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Got a Problem? Get a Plan.
I came across something this week that was enlightening to me, and it made sense. I thought I'd share it with you, especially as we make our way through the book of Mark. If you have been us, you know we're taking a look at the person of Jesus Christ; the one who Christmas is really all about, his birthday, his coming and what it means and what he was like when he was here. We've made our way now through a significant part of that book.
Today, we come to a real pivot point, where Jesus is going to start to do something that you could see coming, but it finally happened, and he has a conversation. It's one of the most awkward conversations that Christ has in the Scriptures, both because of what happens in the midst of it and because of his apparent manner…actually not his apparent but his very real manner…during it. It is probably the most un-Christlike conversation Christ had. We have to ask ourselves, "Why did he address this person, talk this way, and make his way through the conversation in that way?"
I came across something this week that dealt with the fact that you have to look at some things sometimes and think about them a little bit and get them right, which is what we're going to do in Mark in just a minute. Somebody pointed out to me that it makes more sense… You know, we've always thought about Santa Claus being a guy, but if you stop to think about it, that doesn't make a lot of sense. Santa, you know, must be a woman.
Here's the reason why. This person made some notes. First, "Christmas is a big, organized, warm, fuzzy, nurturing social deal," and this gentleman has a tough time believing a guy could possibly pull it all off. He writes, "For starters, the vast majority of men don't even think about selecting gifts until Christmas Eve. It's as if they are all frozen in some kind of Ebenezerian Time Warp until 3:00 p.m. on December 24th, when they—with amazing calm—call other errant men and plan for a last-minute shopping spree.
Once at the mall, they always seem surprised to find only Ronco products, socket wrenches, and mood rings left on the shelves. (You might think this would send them into a fit of panic and guilt, but, as a friend tells me, in fact, it's the opposite. It's an enormous relief because it lessens the eleventh-hour decision-making dilemma.) On this count alone," the guy writes, "I'm convinced Santa is a woman. Surely, if he were a man, everyone in the universe would wake up Christmas morning to a rotating musical Chia Pet under the tree, still in the bag.
Another problem for a he-Santa is how he gets there. First of all, if Santa were really a man, there would be no reindeer because they would all be dead, gutted, and strapped on to the rear bumper of the sleigh amid wide-eyed, desperate claims that buck season had been extended. Blitzen's rack would already be on the way to the taxidermist. Even if the male Santa did have reindeer, he'd still have transportation problems because he would inevitably get lost up there in the snow and clouds, and then he would refuse to stop and ask for directions.
Add to this the fact that there would be unavoidable delays in the chimney, where the Bob Vila-like Santa would stop to inspect and repoint bricks in the flue. He would also need to check for carbon monoxide fumes in every gas fireplace and get under every Christmas tree that is not at a perfect 90-degree angle and straighten it out."
This person writes, "Other reasons are because men can't pack bags, because men would rather be caught dead than caught wearing red velvet. Men don't answer their mail." He said, "I can buy the fact that other mythical holiday characters are men. For instance, Father Time. He shows up once a year unshaven and looking ominous. Very male. Cupid flies around, but at least, he carries weapons. Definite guy thing." On he goes. I'm having some fun with the sexes.
The story we're going to look at today involves the first of two stories. The first one involves a woman. Now I need to just say this to you. This is interesting. This is the only argument that Jesus ever lost in Scripture, and I don't think it's any coincidence he lost it to a woman. I heard a guy tell me one time, "Todd, there are two theories to arguing with women, and neither of them work." He said, "That argument you thought you won with your wife… It isn't over yet."
Jesus, in all sincerity, has a conversation here with a woman who is a non-Jew. This is a great time of year for us to come across this passage because Christmas is about the birth of a Jewish promise. What I want to do is just take moment, and I'm going take you back to Genesis, chapter 12, and I want to walk you through a bunch of Scripture this morning. The first part of it talks about how God promised to the people of Israel, to Jewish people…
We sang in one of the earlier songs, "Give Us Clean Hands," "Oh God of Jacob." Jacob's name, as you know, was changed to Israel, and he became the father of a number of sons, 12 of whom became leaders of tribes that make up the nation of Israel. God had promised Jacob's granddaddy, Abraham, he would bless him with three different things.
Probably, if you're going to be a student of your Bible, the one passage you have to understand, because the rest of the Scripture from this point on hangs on it, is a passage in Genesis 12. Now I want you to just hang with me for a moment because I realize some folks who are coming here have not been around the Bible before, or if they have, they haven't spent much time with it.
