IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Jesus Blesses a Humble Woman

Date: Jul. 29, 2007

Author: Bob Henkins

Mark 7:24-30

Key Verse: Mark 7:29

“Then he told her, ‘For such a reply you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’”

In this passage Jesus blesses a humble woman’s faith. The woman was a Greek, a Gentile. Jews looked down on Gentiles and on women. I heard that there was a famous prayer among rabbis that went like this, “God thank you that I was not born a Gentile, a woman, or an ignorant man.” So how is it that out of all people this woman, this Gentile woman received Jesus’ blessing? We can learn a lot from her. Let’s humble our hearts and see how Jesus blessed such a woman.

I. A mother’s act of faith (24-26)

In the last passage, once again Jesus had conflict with the religious leaders. This time it was over “holding to the tradition of the elders.” After dealing with the controversy of ceremonial washing, Jesus withdraws and goes incognito. Verse 24 says, “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.” Tyre was west of Israel, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and it was Gentile territory. In the Old Testament, Tyre was a godless city, and the Jews identified the people from there as their bitterest enemies. But as we remember from chapter three of Mark, people from Tyre and Sidon have already flocked to see Jesus which explains how this woman had heard about him. Jesus hoped to get a little break and avoid anymore attacks from the Pharisees and demands from the crowds since he tried to keep his visit a secret. So Jesus entered a house and did not want anyone to know about it. Yet he could not keep his presence a secret. It was not long before word got out and people sought him. Although Jesus mainly ministered to the needs of the people of Israel, here he shows that he serves the needs of all people. Jesus always welcomed people of faith of any nationality, even when he was busy. Jesus’ heart to embrace and serve needy people is infinite.

Who came to him? Look at verse 25. “In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet.” This woman had a very difficult problem. Her little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit. “Little daughter” implies that the girl was quite young. It was time for her to enjoy the love of her mother and to learn the basics of being a young lady. A mother’s great joy is to watch her precious daughter grow in noble humanity and in the grace of a young woman. But her little girl was not like the rest, she was possessed by an evil spirit. Whenever she thought her little girl suffering, her heart was broken. She was sad and downcast.

But, when she heard about Jesus, something happened in her heart. The name Jesus stirred her soul. She heard how Jesus had driven many demons out of people in Israel. She believed that Jesus could heal her daughter as well. New hope sprang up and her heart came alive. She got up and went to Jesus and threw herself at his feet. Look at verse 26. “The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.” We can learn three things from this woman.

First, she overcame many barriers. As Mark is careful to tell us, she is a Phoenician, Greek, by birth, the descendent of an ancient, proud and accomplished people, a nation of merchants and sea-farers who at one time had dominated the entire Mediterranean and had vied with Rome for the control of the known world. Not only that, the Greeks were the leaders of culture in that ancient time. Greek was the language of the scholar. Greek philosophy and art were regarded as superior. Greek rulers had tried to completely eradicate Jewish culture and replace it with their own. To the advanced Greeks, traditional Jews seemed out of date. So this woman would have had a natural tendency to look down on Jews. Perhaps she could even claim the privilege of wealth. She was also, on her own turf and among her own people (this interchange takes place in Phoenician territory, so that it is Jesus, not the woman, who is the foreigner) so she could claim the privilege of citizenship. Yet she was coming to Jesus and falling at his feet. She shows no trace of national or cultural pride. Most Christians want to think that they have no racial barrier in their hearts. But it is surprising to see how some act toward those of a different nationality. In the book, “Cross Cultural Servant hood,” it says that it takes the average person 1.8 seconds to judge someone and categorize them as good or bad. But the woman in this passage went beyond the barriers of culture and nationality. She could do so on the basis of love for her daughter. We stand empty-handed before God we have no rights or privileges unless he gives them to us.

Second, she saw the problem as it was. Parents love their children and want to protect them as much as they can. But sometimes, as the saying goes, “love is blind.” There is a child who says and does hurtful things to others, yet acts like an angel in front of mom and dad. Some parents never think their child is the problem so someone else must be the problem. Because of this they don’t come to Jesus on behalf of their child. Of course, no parent wants to reveal their child’s problem. But without seeing the problem as it is, we can fall into living an illusion and have no motivation to bring it to Jesus. This Greek woman did not downplay her daughter’s problem, or blame others. She simply came to Jesus. May God give all of us a sense of reality as we look at our children, both spiritual and physical. Then we can come to Jesus sincerely.

Third, she overcame her cultural pride. When we look at this woman, one of the things that strike us most is her begging to Jesus. Begging is asking for mercy without claiming merit of any kind. This woman was completely emptied before Jesus. She had nothing to be proud of or to claim. She was totally dependent on Jesus’ mercy. She not only asked, but she begged for Jesus’ help. She cried out with all her heart and all her strength. She came to Jesus as a matter of life and death. We learn from this woman her begging prayer. It is to empty ourselves of all self-righteousness, hypocrisy and pride and to come to Jesus with nothing but a request for mercy. It is to take hold of Jesus because only Jesus can solve the problem. Let’s learn the begging prayer of this woman.

