Monday, January 9, 2012

Missions in Mark

As with all the gospel accounts, we learn much important information about missions in the book of Mark. We see Jesus on the move in this book (the word "immediately" is used frequently). The Lord travels from place to place proclaiming and healing. His example of spreading the gospel permeates this book.

Mark 1:38-39 is significant: And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Certainly Jesus' commission in this book instructs us: And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." Interestingly, this is somewhat different than what we read in Matthew because proclaiming the gospel is related to but different from making disciples.

However, I believe the most important passage in Mark as it relates to missions is 7:24-30:

And from there he (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. 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. 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." But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." And he 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.

Why is this text significant for missions? The reason is that we read of the Jewish Messiah leaving the predominantly Jewish region around Capernaum and traveling northwestward to a Gentile area. If his mission was simply to the Jews then he would have remained in Israel. Why go to the Gentiles if they aren't part of God's plan?

Mark recognizes the importance of this woman being a Gentile. He purposefully writes "Now the woman was a Gentile" to ensure that there is no lack of understanding about this.

When the woman asks for help from Christ, he responds with a sort of test. She answers in great faith. We see Jesus respond very positively to her faith, healing her child.

The key is that Jesus accepts her because of her faith. Her ethnicity has nothing to do with it.

What do we learn here? God's plan is for both Jew and Gentile (for which I'm thankful since I'm a Gentile). Christ went out of his way to a Gentile area and accepted a Gentile woman's response of faith.

As part of the church's mission, we must go to all peoples. The gospel is open to any and every people group. All who respond to Jesus Christ in faith will be accepted (saved).

I'm reminded of this familiar passage from Acts 16:30-34. We see Paul and Silas proclaim the gospel to the Gentile Philippian jailer:

Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Previous posts in this series:
Missions in...
Missions in Matthew


David said...

I agree with everything you said here except that this is a significant text for missions. I think something different may be going on here: Jesus is on a mission but it is a mission to get alone with His disciples. The heat is on from the religious establishment as of the end of Mark 3 and the crowds are pressing in. In Mark 6:30 Jesus attempts to get away with the guys and ends up teaching and feeding the 5000. When He sends them away after He feeds them they follow Him across the lake.

I too love all of the "immediately"'s in Mark. I think Jesus was a busy guy and He is maximizing His time. It seems to me that in this account Jesus is trying hard to get somewhere where no one knows Him ("He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice")so He can teach His guys.

But what I think this passage is teaching is that Jesus never lets ministry get in the way of ministry. His schedule can always be interrupted, even by a Gentile woman.

Also, I am so instructed by this woman's persistence. Love this passage!

Eric said...


Thanks for your comment. Maybe this is a situation of both-and instead of either-or.

I believe Christ intentionally sought to go to a Gentile area to inaugurate the idea that he came to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Jesus' back and forth conversation with the woman suggests this. After this passage Jesus ministers to other Gentiles as well. This all dovetails nicely with the great Commission command to make disciples of all nations.

Jesus could certainly have multi-tasked. Getting away from a Jewish area would have given him much more time with the disciples.