Jesus Is the Answer when Someone We Love Is Suffering!
O Lord, You are a God of mercy and great blessing. In Your love You have redeemed our souls and given us the gift of life everlasting. Be with us, O Lord, in the midst of the struggles and sufferings of life. Comfort us with Your promises. Guide us by Your Word. Bless us with the certainty of Your presence. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
When people in our world face suffering they many times even today turn for help to the occult. Our God warns against such things and urges us to turn to Him for He sanctifies us!
When people in our world seek knowledge they many times turn to the traditions and philosophies of men. Our God warns us against this, too, urging us to be "knit together in love" and to find the "treasures of wisdom and knowledge" in our Savior, Jesus!
Text: Mark 7:24-30
From there He (Jesus) 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 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.
In Christ Jesus, the Creator of our bodies and the healer of our souls, dear fellow redeemed:
Which is more difficult—suffering yourself or watching someone you love suffer? While some of us no doubt have low thresholds for pain and, therefore, do not handle suffering well, I would imagine that the vast majority of us would say that it is easier to suffer ourselves than to watch someone we love suffer. That is especially true, if we are talking about watching our children suffer. Several weeks ago we reported in the bulletin that Sarah Hammett, a twelve year old girl in our Holy Trinity congregation in West Columbia, SC, was diagnosed with leukemia. She was informed that she would have to face two years of difficult treatments, but then died when her treatments weakened her body to the point that she developed pneumonia. From our human perspective this was a tragedy for Sarah and her family. It is difficult to imagine the emotions that this family experienced. I would guess that there were times of great fear, perhaps even of anger, and most certainly frustration and sadness. Those are natural emotions, which occur when we face suffering and death in this world. They are emotions which can only be healed by the knowledge that we do have a loving, heavenly Father, Who is in control and Who promises to work all things together for our good (cf. Rom. 8:28). God in His wisdom decided that Sarah’s calling on this earth was complete, and He took her home. How might we prepare ourselves for such situations? Where should we turn when someone we love is suffering? The Syro-Phoenician woman in our text provides an excellent example for us, for she teaches us thatJESUS IS THE ANSWER WHEN SOMEONE WE LOVE IS SUFFERING!
Let us follow her example and go to Jesus in prayer! The opening verses of our text provide the background for this Gospel account. Jesus had completed over half of his earthly ministry. He had performed many miracles and multitudes thronged to see and to hear Him. When, however, He refused to become their "bread" king, the vast majority of them forsook Him. Opposition by the Jewish religious leaders increased. Jesus’ disciples had so much to learn, and, as only Jesus was aware, so little time in which to learn it. Jesus, therefore, "arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon." We are told, furthermore, that He really did not want anyone to know where He was, yet "He could not be hidden." A woman of the region, a "Greek" woman "Syro-Phoenician by birth" sought Him out. Her daughter was suffering severely at the hands of "an unclean spirit." [There are those in our day, dear friends, who have little respect for the Bible and who deny the existence of Satan and his demonic hosts. Such individuals dismiss this incident in Jesus’ life as little more than mythology. They will, however, on Judgment Day witness Satan and his evil angels bending the knee before Jesus. May God grant them true repentance and faith before that great day so they might witness that scene from among the ranks of the faithful.] We are told, nonetheless, that the woman "came and fell at His (Jesus’) feet...and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter." We are not told in this text when or how this woman came to know about and believe in Jesus. What we do know and see is that her faith moved her in the face of her daughter’s suffering to go to Jesus in prayer!
Dear friends, when someone we love is suffering, there are things that we can and should do. Among them are the practical concerns that we have for our loved one’s physical needs. We should do what we can to make them comfortable. We should make sure that they receive medical care, if necessary, and that they take prescribed medication appropriately. However, let us not forget to go to Jesus in prayer. Our Savior urges us "to call upon" Him "in the day of trouble." He promised "to deliver" us so that we might thereafter "glorify" Him (cf. Ps. 50:15). Jesus is not to be our "last resort," but rather our "first resort." He is all-powerful. He is all-knowing. He is our Good Shepherd (cf. Jn. 10), whose love and grace is both eternal and effective. Truly, Jesus is the answer when someone we love is suffering. Let us follow the Syro-Phoenician woman’s example and go to Him in prayer!