We welcome you here. We want to let you know that, today, we're going to give you a macro view of what God is up to, and then we're going to focus specifically on how it relates to this passage in Mark 7 that we've come to and specifically how it relates to us this time of year and how it relates to you today.
Let me just start by kind of setting the table a little bit. In Genesis, chapter 12, verses 1-3, this is what is called the Abrahamic covenant because it's a covenant, an agreement that God cut, a contract, if you will, he entered into with a man whose name was Abraham. Now some of you have heard about God's chosen people, and that may even be even a little bit offensive to you.
Why would God choose one man and make a nation out of that man and show favor to that one nation over all the other nations of the world? It doesn't seem right to you or to me. If God is as loving as he says he is, then shouldn't he love everybody equally? If so, why did he choose this guy, Abraham, and why did he say he would make his people, Abraham's descendants, God's people and treat them differently than others? Well, let me explain it to you.
In Genesis 12, verses 1-3: "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you…'" Let me just start by telling you this. Abram, which is what he was called at this time, lived in what we know today as Iraq, basically over there in Iraq/Iran, that part of the Middle East.
He was a worshiper of the gods of his region like everybody else, but God saw in him the opportunity to use him by grace. Abraham was not more devout than anybody else. Abraham was just a gentleman who God wanted to do a special work in and through, and the reason God chose Abraham is because, in his kind intention of his will, he purposed to choose Abraham. The Scriptures don't give us much more than that.
It just tells us that God chose to take this guy, and what he's going to do is develop a relationship with this guy in such a way that Abraham's life would be so blessed and so different that others would say, "Abraham, what's the secret to the joy you experience, the blessing which you know?" Abraham was not to say, "Well, you need to go to school where I go to school. You need to be gifted like I'm gifted, strong like I'm strong."
Abraham was always to say one thing. "Let me introduce you to the one God, the real God, the true God who is God of us all, and through my relationship with him and the way I've been blessed, he is going to use me and my people as an instrument through which you might know him." God in his wisdom, God in his purposes chose to develop a relationship with one and so blessed that one that others would be drawn into a relationship with him. Now watch.
He said, "The first thing I'm going to do is have you leave where you are, and I'm going to take you someplace else." You don't do that unless you're an individual who has faith in the one who calls you, and Abraham, whatever you can say about him, chose to have faith by grace in this God who called him, and he was promised a land.
He said, "Not only will I promise you land." Verse 2: "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great…" This is not say Abraham would have a lot of songs written about him about how many sons he had. "Many sons had Father Abraham."
It's to say, "I'm going to have a lot of sons come from you. You won't be great just because of what you'll do personally but because, if you will, your descendants, your family tree, will populate this earth in a way you could never imagine right now. There will be a seed that will come forth from you, and part of this seed, this family tree, this line of descendants will be a blessing."
Verse 3 says, "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you…" From the very beginning of God choosing father Abraham, who becomes the father of Isaac, who becomes the father of Jacob, who becomes the father of the nation of Israel, the very beginning of God choosing them was so he might bless…who? Look at verse three. "…all the families of the earth will be blessed." This is just the way, in his sovereignty, he chose to do it. Look at Deuteronomy 7. If you have your Bibles, flip there.
He writes, "When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you …" **He mentions seven different nations, one of which is the Canaanites. He says,"…[these are]seven nations greater and stronger than you…" Deuteronomy 7, now starting with verse 2:"…and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.**
Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons." Why? "For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you."
I want to quickly comment right here. One of the biggest problems some folks have when they read their Bible is, "How could God, if he's so loving, judge a people so thoroughly as he did these seven nations that were in that land?" If you read your Bible, you will find out that God said, "I want you to kill every man, every woman, every child. I want you to kill the livestock. Wipe it out." Such utter judgment strikes us as unfair.
You need to know this about God. This was a precursor of the justice and judgment of God which one day will fall again on this earth, not just on seven nations that were godless and rebellious to him but on the entire earth. When God in his holiness decides to drop justice and to reveal his wrath on those who suppress the truth and unrighteousness and reveals his holiness and says, "It is judgment day," judgment is always thorough, judgment is always perfect, and judgment is always complete.
