Sermon Reading by Elder Andy Domondon (Prepared by Rev. Nollie Malabuyo)
Today we will be continuing our teaching series on the Gospel according to the book of Mark. It is a Sermon prepared by our dear Pastor Noli Malabuyo.
From the previous sermon on Mark series that Elder Gani had preached, we learned why Jesus condemned the scribes and the Pharisees for their unbiblical, self-righteous, boastful traditions.
- They were all about outward appearances rather than inward righteousness.
- They were unclean because of their rotten hearts, not because of their unwashed hands before eating and the unclean food they eat.
In Chapters 3 and 6, we read that Jesus was rejected by his own brothers, his own hometown of Nazareth, his own region of Galilee, and by his own people, the Jews.
- Today, we will see the contrast between his rejection by his own people with the reception given him by Gentiles whom Jews loathe (to dislike greatly and often with disgust or intolerance) as unclean, unbelieving people.
This afternoon, we will learn that Jesus doubled on his condemnation by healing and feeding Gentiles whom the Jews consider unclean, even calling them detestable, scavenger dogs.
- Jesus casting out demons, healing and feeding multitudes are pictures of how he saves his people from their sins.
So our theme this afternoon is, Three Pictures of Salvation, under three headings;
- first, The Bold, Persistent Faith;
- second, Unstopped Ears and Released Tongues;
- and third, Opened Blind Eyes.
Before we begin, let’s pray…
Heavenly Father, may your Name be hallowed as we hear and learn from your Word, allow us to humbly receive your truth and cause in our hearts to respond in faith, repentance and trust in You, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This we pray. Amen.
Our 1st heading, Bold, Persistent Faith (we can see this narrative in Mark 7:24-30, a woman described as Syro-Phoenician)
Mark 7:24  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.
Jesus first went teaching and healing in his home region of Galilee. Then From Galilee, he withdrew to the Gentile regions of Tyre and Sidon (in modern-day Lebanon). These two cities belong to a region called Phoenicia, known for its long history of paganism. During the time of Joshua, Sidon was the chief city in the region. Jezebel, the wicked queen of King Ahab, she was the daughter of the King of Sidon (1 Kgs 16:31-32). Tyre was also a rich, powerful city, and was friendly to King David and King Solomon. King Hiram sent cedar and cypress timber and men to both David and Solomon for the building of the palace and the temple (2 Sam 5:11; 1 Kgs 5:1). But the relationship deteriorated after Solomon, so that Tyre rejoiced at the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians. Therefore, God vowed that Tyre would be utterly destroyed by many nations (Ezk 26).
By the time of Jesus, Tyre would be inhabited mostly by Gentiles, mostly Phoenicians and Romans. At sa region na iyon… He went inside a house, but he couldn’t hide from the people there, for his fame has spread even to Gentile regions.
Mark 7:25-26  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.
A woman described as Syro-Phoenician (a native or inhabitant of Phoenicia when it was part of the Roman province of Syria.) then entered the house and begged Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter.
The conversation between her and Jesus is interesting. Jesus answered the women in v.27, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
His response might be shocking to us because it seems racist. He calls the woman a “dog.” Jews called Gentiles “dogs,” which, according to their tradition, are unclean animals. But Jesus did not use the Greek word for unclean, scavenging dogs. Rather, he used the Greek word for little, pet dogs.
- Jesus used a parable in his response: “children” who were fed first were the Jews; “bread” was his teachings and works; and “dogs” were Gentiles.
- Jesus was telling the woman that he would bring his gospel and might works to the Jews first, before he goes to the Gentiles. This is why Paul says that the gospel was preached to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles later (Rom 1:16).
On the synoptic Gospel account, In Matthew 15:21-29 gives more details about this narrative. After the woman begged for help, Jesus did not initially answer. He ignored her, but she was persistent, because the disciples then asked Jesus to send her away, for “she keeps crying out after us” (v 23). So he told his disciples, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v 24). Earlier, he instructed his disciples before they went out to preach the gospel to avoid speaking to Gentiles and Samaritans, but only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:5-6).
Dahil… His mission was to preach to his own people first. It was only after his resurrection that he commanded his apostles to go into all the world (Matt 28:19).
So In this narrative, Jesus seems to be unloving and without compassion. It may be that Jesus was testing her faith and persistence.
- This reminds us of the parable of the widow (in Luke 18:1-8). who persistently went to a judge to get justice for a wrong done to her. The judge kept denying her request, but finally relented so she will stop bothering him (Luke 18:1-8).
- In the same way, we are to be persistent in our requests to God, no matter how impossible our request might be. If our request is in line with the will of God The Scriptures assures us, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
So Going back to the text… After being called a pet dog by Jesus, the woman had a comeback, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (v 28). She acknowledged that, being a wretched sinner, she didn’t deserve anything from the divine Son of David. Even a Merciful crumbs thrown at her from the Bread of Life would be sufficient to give eternal life to her and to her daughter.
