And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Our today’s Gospel reading, what do you think of it? It is not an easy one. Would you agree? What are the things that you find puzzling? What was Jesus doing in the region of Tyre and Sidon?
Why didn’t He want anyone to know that He was there? How did this woman, from that land of false gods, how did she know who Jesus was? What to make of how Jesus responded to her request?
Why did Jesus charge those people not to tell anyone about the miraculous healing that He had just performed? You see… many puzzles, many questions. How many confusing details in just few verses!
And the truth is, we can’t answer to most of these questions. No one can. Because there is no explanation given to us. How does this make you feel? What should we do when we can’t understand what the Bible tells us?
We can ask this question – what does this text do to us? What does this text and many other texts in the Bible, which are not easy to understand, what do they do to us? How do they impact us? How do they move us?
For one, and this is very important, even if it is not that pleasant, the Bible reminds us that the Triune God is God… and we are not. That we are His little creatures, loved beyond our comprehension, but still so limited and foolish.
Why do we feel discomfort when we can’t understand what is going on? If you can understand and explain something, you in a way feel that you are in control. That you have conquered that territory, that topic.
And even we as Christians are tempted to somehow put our God in a box. To tame Him. To make Him understandable. To make Him predictable. To make Him manageable. We would like to be in control over Him as well.
We can’t. There is no subduing this God. There is no taming Him. There is no putting Him in a box. He does what He does in a way He chooses, He doesn’t ask for our permission and often He doesn’t provide explanations.
For He is God, and we are not. This is one thing that we are reminded when we read about what Jesus did, and when we struggle to make sense of it. He is not accountable to us. He is not even comprehensible to us. He is the Eternal One and the Almighty One. He is in control and we are not.
The second thing that accounts like this do is to invite us, to drive us deeper into the Scriptures. If something is not clear, it invites more careful exploration. If we can’t understand what is going on, it makes us search the Scriptures even more diligently.
And as we do, good things happen – the Holy Spirit brings us closer and closer to Jesus. You see, we shouldn’t be worried about accounts like this, for they are good for us. They help us to remain humble as we listen to God speaking to us in the Bible, and they help us to grow as we struggle to understand His message.
Okay, then what are the things that this passage can help us to understand? I would say that we can learn something about Jesus and we can learn something about how to find Him. First about Jesus.
What can we learn about Him? That He goes to strange places and does things we can’t understand. Why would He be hiding? And that He says things that doesn’t make sense to us. The way He spoke to the woman…
How do you picture His conversation with the woman? What was His tone? What was His body language? What were His intentions? I think that as we read this account we all try to paint a picture of that event in our minds, don’t we?
But the reality is, we don’t have enough information. We can only fill the gaps according to our own ideas. And ours may not be the best judgment. Indeed, we don’t know why Jesus went there. Maybe He was exhausted.
We don’t know how Jesus spoke with this woman? Was He angry because He was recognized? Was He disappointed that He couldn’t get rest? Maybe it wasn’t the right time yet for the Son of God to be revealed to the Gentiles?
Maybe He wanted to test the faith of the woman, to see whether she came motivated by some superstition, or did she truly know who Jesus was? We just don’t know. But we know what happen after.
The surprising thing is that the woman indeed knew who Jesus was. She knew Him as gracious and merciful Saviour, who has come to bring the healing and restoration not only to the Israel, but to all nations, to all people.
Obviously, she had heard about Jesus. The Holy Spirit had enlightened her, and she trusted that Jesus is the One who brings the Kingdom of God and defeats the powers of evil. Her humility before Jesus, her trust in Him was rewarded.
“For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. We can’t understand everything that our God does, we can’t put Him in a box.
But we can be assured that in Jesus we have gracious and merciful God. In Jesus we have God, who understands our struggles and our pain. We have God who has come to share our flesh and our fate.
We have God, who hears our prayers, who is compassionate and caring. When the world, the flesh and the devil attacks us, we know that in Jesus we have God, whose heart belongs to us, and whose faithfulness to us won’t be shaken.
This is what we can know for sure. And that’s a lot. You have God, who understands you, hears you and walks with you exactly where you are. What more can someone wish for…
The second thing we can learn is about how one can find Jesus. A few weeks ago, we had this reading from John 6, where Jesus repeatedly stated that no one, NO ONE! can come to Him, unless the Father draws them.
And in today’s reading we can see that if the Father draws someone they will find Jesus. Jesus had travelled to the region where no one expected Him. He even wanted to hide. But the woman still found Him.
The Spirit had revealed her who Jesus was, the Father had drawn her, and she came to Jesus. Look at Barossa! How many churches do we have? I was told that there is a place where you can see 20 plus steeples of Barossa churches… How hard would it be to find Jesus?
Let’s look at one more thing which is quite contra-intuitive. As in many other occasions Jesus healed the deaf man almost unwillingly. He took him aside, away from the crowd, healed and charged not to tell anyone. Why?
Can you think of a better advertisement for Jesus’ cause? He can heal! Anyone! He can feed! All of us! He can give us what we want! Let’s make Him a king! Why didn’t Jesus use this to attract more people?
I guess you know the answers. It is just a bit difficult for us to accept. Jesus knew it too well, that these things will attract people. And they did and do even today. But attracted by healing or feeding people came to Jesus for wrong reasons.
Jesus’ goal wasn’t to gather as many people as possible, to give them what they wanted and thus to make them His followers, hoping that then maybe one day they will recognize who He truly is, and what He gives us.
Jesus charged not to tell anyone about His miracles, for He wanted to gather around Him people whom the Father has drawn to Him. People, who would come to Him knowing who He is, the Son of God, true God and true man.
Who would know why He has come. Not to feed or heal or entertain us, but to rescue us from sin, death and devil. Who would know what He has brought us. The medicine of eternal life. The forgiveness of all our sins.
The resurrection of the body and new life with Jesus in the Kingdom of God. It is easy to gather people. Give them what they want, and they will come. Give them what the Triune God wants for them, – and only a few will come.
As Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Do you see how this brings us great joy and comfort? You are here. It means that the Father Himself has drawn you. That He has given you His Spirit as a guarantee of the inheritance that you will receive in His Kingdom.
It means that you are His, and as Jesus said, no one is able to snatch you out of the Father’s hand. And as Paul said, no one and nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ. This is the source of our joy!
It also means that we don’t need to trick anyone to come to Jesus. That’s not our, that the Father’s job. We are simply to share the Good News and let the Holy Spirit do His job. We can’t make anyone a Christian by our efforts.
We can only walk with people, care for them and tell them what God has done for them in Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. And you can be assured, that God’s Word will accomplish what it is sent to do.
This much for today. Remember, every bit of the Bible is given to us to bring us God’s blessings, to draw us closer to Jesus so that we can have more joy, more peace and more assurance that our God will get us where He wants us to be.
That is, with Him. In His near presence. In the New Heavens and New Earth. Where Jesus has already prepared for you a place.