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Mark 7:24-8:10; The Fulfillment of Prophecy and the Call to Humility Print E-mail
Sunday, 16 September 2007

At this point in the gospel of Mark, many of those around Jesus have to be wondering: ‘Just how far will this guy go?  He has claimed to forgive sins.  He has called sinners to be his disciples.  He does not follow the Sabbath traditions.  And now He has called all foods clean.  How far will this Jewish teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, go?’  Everybody from the Pharisees to Jesus’ own disciples were possibly struggling with this question.

Interestingly enough, Mark begins our text this morning with these words: And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  Is there anything really significant about these geographical details?  Actually, yes.  These areas are primarily Gentile regions.  As we have noted before, Jesus has already been ministering in these and other Gentile areas.  Yet, in light of Mark’s recording of His teaching on tradition and defilement in the previous verses combined with the next three stories, it seems that Mark is showing his readers the importance of the Gentile mission.  Mark recognizes that Jesus primarily ministered to the Jewish community in His life, as will be seen in the story with the Syrophoenician woman.  Yet, from these and other stories from Jesus’ life, we also see the inclusion of the Gentiles in Jesus’ mission.  This will become more and more clear in the Gospels and the New Testament.  And, as the New Testament writers note, the mission to the Gentiles was prophesied in the Old Testament. 

Thus, we see in this text a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in the life and ministry of Jesus.  We have not noted these fulfillments as much in the book of Mark as we did in the book of Matthew.  Today, I want to point out three ways in which Jesus’ life and ministry, particularly in this text, fulfill Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah.  Likewise, I want us to see how each of these calls us to humility as believers and followers of Jesus.  Let’s begin with the one that we have already mentioned, namely…

The nations receive grace and mercy (v. 24-30).

As we have already noted, since the setting of all of these stories is in Gentile regions, we could say that they all in some sense show the inclusion of the Gentiles in Jesus’ mission.  The woman whose daughter is freed of the demon is a Gentile.  The deaf and mute man, being from the Decapolis, is most likely Gentile as well.  The crowd that Jesus feeds in 8:1-10 is primarily a Gentile crowd, even though Mark does not make this explicit (Mark does not indicate a geographical change until 8:10, which seems to imply that the feeding takes place in a Gentile region, possibly in Decapolis).  Thus, in all of these stories we are seeing the nations receive grace and mercy at the hands of Jesus. 

Yet, how is this a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah?  Look at Genesis 12:2-3 with me.  We have noted before that when God called Abraham He made a promise to him that in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.  After God tests Abraham with the sacrifice of Isaac, He reiterates this same promise (see 22:18).  So then, how are all the families of the earth blessed through Abraham?  The answer is that they are blessed through Christ. 

The good news of Christ dying on the cross for our sins will go to every nation before He returns (see Matthew 24:14).  Likewise, we are told that on the final day there will be people from every tongue, tribe, and nation, gathered around the throne of Christ worshipping and adoring Him as the Lamb who was slain for their sins (see Revelation 5).  Thus, the nations will be blessed through faith in Christ. 

Here in Mark we are seeing the beginnings of the mission to the Gentiles.  How?  Look at 7:24-30.  Mark makes it clear in verse 26 that the woman who is approaching Jesus is a Gentile.  Yet, the interaction between the two is shocking to say the least.  She comes and begs for Jesus to cast the demon our of her daughter, to which he replies: Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.  Jesus is obviously emphasizing the priority of Israel.  They are to be offered the bread first.  Surprisingly, the woman agrees with Jesus and just asks for the crumbs. 

What is happening here?  Is Jesus just being mean?  No, we need to see the story in its fullness.  Yes, Jesus does state that the gospel must go to the Jews first.  We see this throughout His ministry and the ministry of the early Church.  The woman does not argue with this.  She is humble enough to recognize that she has no right to ask for bread.  Yet, she throws herself at the mercy of Jesus.  Jesus responds to such humility and faith by granting the woman’s request.

I believe we have much to learn from this woman.  She recognized her place.  Seemingly, she even recognized that because she was not a Jew, she was outside of the people of God.  Yet, she did not give Jesus a list of reasons why He should help her.  She did not talk about good deeds or sincere prayers or faithful giving.  She knew she had nothing to offer and everything to gain.  She knew that her only hope was mercy and grace.  Brothers and sisters, this is how we should approach our Savior. 

