Have you ever felt the exhilaration and excitement you get from another person’s accomplishment? One of the reasons I love coaching is when breakthroughs happen. I love to spend days, weeks, months, even years working on something with someone, and then to see them breakthrough a barrier and get it.
So I told you a few weeks ago that I got to go on a gun camp trip with my Dad. It was a four day, eight plus hours a day in the Nevada sun training on how to use a handgun. There were all types of people there, at all levels of experience. You had the guys that could hit the wings off a fly from the fifteen yard mark, and the guys that it was their first time ever holding a handgun. If fact there was a family of four with three of these types of shooters. The dad seemed to know his way around a gun good enough, but the mom and the two boys didn’t. And I have to tell you, after the first day I thought two things: One, I’m surprised none of them shot anyone, and two, they’re going to need a lot longer than four days.
But by the end of the four day course, every single one of them became proficient in handling the firearm. With decent groupings, and decent control over the weapon. On top of that, on the last day, they had a little fun tournament of hitting three targets. One with a hostage about seven yards away, and two targets fifteen yards away. Both the boys made it to the second round. I was disqualified, because I grazed the hostage. But after the whole thing was said and done, even though I didn’t know this family, I was excited that of the breakthroughs they accomplished that day. Because it’s those breakthrough moments that seem to make all the hard times seem to be worth it.
That’s kind of the situation we find today as we come to the book of Mark today. So if you have your Bibles, we’ll be in the Gospel of Mark chapter 7, starting in verse 24.
Now before we get into Mark chapter 7 verse 24, our focus has been on the disciples for the last few weeks. But as we start today, we actually need to go back a little further. All the way back to when we talked about Herod. Some of you might remember how we talked about Herod and how that particular passage seemed a little out of place. But, then we talked about how it fit perfectly, because it showed us that even though people had heard about Jesus, they were still missing the point of who Jesus was. Then right after the story about Herod missing the point, we saw the disciple’s return from being sent out by Jesus. To which Jesus wanted to take them away to get them refreshed. But that didn’t end well, because they were so focused on getting to a place of refreshment, that they missed the mini-refreshment on the boat.
Then when they got to the place they were headed, they ran into a group of people, and Jesus started teaching them. Which didn’t exactly sit right with the disciples who wanted them to leave. But that’s when Jesus challenged them to feed the people. The disciples refused, and ended up missing out on a huge miracle.
Then, after the baskets full of food came back, and the people were tallied, Jesus sent the displaces off right away, in a little bot of embarrassment, and he went off by himself to be refreshed. That’s when the disciples began fighting with both their inner struggle and the physical wind of the sea, Jesus say this and proceeded to walk out on the water, but meaning to pass them by. At that point they called out to Jesus, and he immediately gets into the boat. Then they arrived right where they were supposed to be.
Fantastic. But then to cause a little trouble the Pharisees arrive to question Jesus about his disciples. This ends up giving Jesus a chance to show that we tend to convolute God’s commands so we can find a way to both break them and make ourselves feel good in the process. To which Jesus called out both the Pharisees and us when we do that.
All that brings us to where we are today. That’s a lot, but in order to understand what we’re going to talk about today, we need to remember what has happened since Jesus first sent the disciples out.
Now let’s jump into Mark chapter 7, verse 24.
24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
So this is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, because it’s both confusing, and enlightening all at the same time. Let’s walk through the passage.
Mark starts off letting us know that Jesus left where he had his run in with the Pharisees
and making his way to an area around the city of Tyre. That’s really important and we’ll come back to it.
Once in the area of Tyre everything becomes secret. Jesus finds a house and doesn’t want anyone to know that he’s there. Another thing that’s important and we’ll come back to.
That’s when the, I don’t know what you want to call it, confrontation, interaction, the conversation happens. A Greek born women, a Gentile, or non-Jewish person, somehow finds out Jesus is at this particular house and comes to him. Now, do you notice how she comes to him? She comes begging Jesus to drive out a demon from her daughter.
So let’s take an inventory of what we know so far. Jesus is in Tyre, and he wants to keep it secret, both things that are important, and both things we’ll come back to. Then a Gentile woman finds out where Jesus is, and comes begging for him to cast out a demon. Are we all on the same page? Good. Then what happens?
Jesus responds with these words, “First let the children eat all they want…for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Ouch that’s got to hurt right? Did you see what Jesus called her? He called her a dog. An animal less important than the children. And who are the children? The Jews. Jesus is calling this woman who is begging for her child’s freedom from a demon, a dog. You know last chapter when there were 5,000 hungry people it said Jesus had compassion on them. But from then ’til now, with Jesus meaning to pass by his disciples, and now he is meaning to call a begging mom a dog, what happened?
Where’s the Jesus from a few pages back? Because this Jesus right here, doesn’t seem to be the same one from back then. That’s important to notice, so we’ll come back to it.
The mom replies, “Lord…even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Did you notice what she did? Jesus called her a dog, and she owned it. She recognized her place in comparison to Jesus and the Jews. She recognized her place in the unfolding of God’s salvation plan, and she owned it. But she also recognized that the work of Jesus was not only for the Jews. The work of Jesus, even though it was focused in on the Jews, was the precursor for so much more.