What you need to know is this was a group of folks who were rebellious and godless. The word we would use in our modern-day vernacular is the word sinful, that they are separated from God, apart from God and that they do not honor him as God, and they suppress the truth and unrighteousness. For this people at this time, if you will, this was their Armageddon. God was going to use his people, the Jews, to deliver that judgment. Now the Jews did not do that perfectly.
They went in there, and they compromised, and as a result of their compromise, exactly what God feared would happen happened. There had been overtures made to these people. God had revealed himself in different ways to them. There were opportunities for individuals in this land they went into to destroy to turn to this God who Abraham knew, but they did not do it. Again, they suppressed the light they had, so they received judgment as a consequence.
That's kind of a tough thing for us, but it's true. If folks do not receive the love and offer of Jesus Christ, then there will be a day when they will be held into account for it. This was the day of judgment and account for these people, complete and perfect judgment. God doesn't answer all our questions. "Well, how could he judge the sons and daughters of these godless people?"
I can assure you, when you look at the character of our God, whatever you say about our God in the Scriptures, you cannot accuse him of being unjust. Whatever happens in that moment, there will be a day when we know as we are known and see as he sees, and it'll make sense to us. Again, the idea of judgment is always difficult, but the Scriptures make it clear that God's justice is perfect, without error, and in no way, is it unjust as we would describe it.
Look what it says. Verse 5: "But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars…" Verse 6: "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you…" There it is, just grace, pure and unadulterated grace. "…and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant…"
What was his promise? "Abraham, one would come from you who would bless the nations." It is a promise to the Jewish people that one would come from them who would not just deliver them and bless them but would bless the nations. Follow with me. Fast-forward to Luke, chapter 2, verses 25-32.
It says, "And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout…" This was a Jewish man who walked with the God of Jacob. "…looking for the consolation [the comforter] of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him." Luke 2, verse 26: "And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed [spoke well of] God, and said, 'Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word…'" In other words ("What you promised me, that I would see the consolation, the comfort of Israel"), the Jewish promised one had come.
"…for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples…" Then he quotes from Isaiah. "…a Light of revelation to the Gentiles…" This is interesting. Who are the Gentiles? They are anybody who is not a Jew, anybody who is not of the bloodline of Abraham.
This consolation of Israel is going to be a blessing to people who aren't of Israel, but he'll be a light, a source of direction and hope and provision, to the Gentiles. Remember what it said back there in Genesis, chapter 12:3? "…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Look what Jesus himself said when he grew up, in John, chapter 10.
He said, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own…" Just like he knew Abraham and he called Abraham by grace, he says, "…My own know Me [by grace] …" Verse 15: "…even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold…" In other words, I have some non-Jewish sheep. "…I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."
Look at Romans 15. I want you to see an idea here, that this consolation of Israel, the promised Messiah, the promised Anointed One, the promised Deliverer, the promised Comforter to Abraham and his people is a promise that was going to directly benefit you and me.
Romans 15:8: "For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers…" That a Savior, Deliverer, an advocate would come. He had made a covenant with Jacob, a covenant with Abraham. Look at why. " …for the Gentiles…" The non-Jews, who are largely folks in this room. There are some folks of Jewish descent who are in here today, but the large majority of us are non-Jews, and the part of the promise of the Messiah was for Gentiles. "…to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written…"
Then he quotes from three major sections of the Old Testament; the Law with Moses, the worship psalms with David, and the Prophets with Isaiah. Moses, David, Isaiah; the Law, the Prophets, the kings pointed to the fact that this Messiah would not just come to bless the Jews, that Christmas was not just something for the nation of Israel to be excited about, but it was a light to the world.
Verse 10: "Again he says, 'Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.'" Verse 11: "And again, 'Praise the Lord all you Gentiles [non-Jews] , and let all the peoples praise Him.'" Do you realize that what we did earlier today was the fulfillment of what God said would happen in Psalm 117 and Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 11?
Verse 12, "Again Isaiah says, 'There shall come the root of Jesse, and He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles hope.'" Then Paul prays, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
That's a great prayer as we get ready to go today. I pray that may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. This very Jewish Messiah, who came to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel, is good news to you this Christmas. Understand this. There's a guy promised to another team, if you will, but God chose to use that family, that team, to bless us. I want to show you one more passage.
In Ephesians 2:11-19, he writes, "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called 'Uncircumcision' by the so-called 'Circumcision,' which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you [Gentiles] were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."
