Christ Covenant Church
31 January 2016
Well, good morning. As always, it is a joy and a privilege to gather with you on the Lord’s Day.
Before we begin our sermon today, I wanted to tell you all, and I think I can speak for Marq on this, that we are so thankful for your love and your labors with us in the gospel. Though I often feel it, I don’t think I tell you enough that to see your love for Christ, your love for one another and your love for your neighbor brings me inexplicable joy.
Your courage and kindness in both good times and tough ones are evidences of God’s work, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful witness of Grace on this earth than you all.
The closest example I can give to help you understand what I feel is that of a parent to a child.
Those of you who are parents know how there are times when you look at your children and your heart seems to ache because of your deep love for them. As Marq and I have reflected on our love for you all, and I think I can speak for him here, our hearts ache with love for you, and we’re thankful to God to be living this life together week in and week out.
I wanted to share that with you because I don’t think I share it enough, but also because the love a parent has for their child is so deep that to enter into this story without thinking about it would cause us to miss some of the significance therein.
This morning we’re going to look at the deep love of a mother for her daughter, a brother for His sister, and a Father for all of His children, and we’re going to do so from the Gospel of Mark.
If you’re willing and able, please stand with me for the reading of God’s Word from Mark chapter 7, verses 24-30.
(Mark 7:24-30 ESV)
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, but 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. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
The Word of the Lord.
May God bless the reading, hearing, and preaching of His Word, and may He grant us all the grace to trust and obey it, and all God’s people said, “Amen.”
You may be seated.
Now before we dive into our story today, there are a few things we need to mention to help us understand what’s going on.
First, we are in Mark’s Gospel, and in Mark’s Gospel, time and time again we see the religious elite and the disciples of Jesus constantly misunderstanding who He is and why He’s come.
Up to this point, the only people to make legitimate insights into who He is are demons, outcasts, and one desperate ruler at the end of his rope over the death of his daughter.
The people who should be getting the point, the religious leaders and His disciples, aren’t, and the ones who shouldn’t are. The ones who profess to be children of God with their mouths are proving not to be by their lives, and the ones who acknowledge their status as outsiders and their desperate need for Jesus are actually proving to be members of the family after all. This is no accident.
Mark, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is trying to tell us something so very important that we mustn’t ever forget. Christ came, not to save powerful, pure and righteous insiders, but weak, dirty and sinful outsiders, and the way Mark does it is beautiful.
He doesn’t just record Jesus’ timeless truths and then expect us to change our minds, but He records Jesus’ teaching and surrounds it by Jesus’ actions so that we can interpret everything that just happened.
That’s what’s going on in our story today.
Jesus has just encountered a group of religious people who thought they were “in” because they were God’s people who cleaned themselves up, but Jesus has just called them out.
He tells them that God’s people do His will and that dirty hands and dirty rice don’t make them dirty people any more than clean eating and clean living make them clean ones.
They can try to clean themselves up all they want, and they can look down on those who don’t follow their rules, but they’re dirty on the inside, and that’s why He’s come.
Look at verse 24 with me and you can see what is a familiar reaction of God when His people reject Him.
Mark tells us that Jesus arises, leaves the supposed clean insiders, and goes into Tyre, which is in Sidon, the land of the dirty outsiders.
Time and again, when God’s people reject Him, He removes His presence from their midst, and that is exactly what Jesus is doing here.
Jesus, seemingly frustrated with the Jewish leaders, leaves them, and He goes to a place, Tyre, that is known to be a pagan town. Mark’s Gentile audience would have perked up here because this is one of the only records we have of Jesus leaving the ancient borders of Israel.
Jesus is going into enemy territory, into a land of defilement, an unworthy place full of unclean people.
If you look at Verse 25 and 26, Mark shows us this by saying immediately a woman, whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, having heard about him, came, and she fell before his feet. And the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by race, and she begged him to cast a demon out of her little daughter.
Mark, being the great story-teller he is, is tying this story to the one that we just heard. We’d just seen the clean guys reject Jesus, and here we see a dirty person come to Him to cast out something that is unclean, a demon.
Here is a living metaphor for what Jesus was teaching.
This woman comes to Jesus in the hopes that he might, just might, cast the uncleanness out of her daughter, but she doesn’t just come and ask him, she falls before His feet and pleads with Him.
