Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18 [b]) September 5, 2021
24 And from there [Jesus] 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. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to Heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In the Name of Jesus.
The woman begged Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter.
The demons. It’s the unclean angels. The unholy spirits. The fallen angels. It’s the devil and all those unclean spirits with him.
Satan: the name Scripture assigns the evil one, the chief unclean angel. Satan is a Hebrew word; it means, “the Accuser.” He’s the prosecutor holding your sins against you. In the book of Job, Satan testifies at the heavenly council against Job. He calls Job a sinner; he accuses him of having no faith.
He testifies against you too. Against you and me. He tempts us to sin, then he holds the sin against us, pressing us down with the accusation of the Law, holding us guilty, covering us in shame.
We hear this voice of Satan, of the unholy angels. The voice of accusation rings in our consciences. Are our consciences troubled, unclean? We hear the accusation.
Do we recount over and over again the sins we have done, recount over and over again the sins done against us? Satan is there in that recounting. That’s his work, his testimony in our consciences. If there’s anything Satan likes more than tempting us to sin, it’s holding the sin against us, accusing us, as his name says. Satan and his demons, if you want to know where they are, if you want to hear their voices, just listen to the accusation in your conscience, and listen to the accusations we fling at each other, often times behind the back so we won’t get caught.
Accusation with no forgiveness: that’s the work of Satan and the demons—an unclean conscience, a conscience not at peace, people holding sins against one another, not letting go.
The Syrophoenician woman begged Jesus to free her daughter of the demon. She’s a Gentile. In Jerusalem, she’s counted unclean. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees hold her in shame. She has no business talking to the Holy Lord. But here she is, “Lord, release my daughter from the demon, let my daughter live in peace, give my daughter honor.”
What would this woman have known of Jesus? Had she heard him before? We can’t say.
She surely would’ve heard of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the Jordan to be the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. Maybe she also heard of the proclamation of the prophets from Scripture, who proclaimed Jesus to be Savior of the world, including the Gentiles.
But whatever she heard, here she is, petitioning Jesus to free her daughter from the demon.
And [Jesus] said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
She knows this conversation. She grew up with it. She’s been a Gentile her whole life, and Gentiles are counted as dogs by the teachers of the Law. Mark 7:28:
But [the woman] answered [Jesus], “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Jesus pressed her with the Law, she answered back with the Gospel. Jesus pressed her with looking at who she is, she answered back with who he is—her Lord. The woman’s conversation is a speaking of faith. That’s what Jesus wants to hear. That’s what he presses for. He loved her. Mark 7:29:
[Jesus] said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
The devil, the demons, they hold us under the accusation. They scare us into thinking that we earn life by the Law, they tempt us to justify ourselves.
The devil’s accusation is destroyed by the Word of Jesus.
The Word of Jesus is, Your sin is forgiven.
The Word of Jesus is, I has redeemed you with my Blood, you are clean, I hold you in honor before the Father.
The Word of Jesus is, You live not by the Law, you are freed from the Law, but you live by the Gospel, you live by faith in me, I’m your Lord.
The Word of Jesus is, Though you are according to the Law nothing but a dog, yet you are to me one I call to the Table and give every good gift.
The Word of Jesus cleanses the conscience. The Word of Jesus justifies you before the Father. The Word of Jesus creates faith unto life everlasting, it frees from the accusation of the demons and gives peace to the conscience.
So, hear the Word of Jesus. Speak the Word to one another. Build each other up in this Word of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of peace with the Father and therefore peace with one another. Speak it to your children and to their children.
But how do you hear the Word of Jesus if you do not have ears? How to you speak the Gospel if you have no voice? Mark 7:32:
Then [Jesus] 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, and they begged [Jesus] to lay his hand on him.
Jesus will restore the ears; he will give speech to the tongue.
But he doesn’t lay hands on the man as they asked. He will be more particular to the man than that.
Jesus takes the man aside. This is not for show. It’s just Jesus and the man.
The man can’t hear, so Jesus uses sign language. He puts his fingers into the man’s ears. By this personal sign language, Jesus lets the man know that he knows his affliction.
Then Jesus spits. Spit comes from the tongue. After letting the man know that he knows about the failed ears, Jesus then lets the man know that he knows about the failed tongue.
“Ephphatha,” says Jesus. The Hebrew word for “Open up.”
“Ephphatha,” and the man’s ears are opened and the tongue released.
The man can now hear words. He can speak them.
Jesus is the Word. The Word made flesh. The Word from the Father. Faith comes by hearing, says Paul, and hearing by the Word of Christ. (Rom. 10)
As with the Syrophoenician woman, so also with the man, so also with us—with Jesus, it is about the gift of faith and the hearing of the Gospel.
Jesus makes us people of the Word.
Put not your trust in princes, says the Psalm. Have no faith in the things of this world. Don’t be your own prince, either.
Your trust is in the Lord. The Lord who takes away the accusation of the demons. The Lord who took all our infirmities upon himself.
Your ears of faith hear the Word. The Word of Jesus, the Word of all sins forgiven, the Word cleansing your conscience and freeing from the accusation. Your ears of faith hear the Word of Christ.
Jesus speaks the Word to us; we speak it to one another.
This Word justifies us before the Father; it breaks down the dividing wall between sinners; it reconciles us to one another; it binds families together as one in Christ Jesus.
And where sins are released, where consciences no longer hold onto the accusation, where grace is spoken, where the Word binds Christians together in oneness, there the demons are cast out.
In the Name of Jesus.