In other words, if you don't understand your Bible, when you hear about Jesus, this Jewish man, fully God, fully man being born… What difference does that make to you? Why doesn't Isaac Watts write, "Joy to the Jews, the Lord is come"? Because Isaac Watts knew his Bible, and he knew that the purpose of Christmas was not just to bless the Jews, but he was going to first come to the Jews, as he first went to Abraham and he revealed himself to Abraham. As Abraham walked with God by faith, he blessed him, and he gave him the land he promised him.
As those people walked with him in that land and it flowed with milk and honey and they were defended against seven nations more great in number and power than they were, and as God defended their borders and extended their borders throughout all the earth, the rest of the nations were to come to them and say, "Hey, how come it always rains when you plant your seed and it's always nice weather during the time of harvest? How come your vats overflow with wine and your barns overflow with grain? Why is that?"
They were to say, "I'm so glad you asked. You know, we thought you would be a little bit taken aback by the way we've been blessed as a people, but you need to know this. We're not great. We're just humble people who that, by the grace of the God who loves you, has shown himself to us, and he's told us how we can relate ourselves to him, and we want you to meet him because, though he is our God, he wants to be your God."
That was God's plan, plain and simple. There was to be a nation that was a kingdom of priests that was a light to the world, and those people who walked in fellowship and relationship with him would have hope and joy that made the world cock its head and say, "You're different," and they were to tell the reason they were different was because they knew a King and that, ultimately, their greatest hope would be there was one who would come and deliver them from their enemies.
The greatest enemy any man faces is death, and he would deliver them from death. This Messiah would come, and he would be wonderful. He would be Counselor. He would be Mighty God in the flesh. He would be Prince of Peace, Eternal Father, and when he came, he would be a blessing to the nations, as the Jews recognized him, honored him, walked with him, and realized the fulfillment of all the promises God intended for them as they exalted their King, the Christ child.
He delivered them not just from the bondage of Rome and Herod but from the bondage of the Evil One who turns their hearts from God and brings ultimate judgment on them, as it fell on the Canaanites." Are you following me? Paul is saying, "You Gentiles were without hope and without God in the world."
Verse 13: "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall [of hostility] , by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man…" The Jew and the Gentile are now going to be a new entity brought together. It says he's destroyed the dividing wall. He would make peace between us.
Verse 16: "…and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." The hostility of the chosen Jew with the Gentile dog, which was a reference to them, almost a slanderous term, this ravenous, destructive… Don't think of Lassie. Think of Cujo when you think of the dog. He's saying, "You bunch of Cujos aren't getting along with the people of Israel.
"And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both [Jew and Gentile] have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then [because of Christmas] you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household…"
Let me remind you of something. Jesus said, "Let me tell you how you're rightly related to me. Let me tell you who my family is. It's not folks who are related to me by blood, not folks who can trace their family tree back to Abraham, but people are my people when they love God, obey him, and acknowledge who I am. That's my people, those who love me."
The irony of ironies, John writes, is that he came unto his own, and his own received him not. They could not comprehend the darkness because he did not look like a deliverer, like Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor ought to look. Just for a second, can't you relate to that?
If I told you there was just a stud coming who was going to set us free and then you heard about some teenage kid who might have come from an illegitimate pregnancy, who wasn't born at The Ritz, wasn't even born in a good Labor and Delivery room down at Baylor, who was lucky to grab a dumpster, lucky to grab some hay trough, and "This kid, some son of some Jewish carpenter up in Nazareth of all places, not Jerusalem, not the capital, is of no royal descent that we can see.
Oh yeah! You can trace Joseph's line back to David, but there's some argument about whether or not he's even related to Joseph. He's your King." Then Jesus came, and he was more concerned about releasing them, not from the physical bondage they were so focused on, but the bondage of their hearts which isolated them from the living God. This Jesus came, and he did things among them that authenticated the claims he made, yet they kept rejecting him.
Now you get to Mark, chapter 7, and Jesus looked at the leaders of that nation, and he said, "You guys are so concerned about your rules and your washing of your hands, and you think you're clean and honorable to God because you do these rituals and these acts, and that's not what makes God honor you. What makes God honor you is when your heart is clean and your heart is right and you're broken before him, and you acknowledge that he is holy and you are not and that you need a Savior and the Savior is here.