The proud, clean religious men wouldn’t dare prostrate themselves before a carpenter’s son who doesn’t wash his hands the right way before dinner, but this woman, desperate for her little daughter clings to our Jesus’ feet, presumably filthy from His long journey.
She could care less that this was a humiliating position because Jesus was her daughter’s only hope. No amount of rule following would deliver her little girl from her uncleanness, but Jesus, the Deliverer, might.
And yet here, our story takes an unexpected twist.
Look at verse 27. Jesus said to her, “Go away, first the children are to be fed, for it is not right to take the bread of the children and to throw it to the little dogs.”
This is mind-blowing.
Jesus tells a desperate woman to “Go away,” and He adds insult to injury by calling her and her child “little dogs.”
Think about your response in that situation.
How embarrassing it would be to come fall at someone’s feet, begging and pleading for help, and then for them to respond, “Go away, I came to do things for other people first, for other children, not you and your little dogs?”
Would your heart burn with embarrassment and anger?
We are proud American people, and we have been told that if we humble ourselves and ask God for something, He will give it to us because He has a wonderful plan for our life, right?
Isn’t that what those preachers on TV and those best-selling authors tell us?
We’ve been told that if we pray a prayer and ask God for something, He will definitely do it, no?
How do we reconcile that with this story? Here, we have this broken woman, humbling herself before Jesus and asking for something that only He could give her, healing for her daughter, and yet initially He turns her away.
He says He came for the Jews. He says came for God’s children, and it wouldn’t be right for Him, the Bread of Life, to give Himself to her and her daughter, and look how she responds.
Look at verse 28.
She doesn’t respond to Jesus words like so many others in Mark’s Gospel have.
She isn’t outraged like we may be at Jesus’ statement that she and her daughter are unclean, but rather she accepts Jesus words.
She humbly answers Jesus and says to Him, “Lord, even the little dogs under the table eat the crumbs of the children.”
Rather than be embarrassed and angry like those proud racists we encountered earlier, she enters into Jesus’ metaphor and acknowledges the truth of His words.
Her pride doesn’t flare up and assume Jesus is being rude or harsh. Instead, in her humility, she had heard a key word that perhaps you and I missed, first.
Jesus didn’t say He wouldn’t feed the dogs at all, but He said He came to feed and fill the children first.
The Syrophoenician woman accepts her position, and begs for mercy, that Jesus would make an exception and the last would be first.
Rather than debate with Him about her cleanliness and right to be at the table like the Pharisees, she accepts that she and her daughter are in fact unclean, dogs, but they were dogs who were still in the Master’s house.
She does what you were encouraged to last week; she followed the breadcrumbs to Jesus.
She acknowledged that the Master of this House was so great and so good that even His crumbs would be sufficient for her and her daughter.
She confesses they are nothing but little dogs, and as a little dog she is dependent on Jesus’ grace and kindness to provide their daily bread.
She needs Him, her little girl needs Him, and even a little of Him is sufficient for their deepest needs.
She recognizes that the Master’s provision is first for His children, but she also recognizes that even the dogs of the house benefit from His work and care. If only by extension little dogs are a part of the family, and this woman is okay with that lowly status in the household of God.
How would you feel if your only status in the household of God was a little dog?
Would you be okay with it? Would you accept your role? Would you be able to embrace it joyfully because you got to eat from the Master’s table?
Or, are you too religious, too clean, to acknowledge your uncleanness?
The Pharisees wouldn’t have put up with Jesus talking to them this way, because they thought they deserved a seat at the table.
After all, they were the children, and the heirs to the Master’s house, but they behaved like spoiled brats, taking the Father’s provision as their rightful due and scorning everyone who, in their minds were dirty outsiders.
Unlike the Pharisees who thought they were clean yet produced uncleanness, this woman recognizes her uncleanness and produces something clean, a confession of faith and trust and dependence on Jesus.
Both mouths speak out of the abundance of their hearts.
How do you know if you’ve been made clean from the inside out? How do you know if your story lines up with those who think they’re clean but are actually whitewashed tombs or if you are one who has been made clean from the inside out?
Your faith is evident by your works. Cleanliness will manifest itself in your life. Remember, Jesus said His mothers and brothers and sisters were those who did the will of His Father.
