Sermon by Pastoral Intern Wasihun Gutema
Mark 7: 24-30
Introduction: Mark was not telling his audience the name of this woman. Also, his audience did not have any clue of how old this woman was nor was he giving any pictorial description of the woman or her Character except a tiny portion of who this woman was. He described her as a Syrophonecian which means that she was probably a mixed race; a half Phoenician and a half Syrian. She was one of the inhabitants of a place to the North of Galilee and as Mark depicts she was a Greek speaking lady. The area was predominately Gentile area.
I do not think knowing her name or her age is important. Neither do I think that having her entire identity is important. But the fact that Mark displays her racial identity is very important. Although the text is one of the most difficult texts I have ever preached, to have the knowledge of her race assists us as we study this text. The main gist that Mark wants to display to his readers was that determinant people will destroy any wall that prevents from encountering the blessings of the Kingdom of God.
The text is too difficult to comprehend let alone for someone who does not have any knowledge of theology or little knowledge of theology but even for a theologically trained person. As I preach this text, I will not be able to give a scientific academic reasoning for everything that happened in this text. I will try to keep myself within a sound Biblical theology and race issues.
What makes the text difficult is the response that Christ gave to a woman seeking a healing for her daughter. The way Jesus responded to her request for healing is highly debated. Even if the text is difficult and even if Christ’s response to the needy woman was harsh, we all can understand that those who are determined will bring down any wall that stands as a barrier between us and the blessings destined for us. Determined people will crash any wall of evil through standing firm, persistence and patience.
1. The woman was so needy and as she heard the presence of Jesus in her village, she came to Christ in urgency. Christ was trying to hide himself in the house. As the rumor of his healing disseminated, he was not able to be hidden. The Christ that we worship is not the one to be hidden. The Christ that we worship is the one in an opened house always.
If we open our houses, Christ will be inside our house. That Christ cannot be hidden. As I and you are all the temple of Christ, the Christ in you and in me cannot be hidden. He is the one that reveals himself. He reveals himself in a world full of evil. He reveals himself through I and you and becomes a remedy for those who are engulfed in evil. He reveals himself and frees those who are segregated. He reveals himself to those who are needy. He reveals himself to those come in urgency. If you are in urgency to come to day, Christ will reavel himself. He will not be hidden from you.
2. The woman in this text was racially unwelcomed. She was a syrophonecian/Canaanite woman. The Canaanites were cursed people and she came from a cursed race. The Canaanites were cursed during the time of Joshua (Deut.7:2). At the same time, her religious practice was different from that of the Jewish people.
As a Gentile woman, her religion could not allow her to come to Christ. Even when she came to Christ and started crying (Matthew 15: 22), the Disciples of Christ unwelcomed her cry. It looked that her cry was abnormal. They did not like her cry. They were concerned that her cry may affect their hearing. They also were not happy of her because of her race. She was different and she was considered as unclean. She was different because she was not from their race. She was unclean because the Jewish people consider gentiles as unclean by birth. They believed that she defiles them. But she continued crying. Crying is not abnormal in the presence of Christ. Those of you who cry will bring down any wall of racism or any standing wall in your marriage, work place or in your faith or your health.
3. The Syrophonecain woman was so determined and could not move an inch by what those disciples talked. She was firm in her need for healing and she was firm in her crying. She continued until the Lord heard her. Those who are determined will not be moved. They believe that the ultimate end of evil is complete defeat through Christ. I am not and will not be sure that racism will be defeated by the world leaders. It can be narrowed but it can only be defeated by the children of Christ who are determined to bring down the racial wall. Those who have Christ in their temple and those who cry continuously will bring down any wall of evil. Those who have Christ in their heart shine in darkness. The Christ in your temple can not be hidden and he hears.
4. The woman in this text was not even moved or silenced when Christ’s response looked harsh. Jesus’ response was so harsh that he called her not a child but a dog.