I'm doing the things a Savior ought to do, and you ought to receive me, and when you receive me, you will get gifts and deliverance beyond anything you've ever imagined, not just temporal ones, but to be restored to me, the living God." The nation consistently rejected him. Yes, individuals trusted him, but as a nation, the Jewish people said, "No."
Mark, chapter 7, verse 24, says he left this area where he had been, and he went about 60 miles north. This is the only time in the life of Christ that he left what we know as Palestine. He leaves Israel, if you will, and goes up to Lebanon. Now who lives in Lebanon today? A bunch of non-Jewish people and, even so, then. He goes, if you will, into Gentile territory. It's the only time in his life.
When he's up there, it says he went to get away, and he entered a house, probably to teach his disciples some more about who he was. It was his purpose to… Again, even as he called Abraham before, now he called these 12. He was going to use these 12 to preach repentance and the kingdom of God and to bring people into a relationship with him.
Like he wanted to use Abraham's descendants, now he has 12 of those guys, and he's going to say, "Let's get it right. I'm here in the flesh, as your Wonderful Counselor, to teach you what is wisdom and that is to know God through me, your Messiah, your Deliverer, the Anointed One (that's all Messiah means)." He wanted to get away, but he couldn't get away.
Verse 25 says, "But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet." Now you have to understand, this is a woman who is a Gentile, who is an enemy of the Jew. Verse 26 says that. "Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race." She was a Canaanite who should have been wiped out centuries before. She wasn't wiped out, and her daddy wasn't. Her descendants weren't, and she was there.
Now she comes, and she falls at the feet of this promised one of Abraham. It says she kept asking him to get rid of this unclean spirit from her daughter, and he was saying to her… Now watch this comment by Jesus. Let me remind you why he's there. He was there to get away from some of the haranguing that was going on in Israel and to teach his disciples about who he was, where hope was going to come from, what was going to happen in light of his rejection, and to remind them that this isn't just about the Jews ultimately.
At some point, they needed to realize, "Jews, you need to know who I am so you can walk with me, follow me, know me, be blessed by me so the world would cock its head and go, 'You're different. Where's the hope this comes from that you get?' Then the world would be blessed," but the Jews rejected him, so now what? He's teaching his disciples, and I think he runs into a woman of extraordinary faith, and this is what he says. Here's a woman, pleading at the feet of Christ, falling down, "Help my daughter."
He says, "Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." You need to know this. When Matthew tells this story, he says Jesus even ignored the woman for a while, ignored her so much that the disciples finally said, "Man, would you do something with her? Would you give her what she wants so she goes away?" Jesus just ignored, didn't even acknowledge her pleading. Does that sound like a compassionate Messiah to you? I want to tell you something. I think he's up to something here.
It's just interesting to me as I went and read what other men have done with this passage over the years. It's just been hilarious what the churches try to do to escape some of what appears to be a standoffish Jesus here. It goes from everything to saying, "Well, he said it such a gentle tone that, even though his words were offensive, she wasn't offended by it." I don't buy that.
They say, "Well, he did it with kind of a tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, that he went over and went, 'Oh, you little dog' and pinched her in the cheek, cute little puppy." In fact, the phrase he uses there isn't the word for ravenous dog. It is the word for little puppy, and they make a big deal about that.
Others go so far as to say this story never happened, that it was made up later and stuck in, just because it doesn't look like Jesus, ignoring a woman in need and then calling her a dog. I don't care if you called her a cute puppy or not. I can remember from elementary school. That wasn't a good way to win women.
I think Jesus is about instructing this woman and about especially instructing his disciples and, therefore, instructing us. He says, "Look, let the kids be satisfied first. Once the kids have had enough to eat, then we'll worry about the dogs. You don't take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." Verse 28:
"But she answered and said to Him, 'Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs.' And He said to her, 'Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.' And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left."
What's going on here? That's a funny story. He seems to push the woman away, but the woman comes back, and she says to him, "Hey, wait a minute. I'll take your metaphor, and I'm not going to argue with you about who I am. You know who I am? I'm a dog, and I deserve judgment. I'm a ravenous beast. I am without God and without hope in this world, but I know who you are.
I've heard stories of what you've done, and there's no way a man can do those things. You are different than any other man who's ever lived, whether you're an Arab, whether you're a Gentile, or whether you're a Jew. Men don't walk on water. Men don't feed 5,000. Men don't raise people from the dead, and I know who you are. You're the one."
