24 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. 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.”
“I will never see these people the same way again.” The young woman who wrote those words in a paper probably could not imagine writing them even six weeks before she did. She was a student in my History and Literature of the New Testament class which I taught regularly at Concordia, Portland. Part of the class involved service. We said as a department that one could not really talk about Jesus’ command to love the neighbor or even the enemy without actually being engaged in doing it. There were many eye-rolling scenes when this was announced every year. But we held firm. If you want to pass this class, you have to do your time in service. The university connected students with a great number of opportunities, and several of them involved feeding the hungry. One of them in particular did not just have them feed the hungry. They were to sit down and talk with them.
It was this program the young woman was involved with. She sat down and spoke with a homeless man. It was a life-changing experience for her. I could see the change in class from before and after. This person who had been a problem to be solved had become a person, with wisdom and personality, and value.
Jesus is taking his disciples on a field trip out into the region of Tyre and Sidon to teach them a lesson. He has been struggling with these guys. If you remember last week, Jesus had been frustrated with them. “It is not what goes into your mouth that is the problem, it is what comes out,” He said. They did not get it. So, He finds the least likely person, a gentile, a woman, who has a demoniac for a daughter. They can only see these things about her. He goads them a bit. They think she is not quite fully human, so He uses that. He calls her a dog. I am sure they approved of that. But it was a trap for them. This woman turns Jesus’ words back toward Him and speaks words of profound faith. It is what comes out of the mouth and heart that matters, you see.
In the next scene, Jesus opens the ears and loosens the tongue of a deaf and mute man. He opened the ears and loosed the tongues of those disciples that day when he introduced them to this precious woman whose faith he praised. He opened the ears and loosed the tongue of my student through that homeless guy in downtown Portland. How will he open your ears and loosen your tongue to speak his praise? It might be uncomfortable when he does. You will be better for it.