Who Is The One Who Partakes Of Salvation?
1. The meeting between a mother by herself and Christ is recorded in the biblical passage given to us today. Her name does not remain. The only thing recorded is she was a Greek born in Syrophoenicia. But, the meeting between this one mother whose name we don't know and the Lord Jesus is documented in the gospels and has been passed on for generations. Mark has taken up this woman in his gospel as the first Gentile to believe on the Lord Jesus. While the Jews on the one hand bragging about being the people of God reject Christ, this mother and daughter who are Gentiles participate in the grace of God. Well, what kind of person was this mother (to have been the first partaker of God's grace among the Gentiles)? Furthermore, what is the Bible saying to us through this character?
A Person Totally Aware Of Her Powerlessness
2. To begin, I will read you once again from verse twenty-four to verse twenty-six. "Jesus got up and left that place and went to the region of Tyre. He entered a certain house, and though he didn't want anyone to know, it was noticed by the people. A woman with a very young daughter possessed by an unclean spirit immediately heard about Jesus, came and threw herself prostrate before his feet. The woman was Greek and born in Syrophoenicia, yet she requested, please drive out the evil spirit from my daughter, " (verses twenty-four through twenty-six).
3. One woman came to the Lord Jesus and threw herself prostrate before his feet. This doesn't look like anything unusual at first glance since the Lord Jesus was on the other side of the one who bowed. But, this was not something that was normally supposed to take place. It wasn't supposed to happen because she was Greek and she was born in Syrophoenicia. When you think of the thick wall that was between the Gentiles and the Jews, you must think of who was on the other side [of the bowing woman] and how this was a special situation in which a Gentile prostrates herself before a Jew. We must understand that a long process was at the background to this situation of having a Gentile woman come to the point of prostrating herself before the Lord Jesus.
4. A very small daughter was there with her. The text says, "A very young daughter possessed with an unclean evil spirit." It is not definite what kind of condition that is pointing to. It might have been a bodily or a mental illness, and an occurrence of demon possession might have been concretely manifested. Or possibly the toddler might have had several problems in her behaviors. Any way you look at it, this daughter was in the position where she could not do anything by herself. She couldn't do anything on her own power and was under the control of a great evil power.
5. The mother tried to help her daughter. That's natural and expected. If a child is unable to solve a problem by herself, the parent would want to solve it for her no matter what sacrifice the parent paid. She would want to free her one way or the other. She would even want to trade places if it were possible. However, she couldn't take her place. Therefore, she tries out anything and everything. This mother probably did not [just] fold her arms in front of her suffering dear child. She must have went day after day running around looking to help her daughter. We understand the kinds of days she had experienced from how she located as fast as she could the whereabouts of the Lord Jesus and even how she visited him faster than anyone else. However, no matter how she tried, it did not result in liberating her daughter. That's right, regardless of how much we love our child, no matter how much we bust it for him or her, we can't [really] do anything for [our child].
6. When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and starts to cry, the mother immediately picks it up in her arms to hold her child and might say, "Mommy's here so it's all right." How many times will the parent take such words into his or her mouth? As you know so very well, this does not amount to fictitious speech. If mom is there will [everything] be all right? If dad is there will it be okay? Such a situation will not be [okay]. "This is my child. It's my child I carried in labor and delivered." In spite of having said such things, a child is not in the hands of his or her parent. The parent cannot keep a child even from small dangers or little troubles. In the end, [a parent] cannot even protect or help his or her child.
7. [We're] powerless. That's right, parents are powerless. This mother was one who was made to realize her powerless state through her daughter's problem. However, that situation was not futile at all. It was after she felt her own lack of power that she threw herself prostrate at the feet of the Lord Jesus. A Greek woman threw herself prostrate before the feet of a Jewish man. For her, such a wall of distinction no longer had meaning. Both her vanity and pride had no significance [with her]. She stood before the Lord Jesus as that kind of person. The ones who came to take part in God's grace were not the Jews who were proud of keeping the law and proud of their purity. She was not like the Jews; instead, she was a Gentile who knew her own weakness. There is the expression "Fox hole faith." It seems there are a lot of cases when [this expression] is not used with very good application. As you give it some thought it's true that people who never get in a tight spot don't turn to God much. Unless a person comes face to face with his or her own powerlessness, the person will not be able to throw away his or her vanity, pride, and other various quirks, and [so] bow down before the Lord. Having different forms, the events which cause a person to realize his or her weakness are a necessity in human life and make up an important process for leading a person to the Lord.
The Person Who Looks For Bread Crumbs
8. Next, I will read you from verse twenty-seven to verse thirty. "Jesus said, 'First of all, you've got to give enough food to the children. You shouldn't take the children's bread and give it to the puppies.' However, the woman answered and said, 'O Lord, but even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children's bread.' Thereupon, Jesus said, 'Your talking like that is good. Please return home. The evil spirit has already gone out of your daughter.' When the woman sought to return home, her child was asleep on the bed mat and the evil spirit had gone out," (verses twenty-seven through thirty).
9. Surprisingly, the Lord gave an answer to the request of the mother who bowed down at the feet of the Lord Jesus with a very cold message. He rejected the request of the mother. When it says "children" here it is clearly the Jews. "The puppies" are the Gentiles. The Jews regarded Gentiles as defiled or unclean, and called them "dogs" which insinuated disdain. It seems even the words of the Lord Jesus are no different than the commonly used words of the Jews. The grace of God was directed to the Jews "the children" first and he was saying it was not frequently given to the Gentiles "the dogs." Well, why would the Lord say something like that? Was the Lord thinking like that because the Jew was a Jew and clean, and that because a Gentile was a Gentile and had an unclean state of existence and did not deserve the grace of God?