She didn't have a full understanding, I think, of Jewish promises, but she knew enough that, when she heard of a man who could do the things this man could do, he was no mere man. This was Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God. This woman came, and she was before Mighty God, and Mighty God said, "You're a dog," and she said, "You're doggone right. In light of who you are, I'm a dog. I am without God and without hope in this world.
I don't argue with you about that, but let me just tell you this, 'Even the dogs get the leftovers when the kids don't want them, and word is, not only are you doing amazing things, but word is, all the bread of life you're offering your people of Israel, they're not eating. Will you throw a scrap to me?" Then here comes a scrap.
Let me just make a comment here and make an observation here. Christmas was the moment God introduced his gift to the world through his people, the Jews. That's what Christmas is about. It is when God introduces his gift to the world through his people, the Jews, but a gift must be received before it can bring its intended joy. This is the truth. Christmas is the time that a gift is given from God to his people, the Jews, to bless the world, but you have to receive a gift before the joy that it's intended to bring can come to you.
Romans, chapter 6, verse 23, says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." This woman didn't know that verse. It hadn't been written yet, but she knew she was a dog. She knew she was a sinner and she was not a child, and she knew there was a repercussion to her own live and to those around her because of her being without God and without hope in the world.
She also knew there was one who was on the scene who gave hope to people who were without hope, so she went to him, and she prostrated herself before him as a beggar does, and she says, "I ask of you that which I could never earn and that which I do not deserve. I argue with you not, sir, that I am a dog, that I am a sinner in need of grace, but I ask you for what I cannot earn and to receive this free gift."
Romans 5 says, "God demonstrates his love to all of us, in that while we are yet dogs, while we are yet sinners, not children but dogs, Christ died for us." Do you see the love that's there? Then also in Romans, you have the way you receive that gift, not by what you do, not by your efforts but by faith, as this woman had, and what persistent faith she had.
Romans 5:1: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…" This woman had a persistent faith. She came to this Jewish King, and she said, "I know who you are, not from a biblical knowledge but from what I've seen your works do that authenticate your words, and I have faith you can give me what no other man can give because you're no ordinary man." Do you see the faith of this woman? This Gentile, non-Jew, had faith in this one who is offered to you again this Christmas.
Do you see why Christmas is not just a time for the Jews to be fired up? In fact, the irony is, the Jews, the ones who God gave the gift of Christmas to, as a whole, as a people, to this day, continue to miss who he is. You need to know that gifts and callings of God are irrevocable, and I absolutely affirm the promise of God in the Scriptures that, one day, what he said he would give to his nation, he will give. In other words, there will be a day when I think there will be a national revival among Israel, and they will sing.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
They're going to say, "It was through Immanuel, God with Us, this Jesus born of a virgin some 2,000 years ago." I believe there will be a day when that nation will get it, and when they do, I think they will be blessed, just like he said they'd be blessed. I think the world will know that Jewish King is the world's King, and he's the means through which all of us will be blessed.
The way you receive that gift is through faith. I was talking to my friend, Kyle, this week about this, and we were observing this text, because this is a passage, again, where I go, "Man, what do you do with Jesus being so, in effect, rude?" He said, "Well, one of the things I see right here is how we respond to God matters."
It just struck a chord with me. I go, "That's so true. How we respond to God does matter," and responding in humility and accompanying that humility with persistent faith is always pleasing to him." What I want to just take a moment to do with you is to say, "Today is your day, Syrophoenician, Southeast Dallasonian. Today is your day to decide if you're going to respond with humility and persistent faith.
Listen to what one man wrote. "It is only when humility warrants it that great graces can be obtained. And so when you perceive that you are being humiliated, look on it as the sign of a sure guarantee that grace is on the way. Just as the heart is puffed up with pride before its destruction, so it is humiliated before being honored. It is the possession of a joyful and genuine humility that alone enables us to receive grace."
Can I tell you the very first words of this Jewish Messiah when he was on the scene? "Blessed are the poor in spirit," which is to say, "Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the humble. Blessed are those who are not offended when they hear this, 'You are a sinner, without hope and without God in the world.'"
You know one of the things I love about Jesus is that he was the most gracious man who ever walked, but he also loved people enough to tell them the truth. Just listen to some of the words he used for folks: hypocrite, evil generation, brood of vipers, whitewashed tombs, foxes. I want to tell you, those are very sharp words.
