They are well-known for their tenacity -- the old saying here in the South is that they "won't let go until the sun goes down." In other words, if they bite something, really get hold of it, they will not let go!
The woman in our study this week had that kind of faith; she had a fierce tenacity that was rewarded, and is an awesome example to moms and to Christians everywhere.
Let's dive in!
The Syrophoenician woman's story is found in two of the Gospels: Matthew and Mark. Scholars call her that because of the geography and the politics of the time. The area of Tyre and Sidon, two notoriously ungodly cities, was called Phoenicia, but that region was controlled by the Syrians. The Jews called the people who lived in this region "dogs" but Mark called the woman Greek, implying that she was (to him) a pagan.
Our story takes place shortly before the final scenes of Christ's life as a mortal; after this we'd see His transfiguration, His raising Lazarus from the dead, and His final trip to Jerusalem. The crucifixion and the resurrection would come after all of those events. But before these, Jesus traveled northwards into the Syrian controlled region. Perhaps he was in this province seeking solitude, or perhaps he journeyed here for another reason. Solitude would be in short supply here; His fame had gone before Him, and the crowds had found Him. They gathered and swirled around Him, begging for healing and for the wisdom that only He could give.
One of those in the crowd was this desperate mother. Her precious daughter was possessed by, and controlled by, demonic forces. Christ met many tormented souls in His time on our earth; one man was host to many demons, and a boy kept throwing himself into the fire because of demons. The outward signs were obvious and frightening.
While demons are mentioned only twice in the Old Testament, they are mentioned over seventy times in the New Testament. They are fallen angels, sent from Satan to oppress and enslave humans, and to accomplish Satan's plans. Did you know that they have special powers here on earth? If we look at I John 4, we find that:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see
whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone
out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh
is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not
from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is
coming and even now is already in the world. (I John 4:1-3)
They know the truth, and they will try to hide it! And in Mark, we read that they recognize Jesus as God's own son:
He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus,
Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” (Mark 5:7)
And then, in Luke we see that demons can have supernatural strength:
.....Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot
and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the
demon into solitary places. (Luke 8:29)
They may have intelligence, and a great deal of strength, but they are not as powerful as God, or as His Son Jesus. Whenever they come face to face with Christ or His power in the disciples, demons call out, and tremble, and do as they are told.
I suppose one could make a case for the demon-possessed having an illness of some kind; it could be physical or mental. I guess the scholars could debate that for a long time. (Grin) We can see that later in Mark (5:15) the man delivered from a demon was sitting "dressed and in his right mind." But in other cases, possession rendered someone mute or blind, or gave them convulsions. One thing is for sure, though: demons were (and I'm sure still are) real, and caused fear and desperation.
When Jesus ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us, and to be our defense against the forces of evil in this world. Whether we are suffering from demonic pressures, or from physical or mental stresses, we possess His power within us as His children. His power is a hedge of protection for us.
If we will keep that close, sweet relationship with Him, He will strengthen, protect, and comfort us.
We'll continue with this woman's story next time.