God’s Word for You
Mark 7:24-26 The Syro-Phoenician woman
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, November 18, 2019
24 Jesus left there and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
Immediately after his pronouncement that what was unclean under the Law of Moses is now clean under the Gospel of Christ, Jesus heads into a pagan country, Lebanon, with its chief cities of Tyre and Sidon. Apart from his trip to Egypt as an infant (Matthew 2:14-15), this was the only time we know of when Jesus left the land of Israel (assuming he went all the way there; “to the region” might mean that he only went to the border). Tyre and Sidon are northwest of Galilee. Tyre is less than 20 miles from Capernaum, and it was the ancient capital city of Hiram, the king who built David’s palace (2 Samuel 5:11) and who supplied Solomon with lumber for the temple (1 Kings 5:1, 6-8). Just as the American northwest is famous for its enormous evergreen forests, so also was ancient Lebanon, the Palestinian northwest. The cedars of Lebanon are mentioned over and over again from the time of the Judges (Judges 9:15) to the end of the Old Testament (Zechariah 11:1). The people of Tyre and Sidon were Phoenicians (see Acts 21:1-2), distant relatives of the Hebrews who spoke a similar language. They were famous sailors, establishing colonies around the Mediterranean Sea as far away as Carthage in North Africa and outposts in Spain, including the Tarshish to which Jonah tried to flee (Jonah 1:3).
He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it, but he could not escape being noticed. 25 Instead, as soon as a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him, she came and fell down at his feet. 26 This woman was a Greek, from the people of Syro-Phoenicia. She asked him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
Was Jesus heading into the home of an old friend? A Jew living in or near pagan lands? We don’t know. What we know is that whoever owned the home welcomed him. He had twelve disciples with him, and he was a stranger, so even though he didn’t want to minister there in public, he couldn’t help but be noticed. News about him had gotten there, and a woman heard about him and found him while he was still there.
The woman was a local, a Syro-Phoenician Greek. Her daughter was young, not just her daughter but her “little daughter” (θυγάτριον), the same term Mark used for the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:23), whom we know was twelve years old (Mark 5:42). The girl was possessed by a demon.
Demons are the other angels, besides Satan, who fell into sin and rebellion sometime after the creation but prior to the temptation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:24-3:1). God did not provide a Savior for these fallen angels but damned them immediately. Perhaps this is because they saw God face to face while man cannot (Exodus 33:19-20), or perhaps, as Quenstedt supposes, it is because they fell without seduction, while man fell by seduction (Systema I, 829). What we know for certain is that the demons rage against God’s will, mankind, and the rest of God’s creation. Everything they attempt is aimed at ruining God’s plan and God’s creation, but especially man. This is attempted by (1) harming man’s body (Luke 13:11,16), (2) ruining or destroying man’s possessions (including animals, Job 1:12-17; Mark 5:12-13), and especially (3) harming man’s soul. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). This is chiefly accomplished by subverting God’s word and the gospel itself. From the very beginning Satan twisted the words God had spoken through doubt and misunderstanding (Genesis 3:1) and through lies (Genesis 3:4). He also tempts mankind to add or subtract from the Bible’s message (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18).
Every unbeliever is completely under the power of Satan. Unbelief itself is his work, as Paul tells us in Ephesians: “You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of his world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us lived among them at one time…” (Ephesians 2:1-3). But the state of unbelief, into which all of us are born according to our sinful nature, is not the same as physical, bodily possession by a demon.
Bodily possession is the habitation of a human body, along with its human soul, by a demon. This person, now unable to use his reason or will, becomes an instrument of Satan and is no longer responsible for his or her actions (the laws of the state would, by necessity, differ on this point, but that isn’t our concern with the doctrine). A Christian who was possessed must be comforted that he is not accountable for blasphemies and rage committed while possessed. Demon possession still occurs today. The experience of pastors in my acquaintance informs me that demon possession was more common a generation ago in other countries were mission work was going on (Africa and India, for example), but as America becomes more and more pagan, it is becoming more prevalent here in our time.
Here was a mother, concerned and terrified for her daughter’s body and soul. She turned to the only person who could help: Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. His arrival in her community must have seemed providential. Everything she had heard told her that Jesus could and would heal her little girl.
What parent wouldn’t do the same? What parent wouldn’t do anything they could to prevent such a thing? What is it that could protect our children from such a terrible thing? Share the word of God with them. Give your children and grandchildren the message of the Gospel. Don’t just share with them vague “Jesus loves you” talk, but bring them right to the cross, where their sins were covered by the blood of Christ. We are at peace with God through Jesus, who made peace “through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20). This is the comfort for us all and reminds the devil and his demons that he has been defeated, triumphed over by Jesus in his descent into hell (Colossians 2:15). The Lord speaks his judgment on the devil forever with words like these: “Shout against him on every side! He surrenders, his towers fall, his walls are torn down. Since this is the vengeance of the LORD, take vengeance on him; do to him as he has done to others” (see Jeremiah 50:15). Christian parent and friend, do everything you can to bring the gospel of Jesus to people you love, and don’t take no for an answer.
Pastor Timothy Smith