“No Guts, No Glory”
Rev. Sandy Johnson
September 6, 2015
JJ and I moved to Las Vegas in 1988 to run a community group home for emotionally disturbed boys. We had worked with this same population in Oregon, in fact that was where we first met more than 30 years ago. We moved to Las Vegas and began a group home and one of the first things we did was adopt a puppy from Lied Animal Shelter. She was just a sweet girl and on the way home we decided since she was a lab that we would name her Tory, you know Labra-Tory!
She was a beautiful dog; smart, quick to learn tricks and she loved wrestling with the boys we had living with us. She especially loved going swimming. One spring day we took her to Pahranagat Lake and she jumped right in and went to chasing the ducks that were trying to swim in the water. She got in a little deep and JJ had to go and rescue her.
Fast forward a few years and we welcomed Calvin to our family. Tory learned well how to be a good big sister. Calvin loved to watch Tory chase a ball and would giggle that big baby giggle that babies do sometimes, the one that is absolutely contagious. We had to stop throwing the ball so Calvin could catch his breath!
But mealtimes were Tory’s favorite. We would put Calvin into the high chair and Tory would come and station herself, right at his feet. Her eyes focused, not on Calvin, but on the floor. Have you seen dogs do this? She wasn’t going to miss one single crumb that made its way to the floor. For years Tory kept our kitchen floor clean. Man, I loved that dog.
I think Jesus loved dogs too. Although in our lesson today his mention of the dogs wasn’t necessarily complimentary to the dog nor to the woman who was speaking to him. The story begins with Jesus trying to get away for a needed respite. He went into the Gentile region hoping to catch some rest, maybe rejuvenate with his disciples. It was tough for Jesus to get any alone-time when he was in Galilee; throngs of followers demanding his attention, a healing here, a teaching there, folks were just seeking to be in his presence.
So Jesus enters a house and asks them to keep his presence quiet. He didn’t want the word to get out that he was there. But he couldn’t escape notice. That would be like a superstar trying to walk down the streets in Boulder City, without being noticed. Someone is going to notice and point their finger, or approach and ask for an autograph, right?!
There was a woman, a syrophoenician woman who took a huge risk and approached Jesus. She was a Gentile, a non-Jew and her presence, just her simple presence, would make Jesus unclean. Jesus was also taking a risk. According to the Law being in the presence of Gentiles would make not only Jesus, but all of his disciples unclean. Last week we learned about the Pharisees who judged the disciples because they did not ceremoniously wash their hands. Jesus shared with them that the law was being fulfilled, it was changing with his coming to earth. He taught that what defiles us is not what comes from without, but what is in our heart and soul that is evil.
Having just shared this lesson, Jesus then travels into Gentile territory and demonstrates in a very dramatic way that there was a new way to interact with others. The barriers were down, well, at least mostly.
When Jesus arrived at the edge of town this syrophoenician or Greek woman, approached him on behalf of her daughter, who was very sick, possessed by a demon. This woman had guts. She expected that Jesus would ignore, her but her love for her daughter forced her to take the risk. Surely a Pharisee would never have spoken to her at all. But Jesus responds to the woman’s plea.
Jesus response however wasn’t what we would have expected. He didn’t welcome her openly, but actually told her to wait, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The children he is referring to is the Jews, they are of course, God’s children.
Wait a minute, did Jesus just call her a dog? Being called a dog was an ethnic slur. It was a common name that Jews called Gentiles. Dogs! What I find interesting is that the woman doesn’t seem to be offended in the least, but shows her moxie and presses Jesus, saying, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
I love this woman. She didn’t get hurt feelings and slink away. She stood her ground with the Savior of the World and said in effect, “ok, I’m a dog, but at least I get the crumbs the children spill from their high chairs.” She refused to be ignored. She refused to be excluded any longer.
“Jesus often stated that it was his intention to go first to the house of Israel, to those of the Jewish faith. He never claimed to be starting a new religion. He was brought up a Jew and knew well his Jewish Bible (Old Testament), often quoting it, even on the cross (see Mark 15:34; Ps. 22:1). He claimed that he had come not to destroy Judaism, but to fulfill it. To fill it full of new meaning. To bring it to its proper climax. To fulfill the words of the Jewish prophets. This was his intention.