I am quite sure that Jesus will be using a different description of the woman had it been today. In the USA where dogs are much loved, I doubt that Christ uses the term dog to describe the woman. Yet he could use the same term if it is in my home country today.
Dogs are not welcomed in my home country but one thing that we do in Ethiopia resembles the answer that the Syrophonecian woman gave to Christ. I am not sure if dogs eat the same food with the same quality that we eat in the USA but whether a dog or my family members, we all share the same food in Ethiopia. The food that my mother prepares is the same food that the dogs are fed. In this case, I think the woman was highly correct that she responded to Christ by saying even the dogs eat the crumbs from the table. Both the food on the table and the crumbs have the same quality. Jesus was then put on the silent mode. Christ did not expect that answer. Jesus was not wrong by saying that food is for the Children of Israel. Christ responded “First,” which implies that there is “second” an implication that there is hope for the woman and the Gentiles.
It looks like Christ was defeated! I seek your pardon for using the word defeated but I am hundred and ten percent sure that those who cry will bring Christ to a defeat. The woman continued Crying and brought Christ to silence which was actually listening.
The Christ that we worship is the one who listens to our cry. He listens to those who are determined to cry. The cry that the holy children of Christ cry brings Christ into a defeat.
As Christ was defeated by her cry, he then brought her to the status of a little beautiful girl.
Some theologians say that Christ did not describe the woman as a dog but as little puppy. Little puppies are liked more than big dogs. There are also who say that Jesus was joking to the Syrophonecain woman to see her reaction. As the Jewish people consider others as dogs during the 1st Century, Christ used the term dog to see her reaction. But the Syrophonecain woman was unmoved. She resisted every wall that stand strong as an obstacle to her blessings.
5. There are also who say Jesus was a racist. What we know here is that Jesus is among the Gentiles in gentile territory. The power of Christ surpasses geographical and racial barriers. It surpasses clean and unclean. Christ is immune to racism and immune to Geographical barrier. His divine magnetic power calls people from every race and language. Christ’s power brings both the Jewish and Gentiles to the same table. Christ’s power brings all races to the eternal bread and cup of the same quality. Jesus is the true bread and cup for the different races of the world. The Syrophonecain woman came to the ultimate eternal cup and bread. Those who are determined will come to the eternal cup and bread. Those who are determined will bring down racial divide, as the one who called us is not bound to racism.
6. The Syrophonecian woman went to the end in her need for deliverance. She passed all obstacles. She passed the obstacles that came from the inner circles of Christ, the disciples. She did not bow down by her back grounds which were her religious and racial back grounds. She was not bound by the curses that her people were cursed during the period of Joshua. She passed the harsh looking words of Christ. She passed the need for crumbs and had the entire part of what she requested. She transcended all giant walls that were standing on her ways.
What giant walls are standing on our ways today? Determined people will bring them down. Whether it is superiority or inferiority, those who are determined will bring down those walls. Determined people will bring down any wall which may be hard looking from accepting those who differ from us to any racial divide.
7. The Syrophoncian woman did bring down the walls through humility not through pride. She did choose the last place as in Mark 9: 35. She placed herself down as in Mark 10:43. Those who go to the top are always those who choose the last place in the queue. She did choose the last place and brought down all the walls to bring deliverance. Deliverance from any evil will come through determination and humility. Those who are determined will be set free from any bondage. The bondage of racism or whatever will leave us alone as we take the last place and humble ourselves today.
8. Finally I want to conclude my sermon by what DL Moody said, “Jesus sent no one away except those who were full of themselves.” If you are full of yourself, this is not the right place for you. It can be the right place only if you empty yourself or make yourself unworthy. Do not try to convince yourself that you will handle the problems by yourself or any other means. Do not sit on the seats of pride, for pride brought the angels down.
I also want to encourage those of you who are crying today that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Continue in your determinations whether you have finical, economic, marital, social, racial or whatever, be determined and the walls will come down. Amen!