A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find the complete archive here.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
As our family continues to walk through our adoption journey, we want to share as much of the process as possible so that others can be praying for us, and perhaps even be inspired by our experience, as we have been by the experience of others. While nothing is final in any sense of the word until the day we return to the United States with a child, everything really starts with selecting a child off of a list of children who are waiting for a family. At that point, the tables then turn so that the adopting family becomes the ones who await word from the country that they have been approved to start the formal process of bringing home their child. After initially experiencing disappointment when we were informed that our first little boy was no longer available because he had already been adopted locally, we were a little apprehensive when it came time for our second attempt. For round two we once again signed our names and sent the appropriate documents across the ocean and then, once again, we began to wait and pray and hope for an affirmative response.
During this time, we were encouraged when other families we have met online who are also in the same stage of the process started to share that they had received their approvals. But then the anxiety began to creep back in when we noticed that some of the approved families had submitted their paperwork weeks after us. On one recent evening, as we were beginning to become discouraged from the lack of a response, we prayed that, approval or rejection, the Lord would make clear to us the direction our family should go. The very next morning, before we even had a chance to make coffee, we received a text message from the adoption agency that China had approved our request and we were officially on our way towards adding a fourth little girl to our family. Silence is never a welcome response when you are desperately waiting for answers, but it doesn’t always lead to rejection.
As Jesus’ popularity continued to skyrocket in the region of Galilee, He strayed outside the boundaries of Judea and headed north into Gentile territory. In days gone by, the kings of Tyre and Sidon had formed an alliance with David and Solomon, providing necessary timber and skilled craftsmen for the building of David’s house and the furnishing of the temple in Jerusalem. However it was also Tyre that introduced Baal worship into Israel.
Mark next reveals that Jesus entered a home and attempted to conceal His identity, but “he could not be hidden.” Some commentators have speculated that after the endless demands for His attention and power, Jesus was now on vacation and not really in the mood for ministry. However, just as was the case so often in Galilee, it is much more likely that Jesus was simply wanting to be known for who He was, rather than what He could do. Jesus understood that every time He performed a miracle, the raucous crowds demanded even more signs and wonders.
Even despite His efforts for anonymity, Jesus was immediately spotted by a distraught mother. Her little daughter had an unclean spirit, and she fell down at Jesus’ feet begging Him for healing. In identifying the woman as both a Gentile and a Syrophoenecian, Mark is informing his readers that she was both ethnically and morally inferior. The woman was unworthy to be in the presence of these Jewish men, let alone a respected rabbi such as Jesus.
At first glance, Jesus seems to agree with this assessment. In his gospel account, Matthew tells us that before Jesus responded to the woman in words, He did so with His silence. Matthew 15:23 says that Jesus “did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” But rather than just discard her without a word, sending her away without an audience as the disciples hope, Jesus instead chose to listen and engage.
After she asked Jesus to cast out the demon, Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” To us, these words of Jesus come off as not only unkind, but also more than a tad condescending. How could Jesus possibly say something so harsh to a woman in such a horrible situation? Which is exactly the reaction that Jesus is going for.
Jesus is not speaking for Himself, but instead He is voicing the concerns of the disciples, and any other self-respecting Jew who would have heard this story. In some ways it reminds us of those who object to missionaries who choose to answer the Lord’s call on their hearts to take the gospel to third-world countries when there are those in their own country who live in poverty and don’t know Jesus.
Notice that the woman does not object to Jesus’ response to her request, rather she seems to be already anticipating it. She immediately replies, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Call me a dog? Fine, but even the dogs needs to eat. She doesn’t care who says what as long as the end result is the healing of her daughter.
Jesus does not reward her for her quick wit and ready reply; rather, he saw that her faith was incredible. And while Jesus already knew that before she spoke a word, He made sure that everyone else knew it too. In Matthew’s account Jesus tells her, “O woman, great is your faith!” Before she made it home, her precious little girl was at last peacefully asleep— the demon gone forever.
This unnamed woman provides quite a contrast to Jesus’ own disciples, the very ones who wanted her thrown out of the house before Jesus even spoke a word. While they had been eye-witnesses to all of the incredible works of Jesus, and had even performed some of them with their own hands, they still had trouble believing. Like the people of Israel, they had every natural advantage when it came to recognizing Jesus, and she every disadvantage, and yet she still believed.
Over and over again, the Bible tells us that Jesus came for all, and His words and actions show this to be true. Jesus did not come for the devout Jewish world, or the morally upright, or those who appear to have it all together. Jesus came for the insider AND the outcast, the powerful AND the weak, the rich AND the poor, the healthy AND the sick. He came for you. He came for me. He came for the world.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we can not receive You without faith. You know our hearts, and You know that far too often we place our faith in who we are and what we can do instead of who You are and what You have done for us. We ask that You forgive us for our self-reliance and remind us of our desperate need for You. Remind us anew today of Your incredible mercy and grace, for we are not worthy to even be your slaves, but You have invited us into family forever and called us sons and daughters of the King. We pray in Your precious name, Amen.