The New Life Mission

Sermons

Subject 21 : The Gospel According to MARK

[Chapter 7-4] (Mark 7:18-37) Admit Your Fundamentally Sinful Nature and Ask God For His Grace of Salvation

(Mark 7:18-37)
“So He said to them, ‘Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?’ And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.’ From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, ‘Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’ And she answered and said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.’ Then He said to her, ‘For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.’ And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed. Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’”
 
 
As we just read in today’s Scripture reading, a certain Gentile woman had a daughter possessed by an unclean spirit. So this Gentile woman came looking for Jesus and asked Him to drive out the demon which possessed her daughter. But what Jesus said to her was utterly shocking. He spoke so harshly to her that when we look at it based on our own standard, we may even wonder how Jesus could ever say such things, but if we think about it again more carefully, we can see that what Jesus said was actually more than appropriate. Although it seems impossible to understand what Jesus said to the woman when we think about it from the human point of view, there is an important lesson that Jesus is trying to teach us here in today’s Scripture reading.
Let’s turn to Mark 7:27 again: “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Now then, what did Jesus say to the woman here? He said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” This is what Jesus said to the Syro-Phoenician woman. This woman had come to Jesus asking for His help for the sake of her daughter, begging Him earnestly, “Lord, my daughter is demon-possessed. Please cast out this demon. Please deliver my daughter from the evil spirit.” But Jesus said to the woman, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” These are very harsh words, as they imply that the woman was no better than a dog. We may then wonder here how Jesus could say such a thing to this woman.
But there was a reason why Jesus spoke to the woman like this. The people of Israel used to refer to all Gentiles as dogs. Whenever they came across any Gentiles, they used to think that they were all no better than dogs. Even now, many Jews still think very lowly of any other ethnic groups. Such a prejudiced notion is ingrained deep in the minds of the people of Israel, thinking that they are better than any other nation as God’s chosen people.
But this is not what Jesus had in mind when He said to the woman, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Rather, He had a gift that He wanted to give her.
 
  
Why Jesus Spoke So Harshly to the Syro-Phoenician Woman
 
The reason why Jesus spoke so harshly to the Syro-Phoenician woman as though she were no better than a dog was because He wanted to see the disposition of her heart. In other words, Jesus insulted this woman deliberately so that she would find the grace of God. This woman realized that even if she were treated like a dog, it was fitting so long as she could put on God’s grace. Here, our Lord is teaching us that we can receive God’s grace only if our hearts are disposed humbly like this woman.
The Lord is saying to us that if we really want to receive God’s help and the salvation He is offering to us, then we must have such a humble heart. Put differently, only if we lower our hearts like this woman here can we put on the God-given grace of salvation. This is the lesson that the Lord is trying to teach us through today’s Scripture passage, and all of us must grasp it.
What would have happened to the Syro-Phoenician woman if she had come to Jesus with an arrogant heart? What would have happened if she had said to Jesus with such a haughty attitude, “Jesus, my daughter is demon-possessed, and so I would appreciate it if you could just deliver her.” If the woman had approached Jesus arrogantly without realizing her true self, and if there had been no sincerity in her heart when she asked for God’s help, then the woman would not have found the grace of salvation.
If there are anyone among you sitting here who still has not received the remission of sins, then all such people must have a humble disposition as this woman in today’s Scripture passage. They can then all be blessed to receive the remission of sins, so long as their hearts yearn for the grace of God earnestly that they are willing to say to the Lord, “I don’t care how you treat me. Please save me.” Unless you ask for the grace of God with all your heart, you cannot receive the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the true gospel of salvation. As far as your salvation is concerned, whatever God says to you is right, even if He calls you a dog or far worse things. So what you need is a humble heart to ask God to bestow His wonderful grace upon you. In other words, you must yearn from the depth of your heart to be saved from all your sins.
This Syro-Phoenician woman in today’s Scripture passage had such a humble heart that our Lord could not help but answer her request. Our Lord was delighted to see the disposition of her heart. Her attitude was fitting in His sight, for she was asking Him for His grace with all sincerity, accepting His every Word even when He implied that she was no better than a dog.
Let’s think in slightly simple terms what the Syro-Phoenician woman said to Jesus. Her response to Jesus was the following: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). Put differently, she was saying in her answer, “Lord, You are right. I am indeed a dog spiritually. But don’t even the dogs eat from their master’s crumbs falling under the table?” This Syro-Phoenician woman was approved for her earnest heart, coming to the presence of Jesus and asking Him for His grace with all her heart. Then came Jesus’ Word of grace: “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter” (Mark 7:29). Hearing this, the woman returned home, and when she arrived, “She found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed” (Mark 7:30). The demon had been cast out just as she had wished.
My fellow believers, the Word of God written in today’s Scripture passage teaches us about the proper disposition of a heart that one must have to truly find grace from God. Every heart that yearns to receive God’s grace must be just like this woman’s heart. Today’s Scripture passage, in other words, teaches us that we must admit our true selves to God.
Spiritually speaking, calling a sinner a dog is actually a toned-down expression. When people come to Jesus, they all bring their sins with them. And because everyone is a sinner in Jesus’ sight, He says to all, “You are a dog.” That’s why Jesus said to the woman in today’s Scripture passage, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Mark 7:27). What did this woman say in her answer then? She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). When Jesus was saying to the woman, “Why do you ask me for my grace when you are a sinner?” she was ready in her heart to say, “Lord, I am indeed a sinner, and unless you bestow your grace on me, I will go to hell.” This is how the woman found grace from God. Today’s Scripture passage here contains an extremely important lesson, making it clear that as sinners, unless human beings are humbly disposed as this woman was, they can neither find the grace of God nor reach their salvation.
Our Lord’s desire for all of us is revealed here in today’s Scripture passage, promising that God will bestow His grace on whoever admits himself as a sinner to the Lord and asks for His grace. However, if one is instead so arrogant and self-conceited that he neither admits himself to our Lord nor asks for His grace, then this person will not put on His grace. This is our Lord’s heartfelt desire for all of us revealed here in today’s Scripture passage.
If our Lord had called you a dog before you were born again, would you have admitted it readily? Just as it’s the ignorant that get easily hurt and offended when their flaws are exposed, so do sinners get very upset when they are called sinners. Most people suffering from an inferiority-complex would be completely incensed if they are called a dog, although a few of them might admit their true colors. My fellow believers, our Lord’s heartfelt desire is to bestow His grace on every nation and every tribe. What should one do then? Everyone must humbly admit himself to God and earnestly ask Him for His grace. Today’s Scripture passage shows us clearly that only then can one put on the grace of God.
In God’s sight, it’s our hearts’ disposition that is important. Of course, our acts are also important, but they are secondary. How our hearts are disposed is far more important than how we act, for we can change our acts according to our hearts’ desire. What really matters is that we should know our true selves and ask God for His grace from the depth of our hearts, and only then can we put on this grace.
 