Sometimes, you speak sharply to somebody to say, "I have to get inside. I have to let you know exactly who you are because your greatest problem right now is you don't acknowledge you have a problem and you think you're okay because you have clean hands. I want to tell you something. Your problem isn't with your hands. Your problem is with your heart."
I can remember when Jesus struck me with that. I mean, I grew up in a basically moral family, in a very moral midwestern town, and we were basically moral people. I can remember the first time I heard about sinners. I'd do what most of us do, and I'd look other places. I'd go, "Yeah, they're all over the place." I knew kids who were sinning in ways I wasn't at school, and I knew they needed some help.
I can remember the first time that somebody who loved this Jesus loved me enough to say what that Jesus would've said to me. They said, "Todd, when you the word sinners, don't think about them. You need to think about you. You're a dog. You're a hypocrite. You're a part of an evil generation."
By the grace of God, I didn't try and cover up the fact that I wasn't something I wanted to be. I just said, "You know what? You're right. I look better than most folks, but in my heart, there's still sin. In my heart, there's a rebellion against God. In my heart, I am on the throne of my life, and that offends him."
Look what this woman did. She accepted her place. "Fine, you want to call me a dog? I'll agree with you." Then she listened to his Word, and she believed his Word. "Hey, you know what? You're right. You give the kids their food first, but even the dogs get the leftovers." Do you know what we are? Do you know what Watermark Community Church, by and large, is? This is not Baruch Hashem here today, a great messianic congregation in this town.
This is a bunch of Gentile folks who are celebrating a Jewish birthday who gives us some crumbs that are the Bread of Life, but see, if you don't know he's the King, and it's his table you need to get the crumbs from, if you're too proud to go there and say, 'I'm a dog, and I need you to take care of me, Master. I'm going to starve in the streets. I'm a sinner, and I need grace from you, as no one else can give it."
Then Christmas is not a time of hope and joy for you. Christmas seals your fate as one who's going to receive judgment. Hey, God and sinners are reconciled, but they're reconciled when you receive the gift. The gift of Christmas is this Jewish child who dies for you. She accepted her place. She believed his Word, and she persisted in her faith.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…" Can I love you enough to tell you something today? If you've never acknowledged it, you are a dog. Some of you will never be back, but I want to tell you something. I love you enough to tell you that, just like I am a dog that, by some miracle of grace, has eaten the crumbs that the Master put out, I have been transformed into a son. I have been put at the table, and I have been made coheirs with the Master's Son.
Now you might go, "Todd, that is a pipe dream," and I would tell you, "That is faith, and it is faith with the evidence of who this Son is and what he's said and what he's done that I do nothing but cling to it." Can I tell you why Christmas is a happy time in the Wagner household? The same reason it can be a happy time in yours. It's not because were Jews, because we're descendants of Abraham, or because we have the promises of God to his people. No, it's because we have received the blessing of a Jewish Messiah who has offered it to us.
What Jesus is doing with this woman is he's being very sharp to her. He's saying, "You guys know who she is? She's a dog. Right? Well, let me just show you something about who God is. God loves dogs, and God loves dogs with persistent faith. God loves dogs that humble themselves and bow at my feet, and men, you need to know something, it's not just Jews you're going to serve, but it's also the dogs."
It's interesting that the next thing he does is he goes to another town, and there's a deaf man there who cannot speak. I look at my friend, Mark Dozier, right here. Mark has lost his hearing late in his life, and Mark doesn't speak as clearly as you and I do. Whenever you have a hearing problem, it always leads to a speech problem. Do you know why there's so much filth and vile and angst and anger and dissension in your house?
For some of you, it's because you can't hear right, so your speech is distorted. You can't hear the love of God and the transforming work he can do in your heart, so it's not just words that are stretched out longer and not pronounced tightly. It's a language that is not of God. In this next story, in Mark, chapter 7, he goes to a Gentile man who does what the Jews could not do. The Jews had ears, but they could not hear.
Now you have a man who could not hear but has faith, and God lets him hear. Here's the question. Will you hear? Will you let him touch your ears and receive the truth of who this Jesus child is? Don't throw away that Christmas card, when it comes, too quickly and says, "Joy to the world." Don't throw it away too quickly when it says, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will rest on his shoulders." Do you hear that? The government.
There will be a day when there will be a new world order and a one-world government, and a divine dictator whose name is Jesus will rule, and the question you have to ask yourself is, "Will I be a part of that citizenship or will I be a part of the Canaan that, this time, will not have any escape?" The joy of Christmas is before you, and you can embrace this Jewish Messiah.