II. Beautiful humbleness (27-28)

After seeing the utter sincerity and humility of the woman’s begging prayer we might think that Jesus would quickly answer. Yet Jesus did not answer as we might expect and said something difficult to accept. Look at verse 27. “‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’” When we carefully look at this verse, we find that Jesus is not saying, “No,” but he is saying, “Not yet.” I believe that Jesus’ heart was moved by the woman’s prayer. Yet Jesus did not grant her request right away. It seems that Jesus wanted to probe the depth of her desire. Not only that, Jesus reveals his deep respect for the sovereignty of God in world salvation work. In verse 27, “the children” refer to the people of Israel. God had chosen Israel out of all the nations to be his treasured possession. God made a covenant with Israel based on his promises to Abraham. God said, “...out of all nations, you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” God made Israel his chosen people to co-work for world salvation. God was faithful to this covenant, even if Israel was not. Jesus respected God’s order and plan in salvation work. It is amazing that Jesus respected the Pharisees on the basis of this covenant, even though they were so malicious and wicked. Jesus stood on God’s side and had a shepherd heart for Israel. Jesus approached God’s work as first for the Jew, then for the Gentile for it was their birthright and Paul continued this approach.

Jesus referred to the Gentile people, including the woman, as “dogs.” Jesus using the term “dog” here reveals that God really did make a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles, and it mattered to Jesus. In light of God’s covenant with Israel, the Gentiles were dogs. According to Jesus, they did not deserve to share the children’s food or the children’s blessings. The time would come, but it was not then.

How did the woman respond? I find her response to be amazing. Look at verse 28. “‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’” To our modern ears, the idea that Jesus would refer to the Gentiles as “dogs” has the potential to sound belittling, unkind and down right rude. We can often use animal terms to describe someone, but Jesus’ comments were not politically correct. For instance, we might say that a person is “as cute as a puppy” or has “puppy dog eyes.” Or if a person refuses to learn to use new technology, we might say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I have even said that a person “works like a dog,” is the “top dog” at the office.” Obviously, to call someone “top dog” would convey no derogatory connotation but when Jesus called this woman a dog that would be like starting world war three. But to our amazement the woman does not retaliate. Instead she said, “Yes, Lord.” She recognized Jesus as the Lord. Even though Jesus implied that she was a Gentile dog, she acknowledged Jesus as Lord. This is real humility. She accepted from her heart that she was an undeserving Gentile dog. Her humility was not fake; it was real. Many people want to be humble to obtain God’s blessing. But they are not really humble. They begin with humility, but when they are tested they reveal an ugly pride in their inner beings. If someone was to say to them, “You are a dog,” they might erupt like a volcano saying, “How dare you!” But when we come to Jesus we must be humble. Being Gentiles we don’t like to admit that Jesus came first for the Jews because of our pride. This would mean that we are somehow lower and no one wants to accept that. But God is the Creator of all things and the Sovereign ruler and can do what he wants. So we have to be humble before our Creator God because without His breath of life, we would have remained dust of the ground.

When the woman had such humility before Jesus, she could also have wisdom and persistence. When she carefully listened to Jesus’ words, she could find hope and a basis for further prayer. She said, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She believed the overflowing blessing of the Master’s table. She believed that even though Israel received everything necessary, there would still be leftover crumbs. And just one crumb was enough to solve her problem. She was thankful for whatever she could get. Not only that, she claimed the right of a dog. She had the mentality, if I am a dog, then even pets have the right to be fed. When we see her wise reply we envy her keen insight and quick wit. Her secret was her humility before the Lord Jesus. In fact, the Holy Spirit helped her to answer Jesus in this way. Jesus blesses humble people. James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." When she was empty before the Lord, God helped her through the Holy Spirit.

When I first thought about this passage, I did not want to admit that I was not one of God’s chosen people, being a Gentile. I thought, “I’m an American, of course I’m one of God’s chosen people.” But I found out how proud I really am. In reality I am only a dirty sinner who does not deserve anything but God’s judgment. It is only by the grace of God I am what I am. Through this my eyes were opened and I could see who God is and where I am and the only thing I could do is to repent and ask for God’s mercy. When we really see who we are before God, then we can have true humbleness. May God help us to learn the humility of this Greek woman and apply it in our daily life.

III. Jesus responds to her act of faith (29-30)

Look at verse 29. “Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’” Jesus accepted her wise and humble answer. Jesus could see her heart. She was sincere and persistent. Sometimes when we pray, we are only half hearted and don’t really care if God answers or not. Although the exchange was short, I get the impression that she was not going to give up. Out of the love for her daughter she held on to Jesus until he accepted her prayer.

Jesus answered her begging prayer. This woman obtained Jesus’ blessing through her persistent prayer, and humble faith. This woman is not named, but she became a pioneer of faith for all Gentile people. She showed us that even though Jesus has a clear order and direction for his gospel ministry–based on the will of God–he blessed faith nonetheless. Gentiles can come to Jesus by faith. Women can come to Jesus by faith. There is no human barrier, but anyone with faith can obtain Jesus’ blessing. Verse 30 says, “She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” She was really a woman of faith because she took Jesus at his word and left for home. When she got there, she found her daughter completely well lying on the bed and the demon was no where in sight. Jesus drove the demon out of her daughter and true beauty returned to her once again. The daughter did not do anything to obtain Jesus’ blessing but through her mother’s faith, she was completely healed. This teaches us the tremendous power of intercessory prayer. We have to adopt this strategy and pray for those whom God put around us.

In this passage we learn from the woman to come to Jesus with persistent begging prayer that depends on Jesus’ mercy alone. We also learn to accept Jesus’ answer with humility, even when it may sound like an insult, and to respond with wisdom that comes from faith. Jesus blesses the humble faith of such people. Jesus is always amazed by one’s faith. This woman had faith which resulted in action. With this faith and prayer we can cry out for our children and for all the children of our nation and the world. There are many young people around us who need our prayers. We must cry out to God for them. We must beg Jesus’ mercy on them. May the Lord teach each of us the humble faith of the woman in this passage.


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