Going To The Dogs
GOING TO THE DOGS
As Gods people, we have been commissioned by Christ to “go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
- And for the most part, I believe that most of us try to fulfill this commission. . .or at least we want
In this passage however, Jesus deals with an issue that has for many years hindered some from evangelizing certain people.
- And so this morning I want to study this passage with you. . .but let me warn you, what Jesus teaches us here in this passage may step on some of our toes.
- And if it does, instead of us getting angry and resentful…
- I hope we will repent and change our hearts and our thinking.
Let’s look at the passage and the two stories found in it, and let’s learn some very relevant lessons for us today.
- First of all let’s cover the stories.
The First Story: As you look at this passage the first thing you notice is that Jesus goes to “the region of Tyre.”
- And when He gets to Tyre, a woman who had heard of Him, and whose daughter has
an “unclean spirit” comes to Him. . .and she falls down at His feet.
Now look at verse 26. Notice what Mark says.
“Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to
cast the demon out of her daughter. “
Now if you go to the book of Matthew, in chapter 15:22, Matthew says that this is a “Canaanite.”
- So, this woman who comes to Jesus is a Gentile, a a Canaanite…and her daughter has an unclean spirit.
Now, still in Matthew 15, look at what Jesus does in verse 23.
- She cries out to Jesus, “But He did not answer her a word.
- Isn’t that interesting?
- Why didn’t He answer her?
- We will come back to that in just a little bit.
For now, let’s go on.
Vs 23: “But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.”
Now let’s go back now to Mark 7 and look at verse 27.
- His disciples tell Him to send her away, but look at what Jesus does.
“And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
I mean here this woman is, and she comes to Jesus and begs for His help.
- The disciples want to send her away.
- And now it seems that even Jesus is against her.
- And that is so uncharacteristic of the way Jesus is.
- What do we make of this verse? Is He calling this woman a “dog”?
The “key” to understanding this verse is found in two words.
- The first word is the word “First.”
- That word speaks of “priority …of order …of something that must be done before something else is.”
And then notice the word “dogs.”
- In the Greek there are several words for dogs but this word literally speaks of a “puppy.”
- This is not a derogatory term.
- The question is, “When do you give the food to the puppies?
- After you have fed the children first.
Jesus is expressing His priority here…and His first priority…His first order of business, His first responsibility as Messiah is to the Jews.
- Many years before God promised the Jews that the Messiah would come to them.
- They have been prepared through scripture.
- They have been prepared through the prophets.
- They are the ones that God has made the promises too.
Jesus is not being callous here….He is not calling this woman a “dog.”
- He is simply saying,”/ was sent to the lost sheep of Israel”…
- “They are my first priority.”
- It is the same thing that Paul said when he said that, “the gospel is the power of God for ..to the Jew first, and also the Greek.”
- So Jesus is simply saying that Israel’s claim comes first.
But now, that word “First” is significant for another reason because it says that Israel’s claim is not exclusive.
- When Jesus says, “First”, He gives her a note of hope.
- Jesus did not say, “The bread is for the children only.”
- He said, “the bread is for the children first”
And the woman responds.
- And she says, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”
- And basically what she is saying is that she “understands His priority.”
- She is not criticizing that priority…she is not saying the Jews don’t deserve to be first.
- But, with a tremendous amount of humility and faith, this woman is simply asking Him for help as He fulfills His obligation to the Jews.
- She is saying, “Jesus, I know you must do what you must do with the Jews first…but can you help me now?
And look at what Jesus says: “Because of this answer go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
- In Matthew 15, Matthew says that Jesus tells the woman, “Your faith is great.”
- And so the woman goes home and she finds her daughter, and the demon has left her.
And then we come to the second story in the passage…look at verse 31.
- Jesus goes out Tyre and He passes “through Sidon within the region called the Decapolis”.
- And again, the Decapolis consists largely of a Greek population.
And the people there bring to Jesus a man who is deaf and who has difficulty speaking.
- And Jesus takes the man aside and Jesus puts His fingers in the man’s ears as if to say, “/ am going to do something for your hearing. “
- And then Jesus touches the man’s tongue as if to say, “I am going to do something for your tongue.“
- And then Jesus looks up to heaven as if to say, “The power comes from above.”
- And then He sighs deeply…and then He speaks and by the authority of His word, “Ephphathah” this man is healed.
And Jesus tells the people not to tell anyone about what He has just done.
- But they can’t keep quiet. They tell everyone.
- And they say, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf to hear, and the dumb to
Now, what is there about these two stories that is so relevant for us today?
Remember the lady in the first story was a Gentile!?
- And the people in the second story were all Gentiles?!
- Gentiles were despised by the Jews.
- One Jewish Rabbi said that the only reason Gentiles existed was to “stoke the fires of hell.“
- They were despised by the Jews and yet, here in these two stories Jesus goes into Gentile country.
- Why did He do this? Why did He go Tyre and Sidon?
I think if you want to understand why Jesus made this trip, you have to go back to what Jesus has just taught prior to this.
- You see, Mark regards this story as a natural sequence to what has just taken place.
- And if you will go back to vs. 14-23 you see that Jesus has just taught the multitudes, as well as his disciples, that it is not what is on the “outside of the man that defiles him.”
- It is what is on the .. what is in his heart that defiles him.
- It is not the outside that matters to God. It is what is on the inside that matters.
This was a revolutionary concept for the Jews.
- For years they considered people to be defiled because of the “outward” things.
- Your culture could defile you… and the color of your skin… and where you were from.