Jesus had just left a group of people who were deceived and unable to hear His words. He told them, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
These things come out of those with no faith in Jesus. They are unclean from the inside out, regardless of whether they think they’re insiders or not, regardless of whether you’ve made a profession and been washed externally or not.
The religious insiders looked fine on the outside, but they had unclean hearts and lives that displeased the Lord, and Jesus left their midst.
On the other hand, this Greek, this woman, a descendent of God’s enemies, looked rough on the outside, yet because of her faith in Jesus, her daughter was made clean from the inside out.
Seven chapters in, and finally we find someone willing to listen to Jesus, and it isn’t who anyone expected.
It was an unclean Greek woman who was a true member of God’s family, not those who were self-deceived.
This woman was a living example of what He was trying to teach His Father’s children.
Verse 29 and 30 tell us that this heart and this response is acceptable to Jesus. Look with me, “And he said to her, ‘Because of this word, go, the demon has gone out from your daughter.’ And after she went away to her house she found the child lying on the bed and the demon had gone out.”
A couple years ago we heard this story, and we pointed something out that we won’t spend much time on today, but I do want to make note of it again because it is worth thinking about.
Who does Jesus make clean because of this unclean woman’s faith?
It’s not her, but rather it’s her daughter that had the unclean spirit. Jesus cast the demon out of the daughter because of the faith of her mother.
This is important to note because God doesn’t just care about you as an individual; He cares about your whole family, and the obedience of the parents has a direct impact on the spiritual health of their children.
Now this isn’t to say that every parent’s child is regenerated because of the parent’s faithfulness or that every disobedient parent’s children are outside of God’s grace. It is simply to point out that time and again we see our Heavenly Father’s covenant faithfulness extend to whole families, not just to individuals.
If you remember in the beginning of our time today, I told you how Mark liked to give us a teaching of Jesus and then flesh it out with a story. Well, this is no different.
Our story that began with the religious insiders turning out unclean ends actually ended up with an unclean outsider being made, but Mark doesn’t stop there.
In verse 31-37 Jesus goes on to heal a deaf man. This is Mark’s way of asking you, the hearer, will you hear? Has Jesus opened your ears with the story of the unclean outsider or will you continue to be deaf?
Do you see your uncleanliness and come to Jesus for healing, for you and your children? Or do you rest in your profession and efforts while remaining filthy on the inside?
Do you recognize and live as if the gospel is for the outsider, of which you once were? Or, do you think the gospel is for us insiders and those outsiders deserve what they get?
Do you think you’re a member of God’s family who deserves to dine at His table, regardless of whether you obey Him or not? Or, do you humbly acknowledge you have no right to an inheritance and rejoice that He’s graciously given you crumbs?
This morning we said we were going to look at the deep love of a mother for her daughter, and we saw that a Syrophoenician woman was willing to be humiliated for the sake of her child.
We said we were going to see a brother’s love for His sister, and we saw Jesus leave the land of His brothers to give an outsider some bread.
And we said we were going to see the love of a Father for all of His children, and we see that in the gospel.
The Father loved dirty outsiders so much that He sent His Son, the True Clean Insider, to rescue us. Christ was treated as a dirty outsider by His Father so that us dirty outsiders could be made members of His family.
The Father so loves us and so desires to bring us into His family that He broke the body of His Son so that we might follow the breadcrumbs to His table and invite others to do the same.
Love Him. Trust Him. Obey Him. Come to Him, for He has come to you.
Pray with me:
Have mercy on us and our children, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out our transgressions. Wash us thoroughly from our iniquity, and cleanse us from our sin! For we know our transgressions, and our sin is ever before us. Against you, you only, have we sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, we was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did our mother conceive us. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach us wisdom in the secret heart. Purge us with hyssop, and we shall be clean; wash us, and we shall be whiter than snow. Let us hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from our sins, and blot out all our iniquities. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Cast us not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and uphold us with a willing spirit. Then we will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver us from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of our salvation, and our tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open our lips, and our mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or we would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to us in your good pleasure;
For we are but little dogs made children of God. Thank you that you give us far more than crumbs, you give us your Son, the True Hero, the Bread of Life, the Master of the Table. Thank you that you give us Jesus. It’s in His name we pray, Amen.