This next story he goes to is he takes a deaf Gentile, and he lets him hear. Today, there are some deaf Gentiles who maybe could hear for the first time, "He loves you, sinner." What a great privilege to be a dog who has found food at the Master's table. What do you think we ought to do? Can I tell you what my life is all about?
My life is all about being a beggar who has received provision from a gracious King and not just sitting there and feeding myself but being strengthened by his food to go to the highways and the byways into the hills and backstreets and telling other dogs where there is life and telling other sinners where there is hope and telling other Gentiles where there is a Savior who has come to us who can restore us to him. That's my life's goal.
That's my life's passion, and it ought to be the passion of us, if we are his people. He teaches his disciples then that the Bread of Life is not just to the Jews. The next miracle he does in Mark 8 is the feeding of the 4,000 in a Gentile region, just like Jesus taught his disciples, "What you need for the Jewish world, you get from me. What you need for the Gentile world you get from me. There are always baskets of food leftover. Come." Come and celebrate Christmas of this Jewish child. Let's pray.
Father, I pray for us this morning that we would be ready to acknowledge who you are and who we are and what our need is and that, in acknowledging, by looking with our minds, by critically evaluating the data, by looking at the historical record which is the Scriptures, by asking all the tough questions we can about your plan, your program, this person Jesus, I pray we would look at the record of his life as we read through Mark, as we hear about others who testify to the works he has done, that we would look at it and go, "This is no mere man. This is no mere child.
This is the one, the Anointed One who is the visible image of the invisible God that, by some miracle upon miracles, the baby is God, the baby is a King, the King is a Servant, and the Servant died that dogs might be free." I pray we would know you for who you are in all your holiness and justice and righteousness and all your grace and love and tenderness.
I pray we would know who we are, without hope and without God in the world, people who are the reason you gave your life. We thank you for the promise you made through Abraham, that one day all the nations of the world will be blessed, and we thank you for this Jesus, who, though he knew no sin, became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Amen.
We prayed before you came today that you would meet God, you would see a bit of his heart, you would see his love for you, you would know you are the reason Christmas happened, you individually. You're the reason that Easter happened. You're the answer to the question. When that child grew up and hung on a cross, he said, "My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?" Submit your name because he loves you and because he wants you to come.
What do you do to come? You acknowledge your place. You are a sinner in need of grace. I'm going to tell you, you are a sinner in need of grace. You believe his Word. "Come all you who are weary and heavy-laden." The free gift of Jesus Christ is eternal life. You persist in faith, and you don't rest until you have peace from God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Come today. Talk to us.
I'm going to close with this. In that passage in Mark where he healed that deaf man and the man could speak. He said, "Now listen. You just be quiet. I don't want you to go, and I don't want you to tell everybody." Look what it says.
"And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it." Why do I go back to this? As a result of their disobedience, the plans of God were thwarted.
God wanted to be amongst the Gentiles now, not just to do some tricks and not just to be a miracle worker but to give the miracle of life and to teach them, "Guess what? I'm the Promised One of Abraham who now comes to you and offers to you what I offered to them. Come and let the two become one and let the hostility between Jew and Gentile be reconciled and restored in me and let me be your King," but they didn't silence themselves.
All they did was run around and say, "This guy can do amazing things," and there were crowds that now swarmed him there as they swarmed him in Israel, so some of the preaching of the gospel that was intended there was cut short, until the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, was sent back, and the word went out all unto the earth, but when you are disobedient, the purposes of God are thwarted. I'm going to make a case today that our being silent when God tells us to speak is more damaging to his purposes than their speaking when he told them to be silent.
If you know this Jesus and if you've acknowledged your place and believed his Word and been persistent in faith, you are commanded, as I am, to go tell it on the mountain and to not sit on it and get fat under that table but to be a well-fed son who goes to the highways and byways, and you tell people that Christ is born and he loves them and, though they are a sinner like you are, you have found the King who will let you in to his table.
Disobedience always thwarts his purposes. Let us not be a disobedient people. God wants you and me, faithful followers of Christ, and those of you who will trust him today, faithful followers of Christ, to go tell it on the mountain. Be encouraged. Let's sing the song, remind ourselves of the truth, and then go be obedient.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 6:6 through Mark 8:38.