The Lord Jesus had just gone through a period of intense ministry and He was tired and needed quiet. Thousands of people clamored for his help and attention. Thousands listened to his teaching. He had determined and relentless human enemies and he was never far from their critical eyes. No one knew the weight of spiritual oppression he had to endure. It was demonic. He faced temptation. He endured rejection. Everyone, including his own family misunderstood him.
It was a hot time of the year in Palestine. Someone must have loaned him a house to get away and rest. The house was in a cooler, breezy mountainous region. He and his disciples walked fifty miles to get there and to retreat from the pressures of ministry. “He entered a house and wanted no one to know it…” (Mark 7:24)
But during this period of Jesus’ ministry, people pulled on Him wherever he went. It was the same here. “He could not be hidden…” (Mark 7:24) “As usual, the news of is arrival spread fast.” (TLB)
Many who clamored for his attention were people with sickness. Some couldn’t walk. Some couldn’t see. Some were in a battle for their lives with mysterious diseases. They were a pitiful group, but the worst were those who were demon possessed.
One of the people who heard the news was a desperate woman. She was not ill. Her problem was not that simple. In fact, she didn’t seek Jesus out for her own benefit. She pursued Jesus because of a deep heartache, because of a weight that never lifted from her back. According to Matthew 15:22, her little girl was severely demon possessed.
She didn’t lie peacefully at night or sit quietly when company came. She didn’t jump rope or skip rocks or play with her puppy. She didn’t sing sweetly in church or quietly do her lessons. She didn’t pick flowers for her mother on special days like other little girls. She didn’t run and jump into her daddies’ arms at the end of the day. She didn’t help in the kitchen. She didn’t whistle or skip or climb on the rocks. She didn’t swing. She didn’t dance or tumble. She didn’t let her mother braid her hair. She didn’t wear frilly, pretty things. A dark demonic cloud hung over her life and shadowed her every day. Grotesque images haunted her at night. Her whole life had been a hellish nightmare.
No doctor could help her.
No medicine could cure her daughter
The advice of her friends and family only deepened the pain
Before that day when word that Jesus had traveled far from his normal circuit of ministry she was completely without hope.
Did the little girl have night terrors?
Did she hurt herself or others?
Sometimes demon possessed people speak in voices that are not their own.
Sometimes they hurt themselves or others and have abnormal strength.
Sometimes they do things so dark and disturbing, that it would make us uncomfortable to describe them in this setting, on a sunny May morning. Mother’s Day.
But then one day in late April or May, she heard a rumor. There was a man who delivered people from demon-possession. And he didn’t even have to be present to do it. There was a Roman Centurion who’s servant was delivered. There were others.
Her heart must have raced at the news that the teacher, the healer, from Nazareth was in the area. She would find him and get help for her daughter, no matter what it took. And find him she did. She found the house where he was staying and she pursued him for his help.
As she hurried along the road she must have rehearsed what she would say. She settled on the words: “O Lord, Son of David! Have mercy on me. My daughter is severely demon possessed.”
Surely this merciful healer would have pity on her little girl. Those who had met him spoke of his compassion and his power.
In the back of her mind an idea formed, a dark fear. He was a Jew. She was a despised gentile. Centuries of racial prejudice, fueled by religious bigotry separated her people from his. Maybe that’s why she chose to address the teacher as “Son of David” It was a bold tactic. It would either honor him or offend him. She hoped to be included in the benefits one would reserve for this own people.
But when she found him and began to cry out to him for help, she received shocking treatment. He didn’t send her away or rebuke her. He didn’t deny her request. He didn’t tell her that her daughter was healed. He didn’t even speak to her. Not even a word. (23)
She didn’t go away. She stayed there at the house or followed his disciples continually begging for help for her daughter.
His disciples came to him and said; “please do something with this woman, she’s not going away.!” “Send her away, she cried out after us!”
It’s not clear if they intended for him to grant her request or just get her out of their lives, but his answer is one of the most puzzling statements ever recorded of the words of Jesus. He said to them; “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (24)
She must have heard the disappointing answer, or the disciples told her what Jesus said, but she did not go away. Somehow she either pressed into the house or found Jesus and she fell down at his feet and cried out pitifully, desperately; “Lord, help me.” (25)
First he ignored her. Then he told her that He was only sent to minister to Jews. No his answer to her worship and prayers seems cruel at first glance. “It is not good to take the children’s bread and give it to the puppies.”
Many would have been broken by his refusals. But he was her only hope and she was desperate for her little girl’s deliverance.
When Jewish people referred to Gentiles, they called them dogs. The mixed breed, violent, scavenger dogs of the region were a foul menace. But when Jesus denied her for the third time he changed the image just slightly.
Departing from the normal term for dogs used as a epitaph for despised gentiles, he softened the picture and used a word that meant “little house dog” or “puppy”
Her hopeful heart seized the opening. In that instant the genuine faith in her soul overcame the guilt that troubled her. Mothers always have guilt, you know, when things are not as they should be at home. But the guilt didn’t keep her from Jesus.
The faith in her soul overcome unforgivness, bitterness that would have destroyed most women. The pain of her daughter torment didn’t embitter her.
Jesus silence didn’t embitter her
The disciples treatment didn’t embitter her
Jesus refusal sounded to her a lot like racial hatred, but she was not embittered by that, either.
Her life was a series of disappointments and setbacks, but none of them discouraged her, because there was genuine faith in her heart.
Many women would have been toughened by these circumstances and they would have developed a callused, independent spirit, but not this woman. She knew she could not do what needed to be done alone. She was in the blessed position of knowing that she needed Jesus of. Of knowing that Jesus was her only hope. And it was that knowledge and that faith that supplied the creative appeal she used next.
Many would have developed a hard outer shell of pride, but she was willing to humble herself. God always reserves his treasures for those who will humble themselves. Some women will not serve or obey or put themselves under proper authority or humble themselves, but Jesus the King of glory put himself under the authority of his father. Even in this story he alludes to the fact that he was “sent” on a mission and he was not operating under his own authority.
He said; “It is not good to take the children’s bread and give it to the little dogs.” And she humbly agreed; “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’ table.”
I like to imagine that through this entire episode Jesus continence was stern and unyielding, but it this moment a smile parted his lips and soft tenderness came into his voice and moisture clouded his eyes and he said; “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”
The curtain is drawn on the story. Did she laugh and weep at the same time. Did she run stubling, weeping, laughing, shouting home. Can you imagine the scene at home. Were there other children running to meet her on the road with the happy news? Was her husband there with joy in his eyes. Did faith in Jesus flood the whole house? No of this is given. But this little peaceful scene is revealed in the narrative of Mark: “When she arrived at home, her little girl was lying quietly on the bed.”
O it’s sweet and beautiful when the healing hand of Jesus touches a home.
Whenever you see healing touch a home, whenever you see demonic darkness lifted and sweet peace and purpose and love come in to live in a home, you know that Jesus has been there. And if you look around you will almost always she a woman of faith there who would not quit!
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