- But Jesus doesn’t give us crumbs. Rather, by becoming poor for our sake, he has made us rich, having received eternal life and all its riches even in this age (2 Cor 8:9; Eph 1:3). And in the coming ages, God will show us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7).
So, after the woman kept on begging Jesus, she got a favorable response, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter” (Verse 29). Matthew’s account says that Jesus commended her persistent faith, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matt 15:28).
- Pray to Christ to give us such persistence, to give us patience and steadfastness in adversity; to strengthen our weak faith; to comfort us in trouble and distress; and to help us fight temptations.
Jesus Factor: in our BS group, before we go for the application of the passage, we look for the Jesus Factor in the passage that we are studying.
- In this narrative, When Jesus went to the Tyre & Sidon region, even though it’s far away, it was the glimpse of the Gentiles’ salvation, our salvation, Jesus already hints at a future work of the disciples among the gentiles. There Jesus met the syrophoenician woman. This encounter with the gentile women is so intentional that Jesus has to travel from Galilee to Tyre & Sidon which is approximately 100KM away. To give you a geographical context, it is from Manila to Clark, Pamapanga, ganun kalayo.
- You may probably ask, how she was able to utter such Bold and persistent faith and received her petition for her daughter’s deliverance from demons oppression?
- The fact that she is a Gentile, a woman, and compared to a pet dog. It would have been a great insult for this woman to be called a pet dog. It is humiliating. Yet she was able to accept it and responded to Jesus in the context of it. By saying… “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” – v.28
- As humbling, as humiliating this conversation was for the women, NOW, think about the humility that Jesus would submit to His Father’s will in order to spiritually and eternally save this woman’s daughter and receive such great blessings, receive such bold and persistent faith from Jesus but at such great cost to Christ. HOW costly it is?, in Philippians 2:5-8 its reads…  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- Jesus was treated like a dog, he was arrested, beaten, even spat upon like a dog. And Jesus was not like a child begging for bread, He was the one giving the bread. Yet in the end, even the last crumbs were taken from him in order to be given to dogs like me and you.
Application: how do we apply it in our life? Ask ourselves, how does Jesus humility, His humiliation, as a price of the grace that you and I have received, may humble you, may motivate you, and encourage you to live your life for Jesus and to be bold, persistent in your prayer and trust in the Lord.
Our 2nd heading, Unstopped Ears and Released Tongues (this narrative is in Mark 7:31-37)
After the Syrophoenician encounter,
- Mark 7:31-37 it reads…  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, (binge at pipi) 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.”
Explain the Map…
From the region of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus traveled back to his home region of Galilee in the Decapolis. (Approximately 100 KM, 60K when they travel from Galilee (they were in Gennesaret 6:53) to Tyre & 40K to Sidon) Manila to Clark 96K. How far Jesus traveled just to show his grace & mercy to the Gentiles.
There, some people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment or mute, begging him to “lay his hand on him” to heal him.
- Unlike his other healings which he did with words alone,
- Jesus actually put his fingers into his ears and touched his tongue with his spit.
- And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Be opened,” and he was healed. He could hear and speak.
A few things of note in this healing. First, he took the man privately before he healed him so it would not be a mere spectacle. Everyone, including us before, wants to see spectacular things, especially signs and wonders. This is why many people are deceived by those on TV who seem to perform healings and make prophecies. But in these TV shows, there is no mention of sin, repentance and faith alone in Christ alone.
- Second, Jesus is able to work his miracles using mere words or actions. Like the stopping of strm… Servant Centurion… But because the man could not hear Jesus speak and he could not say words of faith, Jesus touched the man’s ears and tongue because the man can feel Jesus’ fingers.
- Third, Jesus looked up to heaven to let him see that his healing comes from his Father in heaven.
- Fourth, Jesus sighed because of his sorrow over the cause of this man’s disabilities and all other sufferings and afflictions, because of sin.
Twice before this healing, after Jesus finished teaching, he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (4:9, 23). Obviously, the people who were not deaf heard his teachings, but the deaf-mute has ears that cannot hear. How then did he hear Jesus’ command,“Ephphatha,” “Be opened”? The answer is… that God gave him his hearing back before Jesus spoke his word of healing.
- This is the second picture of salvation in our text. It is a picture of God giving a person a new heart and a new mind to repent and believe before he actually repents and believes. If not, a person will never believe, because all unbelievers are unable and unwilling to come to God. This is why Paul says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:11).
- The reason why you and I respond in faith and repentance is because God had regenerated us first, HE gave us a new heart and a new mind, without it, we will not respond.
Like… When Jesus taught in parables, his twofold purpose was to reveal and hide the secrets of the kingdom of God:
- reveal it to those whom God had chosen to save and hide it from those whom God had not. To outsiders whom God had not chosen to save, he taught in parables so that, “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (Mark 4:11-12; cf Isa 6:9-10).
