Compassion for the Afflicted
AFTER denouncing the Pharisees for their self-serving traditions, Jesus leaves with his disciples. Not long before, you may recall, his attempt to get away with them to rest up a bit was interrupted when crowds found them. Now, with his disciples, he departs for the regions of Tyre and Sidon, many miles to the north. This apparently is the only trip Jesus makes with his disciples beyond the borders of Israel.
After finding a house to stay in, Jesus lets it be known that he does not want anyone to learn of their whereabouts. Yet, even in this non-Israelite territory, he cannot escape notice. A Greek woman, born here in Phoenicia of Syria, finds him and begins begging: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is badly demonized.” Jesus, however, does not say a word in reply.
Eventually, his disciples tell Jesus: “Send her away; because she keeps crying out after us.” Explaining his reason for ignoring her, Jesus says: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
However, the woman does not give up. She approaches Jesus and prostrates herself before him. She pleads, “Lord, help me!”
How Jesus’ heart must be moved by the woman’s earnest appeal! Yet, he again points to his first responsibility, to minister to God’s people of Israel. At the same time, apparently to test her faith, he draws on the Jews’ prejudiced view of those of other nationalities, arguing: “It is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to little dogs.”
By his compassionate tone of voice and facial expression, Jesus surely reveals his own tender feelings toward non-Jews. He even softens the comparison of Gentiles to dogs by referring to them as “little dogs,” or puppies. Rather than take offense, the woman picks up on Jesus’ reference to Jewish prejudices and makes the humble observation: “Yes, Lord; but really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters.”
“O woman, great is your faith,” Jesus replies. “Let it happen to you as you wish.” And it does! When she returns to her home, she finds her daughter on the bed, completely healed.
From the coastal region of Sidon, Jesus and his disciples head across the country, toward the headwaters of the Jordan River. They apparently ford the Jordan somewhere above the Sea of Galilee and enter the region of the Decapolis east of the sea. There they climb a mountain, but the crowds find them and bring to Jesus their lame, crippled, blind, and dumb, and many that are otherwise sick and deformed. They fairly throw them at Jesus’ feet, and he cures them. The people are amazed, as they see the mute speaking, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they praise the God of Israel.
Jesus gives special attention to one man who is deaf and hardly able to talk. The deaf are often easily embarrassed, especially in a crowd. Jesus may note this man’s particular nervousness. So Jesus compassionately takes him away from the crowd privately. When they are alone, Jesus indicates what he is going to do for him. He puts his fingers into the man’s ears and, after spitting, touches his tongue. Then, looking toward heaven, Jesus sighs deeply and says: “Be opened.” At that, the man’s hearing powers are restored, and he is able to speak normally.
When Jesus has performed these many cures, the crowds respond with appreciation. They say: “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the speechless speak.” Matthew 15:21-31; Mark 7:24-37.
▪ Why does Jesus not immediately heal the Greek woman’s child?
▪ Afterward, where does Jesus take his disciples?
▪ How does Jesus compassionately treat the deaf man who can hardly speak?