 
Before Receiving the Remission of Sins by Hearing and Believing in the Gospel of the Water and the Spirit, You Must First Distance Yourself from the False Prophets
 
Let’s now turn to the second event recorded in today’s Scripture passage. It’s written in Mark 7:32, “Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him.” It’s written here that some people brought a deaf man with an impediment in his speech, and they begged Jesus to heal him. Here we need to pay particular attention to the fact that when Jesus healed this man; He took him aside from the multitude.
Why did Jesus then take the deaf man aside and healed him far away from the multitude, instead of just healing him in full view of the crowd? This implies that if you really want to receive salvation from our Lord, obtain the remission of your sins, and find His grace, then you must depart from all false prophets first. In other words, no one should be with any false prophets when our Lord is offering His salvation to him. If you side with the false prophets, then even though the Lord is offering His grace of salvation to you, you cannot realize that this is the gospel of salvation nor believe in it, and therefore you cannot receive the grace of salvation either.
There are many records in the Bible showing that while our Lord Jesus was on this earth, He took aside disabled people such as the blind and the deaf to a secluded place and healed them from their ailments. This implies that when it comes to your salvation from sin, if you abide with those who do not believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then you cannot receive the God-given salvation no matter how hard you try. That’s because these non-believers would obstruct you from having faith. Everyone who wants to be saved from all his sins must therefore separate himself from any and every false prophet, and only then can he receive grace from the Lord. This is what our Lord is teaching us now.
Let’s return to today’s Scripture passage. It is written that our Lord spat when He healed the deaf man with an impediment of speech. Where did the Lord spit at? A closer look at the passage shows that Jesus first put His fingers in the deaf man’s ear, spat in His hand, and then touched the man’s tongue.
There are other accounts elsewhere in the other Gospels where Jesus spat in His hands to heal the sick. For instance, John chapter 9 describes how Jesus opened a blind man’s eyes by spitting on the ground, making clay with the saliva, and putting the clay on the blind man’s eyes. Spitting usually carries a negative connotation. Across most cultures, to spit at someone is to show one’s utter contempt. It is one of the worst forms of insult that shows just how vile and filthy the other person is held. In Korea, some people also spit when they see something or someone disgusting. Perhaps it was out of a similar revulsion at people’s sins that Jesus spat, but regardless, the Bible shows clearly that it was not unusual for Him to spit and put His saliva on the tongues, ears, or eyes of the sick.
Looking up to Heaven, our Lord then sighed and said to the deaf man, “Ephphatha” (Mark 7:34). The word “Ephphatha” here means “be opened.” Please note here that Jesus sighed before saying it. It was out of pity that Jesus sighed; lamenting for the deaf man bound to destruction, for everyone is sinful and must therefore be cast into hell forever. But what happened after Jesus did all these things—that is, after He put His fingers into the deaf man’s ears, spat and touched his tongue, looked up to Heaven, sighed, and said to the deaf man, “Ephphatha (be opened)”? The Bible says that “immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7:35).
 