His Word tells us that we are worse than dogs, we are rebels, we are traitors, we are enemies, we are lovers of self and haters of God.  Thus, all we can hope for is mercy and grace at the feet of Jesus.  We do not come deserving, no, we come desperate.  And only when we acknowledge our helpless state will He meet us with great mercy.  The first step towards reconciliation with God is humility.  It is humbly agreeing with Him that our sins are heinous and worthy of death and hell.  Only after we have confessed our wickedness and forsaken our sin can we truly believe in the grace and mercy offered us at the cross.

Not only are the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by the nations receiving grace and mercy, but they are also fulfilled by the fact that…

The deaf hear and the mute speak (v. 31-37).

This is part of the prophecy from Isaiah 35 that we read at the beginning of our service.  Listen again to verses 5-6: Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.  The prophet tells us that when the Messiah comes, the blind, deaf, lame, and mute will be healed.

We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in Mark 6:31-37.  Look at that passage with me again.  Again, Mark notes that this miracle took place in a Gentile region.  As we have seen before, a group brings the needy person to Jesus to be healed.  Here, Jesus takes the man aside and heals him.  The language that the people use in verse 37 is similar to that of Isaiah.  His healing of this deaf and mute man is a fulfillment of that prophecy.

Note also some of the details that Mark includes here.  First, Mark tells us that Jesus put His hands in the man’s ears and even on his tongue.  Once again we see that Jesus is willing to get His hands dirty, literally.  He is not afraid to get knee deep in the awful human condition.  His mercy costs Him and will continue to cost Him until it finally leads to His death on a cross.  Second, Mark notes that Jesus sighed before He healed the man.  I do not want to read too much into this, but it is interesting to note how Jesus responded to suffering and pain.  He sighed.  He hurt.  These two details again emphasize the need for us to be humble in our approach to the Savior.  He has humbled Himself and got down in the mud and mire with us.  How can we claim to follow Him if we are not willing to do the same?  How can we refuse to extend mercy to hurting and broken people, when the One we claim to follow did this regularly?  He humbled Himself and got His hands dirty.  May we do the same.

There is one final way that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah are fulfilled in this text, namely…

The crowds receive compassion, for they are taught and fed (8:1-10).

Look one final time with me at Isaiah 35:1-4.  The Messiah will come and strengthen the week hand and make firm the feeble knees.  I recognize that the parallel is not exact, but we do see compassion being extended to the Gentile crowds.  Jesus teaches them (not explicit, but implied in the text) and then feeds them.  He meets their need of hunger by feeding them through a miracle.  Jesus’ compassion is not just for the hungry Jewish crowd.  No, he feeds the primarily Gentile crowd as well and Mark tells us that they too ate and were satisfied. 

Jesus is such a faithful Savior and Lord.  He casts out demons, He heals the sick, He feeds the hungry.  Be they Jew or Gentile, His mercy and compassion are great.  As we said before with the story of the feeding of the 5,000, we too have been fed by Jesus.  Each week, when we come to the Table, we are partaking of the broken Body of Christ.  We are drinking the shed blood of Christ at the cross.  And here’s what’s so amazing: we eat and we are satisfied again and again.  The mercy and compassion that we have received at the cross should continually keep us humble before our Savior. 

Thus, this we see in our text at least three ways in which Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies about the promised Messiah.  Likewise, we see in each of them a clear call to humility.  In the presence of the Messiah, in the presence of the King, in the presence of the One who left heaven and took on flesh, and in the presence of the One who bore our sins on a tree, how could we not respond with humility?  Actually, there are only two ways. 

First, we think too much of ourselves.  We forget that we are dogs, no, even worse than dogs for we do not even deserve the crumbs.  We forget who we were when Christ found us.  Second, we think too little of Jesus.  We become familiar with His story, His ministry, His life, His death.  His sacrifice becomes little more than a song we sing or a story we’ve read.  We fail to stop and let the gravity of the gospel take its toll: we have rebelled against Almighty God, He sent us His only Son to die on a cross in our place that we might be forgiven and restored.  May we avoid both of these costly errors that we might be a humble people who recognize our place and marvel at the glorious grace of our Savior.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 September 2007 )

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