And I love how Matthew writes this event, because it brings out the desperation of the mother, and the seemingly callousness response of Jesus.
22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Three things are login on here: we hear the desperation in the mother’s voice, the disciples again wanting someone sent away, and the seemingly callous response of Jesus. The mother’s and the disciple’s responses make sense. It’s keeping with the characters of both. But why is Jesus acting so out of character?
Let’s rewind a bit. Remember the return of the disciples? And how Jesus was taking them to a solitary place, but then things started to get in the way? You know, the people and Jesus feeding the 5,000. And the unwillingness of the disciples, which led to the disciples inner struggle and being sent away. Then after that Jesus had that encounter with the Pharisees.
For that last chapter and a half we have been focusing on the disciples, but haven’t really looked at what was going on with Jesus. Let’s take a moment and think about this whole thing from Jesus’ point of view. And to see that we have to rewind a whole year in Jesus’ ministry.
Because before Jesus sent off his disciples, he was working hard on training them, then he sent them off. We found out through the story of Herod, people were hearing the message of Jesus, but not responding to it correctly. Then when the disciples return, Jesus wants to hear about their travels. But, then there was the 5,000. I bet Jesus was excited to see what the disciples learned and how they could put it into action, but then they were unwilling. So Jesus fed the people himself. Then he had to send the disciples off, why? Couldn’t they had come with him to the mountain? No, because they were not in the right place to join him. Really, they were in the same place as Herod. Herod missed the point, and the disciples were missing the point too. Then Jesus had to deal with the Pharisees, teacher’s of God’s law, that were helping other people circumvent God’s commands, instead of dealing with their inner struggles. Again, people who were missing the point.
So what does Jesus do? He grabs his disciples, and takes them to the Gentile area of Tyre. He takes them away to do some one-on-twelve intensive training, in a place where where people will most likely leave a Jewish man alone. Jesus wants to keep this time secret, so that he can focus on getting these disciples up to snuff. But nope. Here comes someone needing help. Another person seeking something from Jesus. Another person, who probably doesn’t get why Jesus is there.
So he tells it to her straight. He is there for the Jewish people. He has come to bring them back. Sure, Jesus knows that he will die. Sure, he knows that the Gospel will go out, and the Gentiles will be brought into the people of God, but he needs time to train these guys. And apparently it’s going to take a more time, because it ain’t gettin’ through their skulls.
But her response changes everything. Jesus is straight to the point, the children need the word right now, not the dogs. But she, unlike the king, unlike the teacher’s of the law, unlike the twelve guys Jesus has been working on for over a year, gets it. “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
And he responds to with, ““For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
Matthew puts it this way, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”
I can just imagine Jesus turning to his disciples after the women left and saying “Did you guys just see that Gentile woman? She gets it why can’t you?!”
This women had a breakthrough!
I think there’s a lot of times in our lives when we miss what God is doing. We might have been with him for years, Learning, studying, working, but there’s something missing. We still struggle with the same things we’ve been struggling with for years, and we wonder why haven’t we overcome this one thing? But God wants us to have breakthroughs.
I love this passage, because here’s a woman, who’s situation has cleared up everything for her to understand the work of God through Jesus. She understands that Jesus is there for the Jews. She understands that she is not worth Jesus’ time, because his focus isn’t in her direction. But unlike Herod, the Pharisees and the disciples who had been with Jesus for years, she understood the scope of God’s grace. The scope of the unearned love of God has for all creation. And she understood that the only place to experience the unearnable love, was at the feet of Jesus.
And because she understood this, Jesus didn’t even have to be in the room with the little girl, when he sent the demon out with just his words. As it says, “She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”
Too often we’re like Herod, we’re like the Pharisees, we’re like the disciples, completely missing the point. Too self-focused, and unwilling to deal with our own inner struggle that we miss the work of God right in front of us. But God wants us to call him into the boat, stop circumventing his commands, and just fall at his feet realizing our need, and that it’s only from him can we get ourselves right.
This week I want to challenge you with a simple question. What are you missing? What, in your life, are you missing? Have you been struggling with a specific sin? That one thing that has just fueled your inner struggle and you can’t seem to overcome it? Or have you been struggling why you can’t hear God, or experience him like you used to? Or maybe you are at a plateau in your relationship with him, and you’re feeling like a dog, with no scraps.
This week, I want us as a church to go before God and ask him, “What am I missing?” What am I missing to overcome my sin? What am I missing to experience him? What am I missing in feeling like a dog, and not feeling the unearned love of God? What am I missing? And then write it down on a piece of paper with no name on. Because next week I’m going to have a cork bored and when you come in, my challenge is for you to put what you’re missing on the board, so we as a church can pray for each other.
Because I see in Jesus’ life, a desire for us to get it, to have a breakthroughs and a willingness to work with us to see them for ourselves. So what are we missing, and what breakthroughs await us this week.
Now may the God of breakthroughs, breakthrough what you are missing this week, so that you can share in his victory. Amen