Did you know that some of the most important characters in the Bible are not given names? It’s true! Some of the people that Jesus admired most are not even named. Why do think that is? You would think that if these people were so important to Jesus that we would know their names. But nothing about Jesus is normal. Jesus delights in people who want to make Jesus look big, not themselves. He delights in people who care more about his fame than their name. In Mark 7, we learn about an unnamed Gentile woman whose gutsy faith led to contagious praise of the Jesus who came to rescue sinners.
After showing us that Jesus had gone into a Gentile region, Mark tells us about a Gentile woman who approached Jesus. She had probably heard about Jesus’ healing power and came to him because her daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit (Mark 7:25). Like any mother with a sick child, this mother is very upset. Her love for her daughter and her faith in Jesus led her to not just ask Jesus a question, but fall down on her face in front of him. She didn’t just ask Jesus to heal her daughter. The Bible tells us she “begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter” (Mark 7:26).
I want you to see how crazy this situation is and how bold her question is. A Gentile woman, who was unclean, came to a Jewish rabbi, and asked him to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon, which made her unclean. This Gentile woman was basically asking her enemy, a Jewish teacher, to come to one of the dirtiest places he could come. Culturally, she has everything going against her. She is a Gentile, a woman, and has an unclean daughter. In other words, she was off-limits to a Jewish rabbi like Jesus. And do you see what she was asking? She was asking Jesus to come right in the middle of her filth. She was asking Jesus to risk his reputation and go against all Jewish tradition to heal her daughter.
We are all very much like this woman. We are unclean. We are the kind of people who do not deserve to approach Jesus. But Jesus is the kind of savior that runs to our weakness. He isn’t afraid of our deficiencies. He doesn’t shirk back from our sin. Jesus is a divine rescuer who gets up close and personal with those he is rescuing. He is not a distant savior. Jesus shows us mercy by entering our mess. The eternal Lord of heaven and earth made himself subject to suffering and death to save his enemies. A Gentile woman with a sick child recognized this at a time when his own disciples were slow to understand and believe Jesus’ power and identity.
We would do well to learn from this Syrophoenician woman. Instead of hiding in our sin, or wallowing in our filth, we must come out in the light and fall on our faces before Jesus because he is the one who went into the darkness and dirtiness for us by dying in our place. We need gutsy faith because our sin problem is great. Approaching a holy God in your sin takes both guts and humility. It takes guts because God’s holiness plus your sin equals certain death for you. It takes humility because to approach a perfect God all of your flaws are laid bare. But the humility in recognizing that you are unworthy and undeserving before him is the path to eternal joy in an eternal kingdom.
Be bold in what you ask of Jesus. Trust in his power to do far more for you than you could ever hope or imagine.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.