Mark 7:24-37

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 2, 2005


We’ve seen how Jesus’ ministry became increasingly popular.  At one point Jesus and the disciples were having trouble even sitting down to have a meal together.  When Jesus tried to take the fellows away for a time to rest, the crowds just followed them and they ended up having more ministry rather than rest.

When they got back from their “vacation”, Jesus and His disciples ran into a little bit of trouble.  The Pharisees began to nitpick about the behavior of the disciples, since they weren’t following the strict Pharisee tradition of ceremonial washings before they ate their meals.  The Pharisees believed that a person would become “impure” or “defiled” if they didn’t follow all the rituals and ceremonies.

Jesus used this opportunity to teach an important lesson.  He taught that a person wasn’t defiled by what went into him, like food eaten with unwashed hands.  He taught the people were defiled by the kinds of things that came out of their heart, things like immorality or greed.

We also talked last week about the connection of this whole episode with Peter.  We believe the event took place in Peter’s house.  Matthew tells us that Peter was the one asking Jesus to clarify everything.

Later, in the book of Acts (Acts 10), God will use this teaching of eating clean or unclean food to teach Peter that God cared for Gentiles and wanted the Gentiles to know Him.  God told Peter that Peter shouldn’t call something “unclean” if God had called it “clean”.

This all sets the stage for what happens next … an encounter with a Gentile woman.

Mark 7:24-37

:24-30 The Gentile Mother

:24 …went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

Tyre and Sidon – on the coast of modern Lebanon, this is the land of the ancient Phoenicians, an empire that once flourished a thousand years before Jesus, but had been pretty much leveled by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.

would havethelo – to will, have in mind, intend; to desire, to wish

Jesus really didn’t want anyone knowing where He was staying.

It seems that Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon to get away from the crowds.

I understand it can be a bit of a drag to be super popular.

From Saturday’s Orange County Register (Saturday, January 1, 2005)

Leinart's celebrity grows
The USC quarterback started getting noticed when he won the Heisman.
The Orange County Register
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – Mall employees had no idea who he was but figured he must be some sort of celebrity doing his Christmas shopping.
Who else would draw a growing crowd of children and adults seeking autographs?
Never mind that it was just Matt Leinart, the same guy who not long ago could walk anywhere without any interference but now needs an offensive line to protect him at Nordstrom.
“Even when I’m in Orange County when I’m at home, I’m just walking around and have to put my hood on and my hat so people don’t always come up,” the USC quarterback said Friday. “There are times I just want to relax and be normal.”
The problem is, normal stopped existing three weeks ago when Leinart won the Heisman Trophy and entered the struggle between his desire to remain just Matt Leinart and the pull for him to embrace the celebrity that is his for the taking.
Leinart was warned immediately after he won the Heisman by Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, last season’s winner, who told him everything was about to change. But until he had to be taken to a back room at a mall so he could shop or was mobbed by “the eBay kings” on public outings, he didn’t comprehend fully what was happening to him.

:25 whose young daughter had an unclean spirit

uncleanakathartos – not cleansed, unclean.  This young girl was possessed by a demon.  I find it interesting though that the previous passage was all about whether you could become “defiled” by eating something that was “unclean”.

:26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him …

GreekHellenis – she’s a Gentile women, not a Jewess

SyrophenicianSurophoinissa – She’s a Phoenician from the area of Syria, the area around Tyre and Sidon (as opposed to the Phoenicians that lived in North Africa).

besought – imperfect tense, “she was continually making this request …

:27 …it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

meetkalos – beautiful, suitable, commendable, noble

It’s not a noble thing to be feeding your dogs when your children are hungry.

dogskunarion – a little dog.  Jesus doesn’t use the word the Jews would normally use to describe the Gentiles as “dogs”.  He uses “little dog”.  It’s kind of like the latest “in” thing among celebrities, the little “lap dogs”.

Jesus isn’t belittling the Gentiles.  He’s simply telling the woman in language that she would understand that His purpose was to minister to His disciples.  It wasn’t appropriate to interrupt the family meal to feed the dogs.  It wasn’t appropriate to interrupt His ministry to His disciples for her.

But instead of discouraging her, Jesus’ answer stirred up her faith.

:28 …yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.

crumbspsichion – a little morsel, a crumb

children’spaidion – a young child, a little boy, a little girl

Lots of “little” stuff here.  She says, “The little dogs under the table eat of the little children’s little morsels”.

