“And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. 25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-phoenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. 28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. 29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. 30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” Mark 7:24-30
On the Northwest Coast of Palestine is the Island of Tyre with its mainland port. Along with Sidon, this city of Phoenicia was once part of the larger area of Syria. The name Tyre means, The Rock. It was well named because, off the shore of Palestine lay two massive rocks united by a 3,000-foot-long ridge. This structure formed a natural breakwater, making Tyre one of the most majestic and natural harbors of the world from the earliest of times. Not only did the rocks form a breakwater, but also, they allowed for a natural defense. Tyre was not only a famous harbor, but also a famous fortress. Over the centuries, when the ancient nations of the world marched through the Middle East, they found the inhabitants of Tyre to be a formidable foe. Under Roman rule, Tyre and Sidon were given local autonomy. It was to this Gentile region that Jesus withdrew from Jewish society in order to find the rest that He and His disciples so desperately needed. Twice already peace had been sought (Mark 6:32-33; 6:53-54).
Having ministered to the multitudes, Jesus was exhausted, He wanted to go somewhere to be alone “and would have no man know it: but He could not be hid” (Mark 7:24). The longing to be obscure reflects the great humility of heaven’s Highest. Of the Son of God as the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah had predicted, “He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall his voice be heard in the streets.” These were the days of Divine obscurity. “But He could not be hid.” The reason why Christ could not be hidden is explained. A “certain woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet.”Though the woman is unnamed, a number of general characteristics and personal qualities are known. Each one is significant.
This Unknown Woman was a Gentile. Theologically, and according to culture, this Unknown Woman was alien to the Covenant of Promise. The woman was born outside the sphere of blessing. According to Jewish thinking, the woman was, to put it bluntly, a dog. There is an emotional and visceral reaction to such people. The Jews of old hated the Gentiles. They were taught to hate the Gentiles from childhood Muslims are taught to hate Jews and Christians today in certain societies. The Unknown Woman from Phoenicia, in the region of Syria was believed by the Jews to be a dog. She was held in contempt by many, but not, as we shall see by Jesus, for, she came to Christ in humility with an earnest petition.
Finding the Lord on the basis of a general reporting that He was in the area, the Unknown Woman fell at the Savior’s feet. If public prostration was the price that had to be paid for the healing of her child, she would gladly pay it. In this act of desperation, the Unknown Woman reminds us that we who come to Christ are also desperate, if the truth were told. We must come in humility to ask for Christ’s mercy, and the healing of our hearts from our sins. In the day of ultimate judgment, we want to say,
“Nothing in my hands I bring
Simply to thy Cross I cling.”
From beginning to end humility is designed to be a mark of the Christian faith. Consider the evidence. Confessing one’s self a sinner is an expression of humility. Jesus Himself set the example of humility by the incarnation, and beyond that by stooping to wash the feet of others. The Son of Man came to minister and to give His life a ransom for others. Because Christ Jesus came to the world clothed in humility, he will always be found among those who are clothed with humility.
The Unknown Woman was humble, for she had a child that was demon possessed and she needed help. There are some children who are not only strong willed, they are indwelt by an evil spirit. How the child of our passage became demon possessed is not given, but the reality of the possession is plainly stated under Divine inspiration. After studying the culture of the inhabitants of the Phoenicians, it is not difficult to understand how a child might be demon possessed. The gods of Sidon and Tyre included Baal and Astaroth, who demanded from their devotees’ sensual activity, and beyond that, child sacrifices.
When a culture gives itself over to unrestricted sensual activities, and exploit children in one form or another, a fascination with the occult is always part of the cultural activity. Americans have yet to connect the escalating violence in our society with the world of the occult, and yet the evidence is plain. The occult is promoted in subtle ways every single day. In classrooms across this nation the New Age philosophy is taught in the public schools. The concepts of eastern mysticism and mediation are encouraged, even though they invite spirit guides to come into the channels of a suspended mind. On the television there is the Sci Fi station, with 24 hours of streaming images of the dark side of the soul. In the newspaper there are the daily horoscopes. In the stores, thousands of movies glamorize the occult in the name of entertainment. Then there are all the video games in the archives, and the toys that can be held in one’s hands. While many parents drive their children across the country on vacations, the children are not looking and learning. They are in the back seat, but somewhere else in a spirit world of dungeons and dragons. The ancient world, like the modern, had many incidents of people being attacked by demons, because the culture itself promoted the evil that invites possession. The daughter of the Unknown Woman had an unclean spirit.
Nevertheless, this Unknown Woman had a faith that would not let Jesus go, despite an initial rebuke by the Lord at her request for help. We are actually surprised at the comments of Christ, for they are harsh. While the Lord was not smiling when He spoke, He was searching for the faith of the Unknown Woman. In cryptic language Jesus said, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it unto the dogs” (Mark 7:27). While we might struggle with the meaning, the Unknown Woman knew exactly what Christ was saying. Jesus was saying that the Messianic blessing He came to give was designed to be fed to the Children of Israel.
Israel was the child of God.
Israel was the true seed of promise.
Israel was the heir of the covenant blessings.
To Israel the Messiah must first come and fulfill His ministry. It would not be right to go to the Gentiles until that was done.
The spiritual power and authority of the Messiah was not designed initially to be given to anyone but the Jews.
A theological point was being made.
How would the Unknown Woman react?
The answer is, she reacted with great grace, humility, faith, and persistency. Her mother’s heart, and the need of the daughter, stopped this great lady from rising up in anger against the Sovereign Savior. Was Jesus suggesting He would not help her? Then she would take His own argument and respond with wisdom. Yes, Lord: she agreed, yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28)
I suspect that when the woman said this the saints in heaven shouted, the angles gasped, and the Father smiled. Jesus Himself was tremendously impressed, for the woman was right. Jesus had invited her to come and reason, and her response prevailed upon His heart.
Did He call Her a dog?
She would accept that epitaph.
Did He say that the children, or the Jews, should be ministered to first?
She would not challenge that concept either.
But was there no blessing for others in the smallest of ways?
Yes, there was.
The woman was right.
The blessings given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were indeed designed to minister to the whole world.
God Himself had said as much in Genesis 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
“Give me the crumbs of thy grace and mercy!” cried the Unknown Woman and that will be enough.
And it was, for we read that
“He said unto her, for this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter” (Mark 7:30).
The great objective of the Unknown Woman was reached.
The Sovereign had spoken and the powers of darkness had to obey.
The demon was dismissed from the child, for time and distances are no barriers to deity.
“And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed” (Mark 7:30).
No mother ever hurried home faster to her child than this Unknown Woman.
No mother ever fought more the battle of faith for the survival of her precious one, and there-in is the hope for all who have wayward children.
As counselors are called, as medicine is administered, as discipline is considered, there is still the Creator to appeal to in faith.
But there must be faith that Christ will come to help, and can help, because we read the important words of Mark 7:29
“For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.”
May the Lord encourage us all to have faith in His constant power to heal, as He crosses the various borders of life to minister to all that come to Him in humility and in faith. Amen.