Ministry to the “Unclean”

The Gospel of Mark – Part 25

Ministry to the “Unclean” – Mark 7:24-30

Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Feb. 9th, 2020


  • Mark just gave us an encounter that Jesus had with the religious establishment establishing that all doctrine must proceed from and be founded in the word. In the practice of our faith, it is not what you come in contact with that makes you “unclean.” It is what comes from within you that makes you “unclean” (Mark 7:1-23).  Our real problem is not the evil “out there” but the evil “in here” (our hearts). 
  • In order to illustrate the point and further express the heart and purposes of God, Mark records what Jesus intentionally did next: He traveled to an “unclean” place, ministered to an “unclean” person, and drove out an unclean spirit. From this passage I want to see what God does and where Jesus goes, and then I want you to choose to do likewise and follow Him in His footprints. 

Unclean region

Mark 7:24 ESV
And from there he 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. 

  • Jesus intentionally traveled 30-50 miles to the region outside the tribal territory of Israel that the Jews considered “unclean” and “defiled.” It was the region outside of the “promise land” given over to the heathen and enemies of God (see map). Jesus went to the region of the Canaanites, who were some of the people that they were to drive out of the land. They were notorious for being bitter enemies of the Jews. (Imagine our modern-day equivalent of Israel)
  • Jesus did not go there because he was “passing through.” He went there as an intentional destination. He “entered a house” and he did not want anyone to know that He was there, not because He was ashamed of what He was doing, or afraid of what people may think, but because His purpose of going was to make a point about the heart and mission of God. At this point, He was to have an encounter with a specific person who His Father had arranged for Him to meet.  God always has a good purpose for what He does or does not do in the timing that He does it.  

Unclean person

Mark 7:25-29 ESV
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.” 

  • When this woman heard that Jesus was in the region, she wasted no time to go to Him.  She “immediately” came to Him and “fell down at his feet.” Notice that in this “God-forsaken” place He was approached as one who was superior. She came to Him in humility and desperation out of her love for her daughter and need of Him. (This is also in stark contrast to how the religious leaders came to Him.) Also note that there is need and recognition of the goodness and the power of God even in “unclean” people in “unclean” places. It was recorded that she was a “Gentile” (not Jewish), where she was from, what her heritage was (Syrophoenician) and also that she was a woman (women were considered even more “unclean”).
  • She continued to ask for Jesus to help her even after Jesus did not at first respond to her, and the disciples begged Jesus to “send her away” (see Matt 15:21-28). When Jesus finally did respond to her, He said something that could potentially be offensive, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” In responding this way, Jesus was reestablishing His primary purpose to fulfill God’s covenant promises to His chosen people Israel and then also establishing God’s commitment and invitation to the rest of the world. Let the children be fed first – this was not a statement of exclusivity (only) but a statement of priority based on the promise of God, built upon the foundation of His character. It was a statement order (first to them) and then to the rest of the world.  
  • Now this woman could have taken offence at this . . . so I am a “dog”? And in this case the word means “little dog” with the meaning being a dependent creature. She could have responded to Jesus with anger because of her pride (like the religious leaders did, and they went beyond walking away but sought to kill him). Jesus took so long to respond, and He responded to her in this way so that her faith could be shown for what it was (in contrast to the “clean” Jewish religious leaders). This passage could have been one of the things that was in the mind of Peter when he wrote:

1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV
though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

  • There are indeed times when our faith will be tested to see if it is genuine by all kinds of trials and also seemingly the silence and response of God. Will you continue to pursue Him and push into Him, or will you curse and condemn Him in your pride? When this woman responded, she showed the genuineness and strength of her faith. She acknowledged her position by saying “Yes” and then acknowledged His position by saying “Lord” (this is the first time in the Gospel of Mark that someone called Jesus “Lord” – OT scripture called Him “Lord” [Mark 1:3] and Jesus called Himself “Lord” [Mark 2:16; 5:19] but no one else had done so except this “unclean” women from an “unclean” land.)  She recognized and acknowledge who Jesus was in a way that even the disciples at this point did not see. She acknowledged her position, she acknowledged His position and then continued to reach out to Him to meet her need, “yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.   
  • Matthew recorded that Jesus responded, “O woman, great is your faith!” (Matt. 15:28).  And because of her great, persevering faith, He granted her request and her daughter was instantly delivered. Jesus indeed came to “set the captives free” (Isa. 61:1).  There may be people who you as well consider “unclean” that have greater faith than even you and pursue God stronger than you. 
  • Jesus went to an “unclean” region to an “unclean” woman to deal with what was truly unclean, an “unclean spirit.” Not only was Jesus making a point about what people thought was defining, He had the power to deal with what was truly unclean. 

Unclean spirit

Mark 7:30 ESV
And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

  • The truth is that the real enemy is not “those people . . .” 

Eph 6:12-13 ESV 
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

  • These are the real “enemies” that we are wrestling with. People become captive by this force, and some long to be free while other work in allegiance with them. Either way, the grace of God has been extended to them as well. And Jesus has all authority and is greater than anything that is in the world.
  • We have been called walk in the same way as Jesus walked 

1 John 2:6 ESV
whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.


  • So, what does this mean for us? Now that you hopefully better understand who Jesus is and what Jesus does, it is time for you to walk in the same way in which Jesus walked. Which means that you, in turn, need to intentionally enter a place that is thought of as “unclean,” and minister to people who are looked at as “unclean” to deliver them from what is truly unclean. This is not for solidarity but for salvation. This is not for identification but liberation.  This is about walking toward someone in hopes to make clean verses walking away from or around them so that you will not be dirty. It is reaching out to the abandoned, the addicted, the abusive, the minority, the immigrant, the angry, the arrogant, the adulterer, the homosexual, the fornicator, and the leach… (and these are just the people in my neighborhood).  These are people we are called to go to and not run from.  The gospel is for them just as much as it is for you.