Have you ever known a child to take some of their food from their plate and feed the dog?  That happens of course because the children are simply obeying the basic rules for dogs.  Did you know that dogs had some simple rules to live by?



VISITORS: Quickly determine which guest is afraid of dogs.  Charge across the room, barking loudly and leap playfully on this person. If the human falls down on the floor and starts crying, lick its face and growl gently to show your concern. 

BARKING: Because you are a dog, you are expected to bark. So bark--- a lot. Your owners will be very happy to hear you protecting their house.  Especially late at night while they are sleeping safely in their beds.  There is no more secure feeling for a human than to keep waking up in the middle of the night and hearing your protective bark, bark, bark...

HOLES: Rather than digging a BIG hole in the middle of the yard and upsetting your human, dig a lot of smaller holes all over the yard so they won't notice. If you arrange a little pile of dirt on one side of each hole, maybe they'll think its gophers. There are never enough holes in the ground. Strive daily to do your part to help correct this problem.

HOUSEBREAKING: Housebreaking is very important to humans, so break as much of the house as possible.

THE ART OF SNIFFING: Humans like to be sniffed.  Everywhere. It is your duty, as the family dog, to accommodate them.

DINING ETIQUETTE: Always sit under the table at dinner, especially when there are guests, so you can clean up any food that falls on the floor.  It's also a good time to practice your sniffing.

:29 …For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.

is gone outexerchomai – to go or come forth of.  Perfect tense.  The demon had left and would stay gone.  Jesus had cast the demon out of the little girl without being with the little girl or without even saying a word.

:30 … her daughter laid upon the bed.

laidballo – to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls

The daughter had been “thrown” onto the bed.

Matthew gives us another clue of just what was at work here:

(Mat 15:28 KJV)  Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

She wasn’t just a “pushy” woman.  She was a woman of faith.


Turn away or push ahead?

How do you handle things that initially discourage you?
Do you call it quits or push on?
When Paul was heading to Jerusalem he kept being warned about the dangers up ahead.  He was warned that he faced prison and torture.  He responded:
(Acts 20:24 KJV)  But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul’s decision was to push on.

Two frogs fell into a can of cream
-- or so I've heard it told
The sides of the can were shiny and steep,
The cream was deep and cold,
"Oh, what's the use?" said No. 1,
"tis fate -- no help's around --
Good-bye, my friend!  Good-bye, sad world!"
And weeping still, he drowned.
But No. 2 of sterner stuff,
dog paddled in surprise,
The while he wiped his creamy face
and dried his creamy eyes.
"I'll swim awhile, at least," he said
-- or so it has been said --
"It wouldn't really help the world
if one more frog was dead."
An hour or two he kicked and swam --
not once he stopped to mutter,
But kicked and swam, and swam and
kicked, then hopped out, via butter.
Hal Sherbeck coached the Fullerton Community College football team for many years.  He was famous for having the most winningest junior college football career of any coach.  When he was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the sportswriter wanted to know his secret.  Without hesitation Coach Sherbeck said that his credo could best be stated in words written by an anonymous author:

Press on.

Nothing in the world

Can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not;

Nothing is more common

Than unsuccessful men

With talent.

Genius will not;

Unrewarded genius

Is almost a proverb.

Education will not;

The world is full of

Educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination

Alone are important.

Keep going.

:31-36 Deaf and Dumb

:31 departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon

(NIV) Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.

The route Jesus is taking is to head north from Tyre to Sidon, then around to the east then south around the Sea of Galilee to the area of Decapolis with is southeast of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus is circling around the area of Galilee.  It seems He’s avoiding the places where He’s had the big crowds.

:32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.

impediment in … speechmogilalos (“with difficulty” + “speak”) – speaking with difficulty.  The fellow could speak, but it was hard to understand him.

they beseechparakaleo – to call to one’s side, call for, summon

This is a great picture of the word “parakaleo”, which is also the root for the word “Comforter”.

(John 14:16-18 KJV)  And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; {17} Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. {18} I will not leave you comfortless (or, “orphans”): I will come to you.

Jesus had been telling the disciples that He was going to go away.  He had been their “comforter”.  He had been the one they had called on for help.  But when He left, He would send another Comforter.

