“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. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.” - Mark 7:24-26
Jesus hoped to slip into Gentile territory unnoticed, but it was not to be. After all, it is difficult to hide the arrival of thirteen men in a small town, especially when one of them is a famous miracle worker. Mark tells us that Jesus was immediately (there’s that word again) approached by a woman who begged him to a cast a demon out of her daughter. Like Jairus, she was a desperate parent who was powerless to save her child. Only Jesus could free her little girl from the unclean spirit that bound her, and so the woman fell at his feet and implored him to perform another of his mighty works.
Mark describes the woman as a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth, meaning she was a Canaanite. When the Lord delivered the nation of Israel from Egypt, he led them into the promised land of Canaan. He instructed his people to occupy the region and destroy all of the inhabitants. Some of the locals survived, however, and this woman was one of their descendants. As such, she was despised by the Jewish nation. It took great courage for her to approach Jesus, to believe that even an outcast could be deemed clean and worthy of his attention.
Her faith is even more remarkable given her surroundings. The woman lived in Tyre, a Gentile city renowned for sin, debauchery, and worship of Baal. Queen Jezebel was from this region and, as you might recall, she led the King of Israel and his people astray with her idolatrous beliefs. By contrast, this woman was surrounded by false gods, and yet she placed her hope in the Son of God. While those around her likely dismissed the stories about Jesus as fabrications or heresy, she embraced them as truth.
Although she was a Canaanite living in an idolatrous land, this woman had a clearer understanding of Jesus’ identity and power than many Jews of the day. She acknowledged his divine authority and believed that he could and would perform a miracle for her daughter. Mark contrasts her expectant faith with the rejection of the religious leaders, the disdain of the people in Nazareth, and the obtuseness of Jesus’ disciples. Those anchored in the Jewish faith and teachings knew of the coming Messiah, and yet they still did not recognize Jesus.
The Gentile mother, on the other hand, knew who he was and approached Jesus with humility, faith, and anticipation. Mark presents her as an example for the hard-hearted religious leaders, the residents of Jesus’ hometown, the disciples, and everyone else who heard her story. Yes, that means you and me. Do we believe in the person and work of Jesus, as revealed in Scripture? Do we trust that he cares for even the lowest among us? Do we expect and eagerly await his work in our lives?
Reflect and Respond:
How does this woman’s expectant faith in Jesus strengthen your own? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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