Let us also follow her example and rely upon Jesus’ grace! Our text tells us, "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." Jesus’ response, as recorded by Mark, may seem strange to our ears, and perhaps even cruel. His words, however, were received by the Syro-Phoenician woman as a gracious invitation. How can that be? In order to understand, we must be aware of two things. First, the Gospels make it very clear that while the message of Christ’s redemption applies universally and was to be proclaimed to all people following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Jesus’ own earthly ministry was restricted by His Father to the Jewish people and was intended by God to be a gracious opportunity for His Old Testament people to embrace and rejoice in the fulfillment of all of the promises they had received throughout Old Testament times. The "children" to whom Jesus was referring were the "children of Israel"—the Jewish people. Secondly, there was a common and unfortunate prejudice against Gentiles by the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. They frequently referred to the Gentiles as "dogs." In our day an appropriate translation of the word they used would be "mongrel." It referred to wild, ownerless dogs who fended for themselves and were regarded as a nuisance and at times dangerous. Jesus did not use that word when addressing this woman, but rather He chose the word commonly used of small, pet dogs who customary were part of the Jewish family and lay under the tables of their masters receiving special treats from the dinner table, even as many of our own pets do today. Consequently, Jesus’ words were not derogatory, but rather a reminder to this woman of the purpose of His ministry, and a subtle invitation tied to His grace. You will notice that the woman did not walk away. In fact, in Matthew’s account of this same miracle, he points out that she continued to follow and in fact "worshipped" Him (cf. Mt. 15:21-25).
Dear friends, as believing children of God we live in a state of grace, which means that God forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake and assures us of His gift of life everlasting. Consequently, let us not yield to the temptation, when suffering enter our lives or the lives of our loved ones, to blame God for being unfair, or to think that somehow our Savior is punishing us, or no longer loves us, or has abandoned us. If there are sins in our lives for which we have not repented, let us do so and remain confident of God’s grace. Let us rely upon the fact that, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). Our Savior Jesus has promised us the "gift of everlasting life." He assures us that, as His believing children, He watches over us and that no one shall "snatch us out of His hands" (cf. Jn. 10:28). Let us, therefore, follow the example of the Syro-Phoenician woman and rely upon Jesus’ grace.
Let us also cling to Jesus in faith! The woman’s response to Jesus’ words is marvelous. She says, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs!" This woman recognized Jesus’ veiled invitation. She understood and accepted Jesus’ role in His earthly ministry. She knew that Jesus’ primary concern at that time were the needs of His own people and the instruction of His disciples. But she also recognized that Jesus was the source of help for her daughter and that Jesus would meet that need as He saw fit if only she continued to cling to Him in faith.
My dear friends, does not Jesus urge us to "ask" and does He not promise that "it will be given to you" (Mt. 7:7)? Has not the apostle James told us, "You do not have because you do not ask" (Jam. 4:2)? It is imperative that we cling to our Savior in faith, knowing that He can and will answer our prayers to Him on behalf of our loved ones who are suffering in the way which He knows will be best for all involved. We must remember that when our Savior is at work in our lives, He has the broad view in mind. He sees our lives and our existence not just in term of this world, but also and ultimately in terms of the world to come. We so often do not. We think about what we want and what we think is best for this life for ourselves and our loved ones. Our prayers so frequently can sound ever so much like dictation given to a secretary. Let us avoid such arrogance in the presence of our Savior and rather approach Him knowing that He will do what He knows is both good and right for all concerned. Paul encourages us, "in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your (our) requests be made known to God" (Phil. 4:6). Will God do as we ask? He may well, but should He choose not to do so, it is imperative that we still cling to Him in faith, for His decisions will always prove to be right and result in our blessing! Yes, let us follow the example of the Syro-Phoenician woman and cling to Jesus in faith!
Let us also follow her example and listen to His Word! Jesus’ response to the woman must have been music to her ears. He said to her, "For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter." We are then told that "when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed." Jesus cannot and will never forsake His believing children. You will notice that the woman did not question the truthfulness of Jesus’ words, nor did she ask for proof. She returned to her home and while we are not told anything more of her, we can well imagine that she and her daughter lived each day of their lives in thankfulness and praise.
Dear friends, let us also listen to Jesus’ Word. Let us do so when He in faithfulness answers our prayers with a "yes, be it unto you as you have asked." Let us do so even more so when in faithfulness He answer our prayers with a "no, in my wisdom I have chosen a different path for your loved one—for My son or daughter!" When the suffering of a loved one ends in death, let us not despair as those in our world who have no hope. Rather let us listen ever so carefully to Jesus’ Word. Jesus tells us, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (Jn. 11:25-26). Jesus tells us through Paul that "there is laid up for all who have loved His (Jesus’) appearing a crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:8). Jesus promises that there is a "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" awaiting all those who trust in Him (2 Pet. 3:13). He assures us that there our heavenly Father "will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain" (Rev. 21:4). Dear friends, listen to Jesus’ words and share them with your loved ones who are suffering, for when all is said and done JESUS IS THE ANSWER WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS SUFFERING!Amen.
—Pastor Paul Nolting