(John 14:26 KJV)  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

One of the ways that the Holy Spirit comforts us is through the things that He teaches us.
When I call on Him for help, one of the ways He will respond is to teach me in my circumstance.
Even as Jesus will heal this deaf man so he can hear, the Holy Spirit opens up our ears so we can hear the Lord in our difficult time.

(2 Cor 1:3-5 KJV)  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; {4} Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. {5} For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

God promises to help us in all our troubles.
When God has helped you, you can turn around and help others with what God has helped you with.

But it starts with calling on Him for help.  Calling on Him to come alongside me.

(Rom 10:13 KJV)  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

:33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;

Jesus takes the man aside so He can minister one-on-one to the fellow.

he spitptuo – to spit. 

The language is kind of vague here.

Some translations make it sound as if Jesus touched the man’s tongue with His spittle, but it doesn’t clearly say this.

He may have simply spit on the ground, and then touched the man’s tongue.

It’s possible that Jesus put His fingers into His own ears, then spit on the ground, then touched His own tongue.

Jesus’ use of fingers, spitting, and touching might have simply a sort of series of hand signs to communicate to this fellow who couldn’t hear.

:34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.

Ephphathaephphatha – Jesus speaks Aramaic here

he sighedstenazo – a sigh or groan of grief.

This word is found six times in the New Testament.  Twice it is used to talk about things we shouldn’t be “groaning” or “sighing” over (leaders “groaning” over trouble makers – Heb. 13:17; “groaning” or “complaining” about each other – James 5:9).  But three of the times it talks about what we ought to be “groaning” or “sighing” over, and it’s fascinating to see that they all have something in common:

(NLT) Ro 8:23  And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan (stenazo) to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
(NLT) 2Co 5:2  We grow weary (stenazo) in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.
(NLT) 2Co 5:4  Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh (stenazo), but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life.

All three talk about the “groaning” of being in our present, broken down bodies, looking forward to the time when we will have a new body.

I’m not sure it would be too big of a leap to suggest that Jesus’ groaning here might be along the same lines – groaning over the weakness of these frail, human bodies, looking forward to the new body.

:35 …the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

stringdesmon – a band or bond

he spakelaleo – Imperfect tense, continuous action.

plainorthos – rightly

:36 And he charged them that they should tell no man

chargeddiastellomai – the way Mark records this, it’s that Jesus is giving pretty clear, strict orders, for His own sake, that they shouldn’t talk about this.

I wonder if Jesus isn’t trying to keep the popularity thing down. Remember that Jesus and the disciples had been trying to go where nobody would know them (7:24).

But the more Jesus asked them to keep quiet about this, the more they spoke up.

:37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

beyond measurehuperperissos (“over” + “beyond measure”)

astonishedekplesso – to strike out; we would say “they were totally blown away …”

There is a prophecy being fulfilled here about the Messiah, and it may be that the people have this in mind:

(Isa 35:4-6 KJV)  Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. {5} Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. {6} Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Matthew tells us:

(Mat 4:25 KJV)  And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

Yet this isn’t Jesus’ first time in Decapolis.  I’m not sure that the huge crowds from Decapolis started following Jesus after His first visit there.  The response of the people was a little different that time (Mark 5).

Jesus had met a wild man who claimed to be possessed by a legion of demons.  When Jesus cast the demons out of the man, the demons entered into a herd of pigs and the entire herd ran off a cliff and were drowned in the Sea of Galilee.  When the people that lived nearby found out what had happened, they asked Jesus to get in His boat and go home.

So how come the people have changed from asking Jesus to leave to actually bringing people to Him and being amazed at Him?

(Mark 5:18-20 KJV)  And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. {19} Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. {20} And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.


Tell your story

The wild man went back to the cities of Decapolis, where Jesus is right now.
He’s been telling people his story.  The people have been amazed to hear what Jesus had done.
And now, rather than telling Jesus to go away, they’re being healed by Jesus.
We often don’t think we have much of a story to tell.  With most Christians, if you sat down and asked them to tell their story, they’d probably say they didn’t have much of a story.
But your story is a testimony of what God has done for you.
When Jesus healed the man who had been born blind, a big controversy started.  Some of the Jewish leaders wanted to get all theological and argue with the man who had been healed.
(John 9:25 KJV)  He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

Theology is good. But you don’t always have to have all the correct theological answers.  Just tell your story.