- And if you look in verse 17, Jesus’ disciples struggle with this new teaching.
So, to get them to understand, Jesus takes His disciples to Tyre…to Gentile country.
- And immediately this woman comes to Him and she cries for help.
- And Jesus helps.
How could he do that?
- This woman was a Gentile.
- Not only was she a Gentile, she was a Syrophoenician.
- A Canaanite…and not only that, she is a woman!
- And to make matters worse, her little girl is possessed by an evil spirit.
You talk about someone who, in the eyes of the Jews would be considered unclean…and who they would wrinkle their nose at and sneer… she was.
- You couldn’t get much worse in their eyes than this lady was.
How could Jesus help this unclean, unworthy woman?
- And apparently that’s what Jesus’ disciples were thinking.
Remember when she cried for help and He didn’t answer her?
- Well it seems that he didn’t answer so that He could get his own disciples to see their own bias, bigoted spirit.
- Because when He doesn’t answer her, what do they do?
“Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.”
- They never said this about a Jewish woman.
- It never bothered them when a Jewish woman might cry out to Jesus.
- But that’s the point, she is not Jewish.
- To them she is not as worthy as a Jewish woman might be.
You see, it is hard to appreciate how Jewish these disciples were. But Jesus helps her…and he tells her that her “faith is great.”
And what is His point?
- His point is, people are not unclean because of what is on the outside.
- People are not unclean because of who they are.
- And people are not unclean because of what country they live in.
- And people are not unclean because they speak a different language.
- And people are not unclean because of the color of their skin.
- And people are not unclean because their culture is different.
It is not the outside of the cup that makes it unclean…and it is not what is on the outside of people that makes them unclean.
You see, what Jesus is teaching here is the width of God’s love.
- He is saying that God’s love has never been confined to a particular sect of people or a
particular cultural boundary.
- People are not unclean because of what is outside.
And we say, “We know that!”
- Well we might “know that” but do we do that?
How many of us look at the black man with bias and prejudice because of the color of his skin…and some decades old ideas that others have had and say, “He’s not worthy of the kingdom of God.”
- And brothers and sisters I have seen it.
- I have seen some of my brothers and sisters in Christ still refer to some of our black brothers and sisters in Christ with slang terms as though they were of a lower class than we are.
- And the Hispanic, do we look at them sometimes with no concern for their souls simply
because they have a different colored skin and speak a different language?
And maybe it is not so much a person’s race but simply his appearance.
- Do we sometimes look at someone who has a pierced eyebrow or tongue and think they are
not worthy of hearing the word of God?
- Do we reach out sometimes to the more affluent, the better dressed, the better educated thinking they are better candidates for the kingdom of God.
- And pull back from the poor, the unkempt, the uneducated thinking they are not worthy?
And our prejudices and bias’ can be based on such things as: He isn’t a cowboy. . .or he is a cowboy. . . or he is over weight … or he smells bad … or he looks funny … or he has bad manners. . .or he has a goatee. . .or a tattoo…or he drives a Harley or he wears an earring.
Do we sometimes think that because we are white. . .and American. . .that we are God’s favorite and he only cares for us?
- In the past I have heard a native American Indian say the he wanted no part of Christianity
because it was ””the white man ‘s religion? “
- Do some of us think that?
The Jews did. They thought they were God’s favorite and that God only cared only for them.
Let me read a poem that was sent to me.
Six humans trapped by happenstance in the black and bitter cold, each one possessed a stick of wood, or so the story is told. Their dying fire was in need of logs but the first man held his back, for of all the faces around the fire, he noticed that one was black. The next man looking across the way saw one that was not of his church and he wouldn’t give himself to give the fire his stick of birch. The third man sat in tattered clothes and gave his coat a hitch. Why should he put his log to use to warm the idle rich? The rich man sat back and thought of the wealth he had in store and how to keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor. The black man’s face spoke revenge as the fire passed from sight. For all he saw in his stick of wood was a chance to spite the white. The last man of this forlorn group did nothing except for gain, giving only to those who gave to him, was the way he played the game. Their logs held tight in deaths still grasp is proof of human sin. They didn’t die of cold without. They died from the cold within.
Here in these 13 verses you find two stories.
- And there is a link that ties the two stories together.
- And that link is Jesus reaching out to those not like Himself.
- Both stories urge the validity of missions to those formerly disdained.
- Both stories show that there is a time and place to show grace to people that you were
once taught to hate.
- And so we see in these two stories the width of Gods love for different kinds of people.
We live in a city and a state and a nation with many different races and cultures.
- We have Hispanic, Anglo, Black, Chinese, Indian. . .and many others.
- Everyone of them in need of the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- But I am afraid, that sometimes, because of what we see on the outside, we deny them Christ and consider them unworthy of His saving word.
Look again with me at verse 36. The verse says:
“And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. “
- I find it ironic that He tells them to be quiet and they keep telling every one.
- And He tells us to speak, and we stay silent.
I wonder why? Why are we so silent?
Is it because we haven’t dealt with our biases yet?
Is it because we do see some people as dogs?
Is it because we think some people deserve the gospel more than others?
Or that there are some people that we think God’s love can’t and shouldn’t reach?
Jesus is pleading with us here and saying, “what matters is not the outside… what matters is the inside.”
It might be that this week you and your “Canaanite” woman will meet. Don’t write her off. Jesus died for her too She is not more important than others. But she is not any less important either.
Prayer: Eyes open to all kinds of people. Ears open to all kinds of problems. Lips open to all kinds of possibilities.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023