- Kaya nga… The deaf-mute man sa narrative na ito in the book of Mark… is a picture of an unsaved person. Though he has ears, he cannot hear God’s words of salvation, therefore, he is unable to repent and believe and be saved.
Ordinarily, a person is saved when he hears the word of Christ and then repents and believes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). In Romans 10:9, we read, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (see also Matt 10:32). Salvation is through the mouth that professes faith and the heart that believes.
After the crowd saw this mighty work of Jesus, they were “astonished beyond measure,” (v37) amazed beyond words. Saying “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Kaya nga… even when Jesus told them not to tell others, they did anyway. It is hard to keep such amazing work to ourselves.
- The healing of the deaf man who is also unable to speak is a messianic deed of Mercy (Isa 61:1-2). It also serves to confront the disciples with their deafness of heart (in which narrated in Mark 8:11-21 & 8:22-26)
- When Jesus heals people such as this deaf man, we tend to view these miracles in the Gospels as interruptions of the natural order. Miracles are not an interruption of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. Jesus’ supernatural miracles are a return to the truly natural.
- Now that we understand and know that the gospel is to be preached to everyone, we should not hold back words of praise to Christ who has saved us, who heals us, who provides all our needs and beyond, who protects us, who preserves our faith against sins and temptations, and who has promised us a heavenly inheritance. Just like the crowd who saw this mighty work of Jesus, taht they were “astonished beyond measure,” (v37). Will you also say to your neighbors
and your friends and love ones , “He had done all things well”? Jesus had done all things well.
And for our last and 3rd heading, Opened Blind Eyes
Skipping to Mark 8:22-26, we see here a third picture of salvation in Jesus healing a blind man from Bethsaida. This healing is unusual, if not unique.
Mark 8:22-26  And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him.  And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?”  And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”  Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
- First, this is only the third healing where Jesus used his spittle. Jesus used his spittle to heal the deaf-mute man. In John 9:1-7, Jesus healed another blind man using mud with his saliva. Since in the ancient world, people believed that saliva had healing power, Jesus used it as a means of healing. Again, he can use any means to heal.
- Second, this is the only healing that he did in two stages. After he spit on the blind man’s eyes and laid his hands on him, the man could only see dimly; people looked like trees to his eyes. Then Jesus touched his eyes again, and his sight was fully restored. Why a two-stage healing? Some interpreters theorize that this is a picture of knowing and maturing in the faith throughout our lives.
- Back in verses 17-21 of chapter 8,
-  And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”  “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”  And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
- Jesus rebuked his disciples for not understanding who he is and what his mission was. Only after his resurrection and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on them on Pentecost did the disciples fully understand Jesus’ person and mission as Savior.
- Even in Jesus’ presence, the disciples’ alertness is at best like that of the half-healed blind man, who perceived people as trees moving about (v24) exposes the disciples’ partial blindness. At this point they fail to see who Jesus really is; One whose humility is integral to his divine splendor. Consequently, though the disciples see that Jesus is the coming King, they do not understand that he must be a suffering King.
One final note about this healing. Why did Jesus heal the blind man outside of the city of Bethsaida? Is it for the same reason in the healing of the deaf-mute man—that he did not want a spectacle? Kung kaya Jesus charges them not to tell anyone… the answer No, this time, it is because Jesus had cursed the people of Bethsaida in Matthew 11:21, “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Jesus performed many miracles there. And Peter, Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida (John 1:44). Yet most of their people rejected him in unbelief. This curse is so terrible that the punishment against the pagan peoples of Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah would be more tolerable than that of Bethsaida and other cities where Jesus preached and healed. We can’t even imagine the horrible judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah, but the punishment against Bethsaida would be worse! BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF. Judgement is upon them.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ at ZCRC Imus: We heard words of encouragement from three pictures of salvation in our lesson today.
So… How do we respond, how can we apply the passage that we’ve just heard and learned? We ask ourselves
- When we are bold, persistent and persevering in our prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ, and if it is his will, he will grant us our requests. It may look like he is ignoring us, but he tests our faith and persistence. And when we pass the test, he does not throw us crumbs, but all spiritual blessings and riches in the heavenly places. Were given to us through Christ
- Since we were undeserving deaf and mute sinners, we must give all the praise, thanksgiving and glory to our Lord for saving us from all our sins. Without his gift of ears that hear the gospel, we would still be deaf to his great salvation.
- And since we were blind, we were unable to see our hopeless and helpless sinful fallen condition. But Jesus opened our eyes and hearts and minds so we may understand the gospel of salvation from God’s judgment. Though our eyes cannot see Jesus 20/20, the Apostle Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully” (1 Cor 13:12).
- In eternity, we shall see our Savior and King face to face!
Rev. Nollie Malabuyo is currently pastor of Big Springs Community Church (URCNA) in Montague, California. He is the founding pastor of Zion Cornerstone Reformed Churches in Pasig (Metro Mania) and Imus, Cavite.