 
Here We Can See Our Lord’s Desire for All of Us
 
What is our Lord’s heartfelt desire for all of us? We can see here that He wants to bestow His grace on all who recognize that they are destined to be cursed and cast into hell along with the Devil, who humbly ask for our Lord’s grace of salvation no matter what He says and does to them, and who wholeheartedly yearns for the Lord’s healing.
Our Lord has remitted away all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit and solved all our problems as well, but before doing so, He made us depart from the false prophets first. The Lord did not work in the lives of those who did not believe in the grace of God. It is God’s heartfelt desire to bestow His grace on all who depart from the false prophets. Although we ourselves are not truthful in our sinful state, our Lord wants us to distance ourselves from all the false prophets first. This means that we must recognize not only our own shortcomings but also the fallacy of the faith of those false prophets. Our Lord bestows His salvation on those who recognize their sins and acknowledge that the Lord is offering them the saving grace of the water and the Spirit. All of us must grasp this desire of the Lord. The Lord made it clear that it’s on such humble people that He bestows His grace.
In today’s Scripture passage, even though the Lord spat at the deaf man and treated the Syro-Phoenician as no better than a dog, they both found the grace of the Lord because they both yearned to put on God’s grace with all their hearts. We need to grasp here that God looks at the center of such people’s hearts and bestows His grace on such humble people. We should realize that God bestows His grace on those who recognize the Word of the Lord in its entirety no matter what He says to them. And we should also realize here that God bestows His grace on those who distance themselves from any false prophets. This is an absolutely necessary condition for anyone to be born again.
God bestows His grace on those whose hearts humbly accept every Word of God no matter what He says to them, even if He calls them a dog, and who recognize that only God is true and everything He says is right. It’s those with such a heart that find grace from God. We must grasp this Truth and believe in it. Everyone in this world who has put on the Lord’s grace has such a humble heart. No one can find grace from the Lord unless one humbles his heart like this. After all, how can any heart put on the Lord’s grace when it is not even ready to receive it?
Before we heard and believed in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we did not admit that we ourselves were dogs. But to be saved, one must first admit his sinful state, saying, “I am like a beast. I am no better than a dog, cursed by God to be cast into hell.” Unless you admit your sins like this, you cannot be saved. When we look at those who have been saved by the Lord, one common characteristic is that they all admitted their sinfulness and acknowledged every Word of God in obedience, saying, “Yes, Lord, You are right; I am who you say I am.” It’s on such people that God’s grace of salvation was bestowed.
Why do so many people still remain unsaved from their sins? It’s because they have not admitted that they themselves are dogs, that they themselves are to be cursed by God and cast into hell, and that they themselves are completely worthless beings who deserve to be spat at. All these people remain unsaved precisely because they do not admit the Word of God to be true.
Therefore, whenever we preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to people, we must first plow the fields of their hearts deeply. Before we preach this true gospel to them by faith, we need to first awaken them to their sinful state and their need for salvation, letting them know that even though they are no better than a dog, the Lord is still offering them salvation through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. This is an absolutely necessary precondition to preaching the gospel. Before preaching the gospel to anyone, we must first teach this person what a sinner he is in God’s sight and completely expose his sinful state. That is what plowing a sinner’s heart is all about.
When a farmer sows seed in a field, he first prepares the field by plowing up the ground sufficiently and mixing fertilizers in it, and then he plants the seed on this cultivated field and covers the seed with earth; and he waters that field for the seed to sprout and eventually bear fruit. Likewise, when it comes to leading sinners to salvation, it’s absolutely indispensable for us to plow the fields of their hearts sufficiently. We must teach them that they are filthy sinners who are no better than a dog in God’s sight, all destined to be cursed and cast into hell in hatred.
My fellow believers, our Lord is perfect in every conceivable way, even when looked at His integrity as a Man. How could He then have spoken so harshly to the Syro-Phoenician woman when she was asking for His grace? Moreover, this woman was asking for the Lord’s grace not for herself but for her daughter’s sake. How could the Lord then have insulted this woman’s character so derisively and said to her, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Mark 7:27)?
We need to realize what motivated the Lord to say such things. It was not the Lord’s intention to insult the woman’s character and despise her just for the sake of showing His contempt. Why did the Lord say these things then? He said these things to the woman for no other purpose than to save her, to expose her sinful state and bestow His grace and blessings upon her, and to solve all her problems.
My fellow saints, Jesus did not always say kind things. So it’s very important for us to grasp God’s intention that’s hidden in His Word. The more we grasp God’s heartfelt desire, the easier it is for us to live out our faith. We can then follow His every Word by faith.
However, if we do not grasp God’s desire, then it’s very difficult for us to lead our lives of faith. Therefore, it’s imperative for all of us to reach a quick understanding of the will of Jesus Christ from the Bible, and believe in this will. So let us all believe in every Word that Jesus Christ has spoken to us, and let us all follow Him by faith.