israel, you can find many non-Jews brought to My table of grace and mercy. All of these people, Jews and non-Jews, had to do something if they were going to follow Me. They had to repent — change their hearts, minds, and behavior about how to live, and believe that I came from the Father to bring them life.
So let Me ask you this important question as you read My story today: What would keep you from following Me? A supposed racial slur? A hard command? The challenge to change your cultural views? An unwillingness to leave your racial prejudice behind?
As hard as My call to give up yourself and follow Me may seem, realize underneath it lays My great tenderness and love for you. I want you to be like the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman: “whole and healthy”!
Verses to Live
While each person must surrender his or her heart to Me in faith, I want you to notice two things in the following two events Mark tells in the verses below.
First, someone who loves a person in need tries to get that person to Me. Faith becomes the key to unlocking God’s grace in the life of that other person! The woman in this story comes at a great social risk and gets My help for her daughter. In the second event, a group of friends brought a person with deep needs to Me and begged Me to help. Without their urgency and their voice, the man with deep needs would not have had his hurts disclosed and his needs made known. What a wonderful example of a mother with courage and faith! What great friends of determination and faith!
Second, notice that the Father’s love, the love that My actions demonstrate, is shared freely with all — man and woman, young and old, Jew and Gentile, regardless of region, culture, or nationality. My love is available for all, but there will be times when you will need to help someone who feels helpless and alone to find her or his way to Me!
From there [by the Sea of Galilee] Jesus and His followers traveled to the region of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast. He hoped to slip unnoticed into a house, but people discovered His presence. Shortly after He arrived, a woman whose daughter was filled with an unclean spirit heard that He was there, so she came directly to Him and prostrated herself at His feet.
The woman was not a Jew, but a Syrophoenician (a Greek) by birth. All the same, she came to Jesus and begged Him to cast the unclean spirit out of her daughter.
Jesus (shaking His head):
I must feed the children first. It would do no good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.
Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table may eat of the children’s crumbs.
Jesus (smiling and nodding):
This is a wise saying. Go back home. Your daughter is free of the spirit that troubled her.
And when she returned to her house, she discovered that it was as Jesus had told her. Her daughter lay on her bed, in her right mind, whole and healthy.
Jesus traveled on His way through Tyre and Sidon, eventually returning to the region of the Sea of Galilee. From there He pressed on to the area of the Ten Cities. Among the sick who were brought to Him was a man who was deaf and could barely speak at all, and those who brought him begged Jesus to lay His hands on the man. Jesus took him aside from the crowd, alone, and touched his ears with His fingers. Then after spitting on His fingers, Jesus touched the man’s tongue. Looking heavenward to God, Jesus sighed and commanded,
Open up and let this man speak.
Immediately the man could hear, his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Jesus ordered those who had witnessed this to tell no one; but the more He insisted, the more zealously people spread the word.
He does everything so well! He even returns sound to the deaf and mute.
Response in Prayer
Almighty God and loving Father, I confess that there are things I am having a hard time surrendering to You. Sometimes I find myself wanting to maintain control of my life and wanting to decide what I think is best for me. Yet as I see this woman look past the apparent harsh words of Jesus and as I hear the tenderness of Jesus, I am convicted. I am convicted, dear Father, that I need to surrender all of my heart and all of my will to Jesus as my Lord. I need to let go of trying to control my circumstances and trying to decide what is best for myself. Please help me as I yield to Jesus and ask for His help, wisdom, and power. It is in His name I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.