10. In order to understand this situation I'd like us to keep in view the context in which this story is placed. In the first half of this chapter a dispute is recorded between the Jews and the Lord Jesus. The debate was on defilement and purity [or ceremonial uncleanness and cleanness]. This matter started when the disciples of the Lord did not wash and purify their hands and yet they ate a meal. The Pharisees were watching and found fault with this. For example, the Jews, including the Pharisees, after they came home from the market, unless they purified themselves it was expected that they wouldn't eat. (Verse four). They purified themselves thoroughly as they might have received defilement by touching others who were defiled. Also, they divided even food into what is unclean and what is clean. The unclean never goes into the mouth because it would be receiving defilement. But, as the Lord stands before such Jews he called the crowd together and said as follows. "Everyone, please hear and understand what I'm saying. There's nothing that enters the body of a human from the outside that can defile a person, but what comes from the inside of a person defiles the person," (verses fourteen and fifteen). On this point he explained it further to the disciples as follows. "The very things which come out of a person defile a person because from the inside, in other words, from the human heart bad thoughts come out. Improper actions, stealing, murderous intentions, adultery, covetousness, malice, fraud, lust, jealousy, backbiting, arrogance, thoughtlessness, all these evils come out from inside everyone and defile the person," (verses twenty through twenty-three). In other words, he was stating that this matter of defilement is essentially a very human thing and more than a matter of whether one was a Jew or not, or one has purified oneself or not, or whether one has eaten anything unclean or not. They cannot just say I'm not defiled because I'm not a Gentile and because I have purified myself. Indeed, it's not only a matter of not being defiled, but rather the fact is we can only have a state of being that defiles us.
11. As the Lord said this, he went from the region of Gennesaret to Tyre, a Gentile area. He met this mother there. Therefore, the answer given by the Lord here was clearly not merely "Jews are clean and because Gentiles are dirty dogs they are not worthy of God's grace." So then, why did the Lord give this kind of answer? In order to understand this, I would like us to pay attention to the mother's words. I would like us to notice what in the world did the mother hear out of the Lord's words and how did she respond to his words?
12. The mother thus answered, "O Lord, but even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs of the children's bread." We understand from this answer that this person had accepted at least two points of fact. The first is: God is at the center of everything. Not humanity. "First of all to the children" means that God has his own plans. Since God has his own way of doing things, there is an orderly system based on God's will. The Lord was wanting to follow this plan and sequence. The mother had to accept it.
13. We do not accept this matter very well. We think somewhere in our hearts that God should move in a manner that we can perceive as just and fair. We think God should perform according to our plans and not His plans and in accordance with our system and not His system. But, the Lord first of all requires that we cast off such a human centered way of thinking. Around this Phoenician born woman was way too much human centered religion. There must have been as many gods as she could want to select from. But, the Lord made it clear to the woman who bowed before His feet that she had no role in a relationship with God, nor did her request have any part there. Still, she accepted his words and humbled herself before God.
14. Then, secondly she accepted the truth that she had no right to ask God for anything. She asked for the crumbs from the bread. Her having asked for bread crumbs means that she admitted she did not even have the power to ask for any thing like bread itself.
15. Certainly, [the area] she was needing help in was her daughter who was being controlled by an evil spirit. The problem was with the daughter not with the mother. The mother came to the Lord wanting help any way she could get it for her daughter. She probably had sought for God's help through the Lord Jesus for that purpose. But, [the Lord] did not allow this mother who had bowed herself before the Lord to request help as if she herself had no problem personally. Through the words of cold rejection from the Lord Jesus, this woman and no one but her own self had to admit she was not able to stand before God. Even though she could not receive anything, she had to admit there was absolutely rock bottom no hope nor way out for her by nature. It was because she herself was an unclean person. As I said before on this, it was not simply because she was a Gentile. As the Lord said the essence of uncleanness was not whether one was Jewish or not, or whether one has purified oneself or not, but what is within a person's interior and because [uncleanness] is related to what comes out of the interior. But, if he takes issue with what is on the inside of a person, who in the world will ever be able to stand before God? Who is able to approach God as an undefiled person and ask for His help? A person, even though not defiled in the Gentile sense, cannot approach God when all is said and done as was expected. It's the same [inapproachability because of defilement or sinfulness] whether one is Jew or Gentile.
16. She humbled herself before the message of the Lord. She continued by asking for mercy that she might be given to partake of at least some bread crumbs. The one who partook of God's grace was such an one as this. The Jews who thought it natural that they receive God's salvation did not humble themselves before Christ and were a clear contrast in character, which ended up rejecting the Lord. Well, as what kind of person do we try to approach the Lord?
17. In the end, the very young daughter was freed. The mother's prayer was heard. The outcome was not clear on what specifically became of her daughter. But, any way you look at it, this miracle of expelling the evil spirit was a sign of the kingdom of God. It was a sign that pointed out that God was saving us from sin and death through Jesus Christ. Christ gave himself as the bread of life for our salvation. As for this story, we could probably read it as a story that points out who is the one who really partakes of the bread of life and who is the one who partakes of salvation. The one who partakes of salvation is not a person who considers himself or herself clean and strong, or thinks getting saved is a natural automatic [given]. That's not the way; after approaching Christ as a powerless person and admitting one is a being who cannot stand before God, then a person seeking God's mercy partakes of the bread of life and partakes of the Lord's salvation.