“While he still desired this, he had what spaceflight engineers would call today a “midcourse correction.” He drew his circle larger to include the Gentiles—all non-Jews—and this is nowhere more evident than this passage where a desperate Gentile mother pleads with him to come and heal her daughter, who was possessed with “an unclean spirit.”
No guts, no glory. This woman desired the glory of God to come down and heal her daughter, and that is exactly what he did. Jesus sent her home and she found her daughter, “lying on the bed, and the demon was gone.” “The miracle is the overcoming of prejudice and boundaries that separate persons. Mark had Jesus enter Gentile territory to be alone, not to engage in a mission. The exchange with this woman points toward the future in which Gentiles will be included; their faith will bring them salvation.”
The second part of our scripture lesson this morning continues this theme of “Jesus repudiation of the traditional Jewish beliefs that the true faith is only for those of the house of Israel. While as a matter of strategy, Jesus started with Israel, as a matter of practicality he expanded beyond those borders. These two stories make this point clear. The Christlike God is a God for all people, who seeks all people everywhere, who calls on them for faith in him and is desirous for the commitment of all, so that all might be saved. As Paul wrote counseling Timothy: “This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4).”
It was true of a deaf man that Jesus met when traveling into the area of the Decapolis. It is unclear if this man was Gentile, but it’s likely since the area was a Gentile area. Like the woman in the first story, this man was isolated from society. At that time many believed that physical conditions such as being deaf or mute was a punishment, meted out by God onto the parents for some sin or perhaps the person was possessed by a demon, as in the first story. To live as a deaf man was to live on the edge of society.
This man was brought to Jesus and his friends, who begged Jesus to lay hands on him and heal him. Jesus took the man aside, into a private area to enact the healing. Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, he spit, then touched the man’s tongue and demanded that his ears be opened. Scripture says that his ears were immediately opened and his tongue released. While preparing for this message I Googled, “people hearing for the first time.” Without exception those who were given the gift of hearing, either through hearing aids or cochlear implants, they first smiled, then cried with joy when they could hear not only themselves but their loved ones for the first time. The babies I saw got the most incredible looks on their faces; that sheer delight at hearing. The silence was gone and they were able to hear.
I find it ironic that having given this man the gift of hearing and speaking, that Jesus instructs him to tell no one. Fat chance! In fact the more that Jesus ordered them to be quiet, the louder and more zealously they proclaimed the healing. I imagine they were overcome with emotion much like the ones were that I watched on YouTube. Those who were witness to the miracle were blown away. They began to wonder who Jesus was and were astounded that “he has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
So why did Mark include these stories in his Gospel? Are they meant to be another great healing story to give us hope and encouragement? Perhaps. Perhaps it is also for us to use as a lesson on how we treat other people. Perhaps we are to take Jesus example and reach out across the boarders and connect with people different from us. Perhaps we are to be emissaries into those places where Christians don’t generally go.
The first story might also be a lesson in respect and how people in authority – teachers, pastors or others – can gracefully lose an argument. Jesus was corrected by a lowly Gentile woman and he accepted it. He recognized that he was wrong and made amends.
Perhaps these stories are an example of how we are to ask Jesus for healing, regardless of the cause, regardless of who we are and really in spite of ourselves. How often do we feel unworthy to approach God with what is heavy on our hearts? Don’t you think God already knows our hearts? I believe he knows what we need long before we do. Reaching out to God in prayer is what he desires for us, what he expects from us.
Brothers and sisters, God wants us to be people who aren’t afraid to stand up for what we believe, to be people of guts and moxie and to be ready to acknowledge God’s glory in return.
Let us pray: Loving God, we want to be people who are willing to stand up for others, to reach out beyond our borders and to offer Christ’s love. Give us the guts to do your work and allow us to give you the glory! Amen.
 Mark 7:27
 Mark 7:28
 http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/3059/sermon-options-september-6-2015 Accessed September 3, 2015.
 Mark 7:30b
http://www.ministrymatters.com/library/#/tnib/cf4867c35d91a48dddc5564fd07312fd/mark-66b-826-jesus-continues-preaching-in-galilee.html Accessed September 3, 2015.
 http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/3059/sermon-options-september-6-2015 Accessed September 3, 2015 .
 Mark 7:37