Explore the Bible Study: Includes

4:43 PM

Do you struggle with wondering if being inclusive means compromising what you believe? How can being inclusive demonstrate mercy and open the doors for gospel conversations? It is hard to be truly inclusive when we observe behavior in others that doesn’t align with biblical commands. The Explore the Bible Study: Includes examines a new lesson Jesus had for the disciples, and for us, concerning how we should reach out to people who aren’t like us.

We tend to prefer hanging out with people that share our experiences, backgrounds, passions, and moral convictions. Showing true concern to those of another ethnicity, religion, or lifestyle is demanding.

Mark 7 takes Jesus beyond the region of Galilee. In the first part of Mark 7 (verses 1-23), Jesus was once again met with resistance from the Pharisees and Scribes who had traveled from Jerusalem. The resistance was so serious that Jesus and His disciples withdrew from the region and went to “the region of Tyre” (Mark 7:24).

The passage in this session examines two of Jesus’ works that demonstrate how He went out of His way to show compassion to all people, whatever their ethnicity, or physical or social barriers. As you examine Mark 7:24-37, consider the actions you can take to overcome your struggles to know how you can extend mercy to people as Jesus did.

The Dejected in Tyre – Mark 7:24-30

Notice the barriers Jesus overcame in this passage.

  • Privacy (v.24) – He desired to keep His visit private at this point, but the needs were greater and more important than His privacy.
  • Gender (v.25) – In that culture, women were not viewed the same way as men.
  • Ethnicity (v26) – She was a Gentile. Gentiles were considered “unclean.” Specifically, she was a “Syrophoenician by birth,” which meant she was a native to that region.

But the fact that she “fell at His feet” indicates that she was a desperate mom. She had a daughter who was suffering and needed what she knew only Jesus could offer.

When one examines Jesus's response in verses 27-28 it might sound harsh. Perhaps the following questions will help you learn more about this conversation.

Who are the children to whom Jesus is referring in verse 27? (Jews) Who are the dogs? (Gentiles) 

What does Jesus’ use of the word “first” indicate about the message of the gospel? 

The word "first" indicates that there was hope for the Gentiles. We know that, while Jesus walked this earth, His message of repentance was primarily to the Jews. Eventually, the message of the gospel was to be taken to all, including the Gentiles.

Notice though how the woman responded. She was humble. She came to Jesus helpless, without pride, without anything except her need.

Her faith was not swayed by Jesus’ difficult questions. It only strengthened her resolve to petition Jesus for mercy and help! We see from this woman how all of us must come to Jesus. None of us deserve His mercy. We come to Him helpless, without pride, without any agenda, without any feelings that we somehow deserve anything from Him. When we come to Him in this way, He demonstrates His love toward us. This is the only way any of us can approach Jesus!

When are people most likely willing to seek Jesus? What can you learn from Jesus’s response regarding how to include those who might otherwise be rejected by others?

This woman did not have a problem approaching Jesus because she was desperate. She had heard about Jesus and knew that He could help her daughter. This need trumped all barriers that might have existed. Jesus responded to her need by helping her express her faith and demonstrated His grace to her by healing her daughter.

After this, Jesus and the disciples continue to travel through the region. He travels northward along the Mediterranean coast, traveling about 22 miles to the region of Sidon. (This region is now part of the country of Lebanon.) Jesus then loops back southward, skirting the Sea of Galilee, eventually making His way to the region of Decapolis.

Let’s see who Jesus includes when he arrives in this region.

The Disabled in Decapolis – Mark 7:31-35

This man had most likely been subject to ridicule as long as he’d been deaf. This is an example of a physical challenge that we might encounter. Since this occurred in the Decapolis, it’s likely he was also a Gentile. Mark didn’t specify. None of these barriers stopped Jesus from responding. But we also see something different in this encounter as well.

Notice how this man was able to get to Jesus. This man’s friends brought him to Jesus. 

What how Jesus communicated as He performed these actions. The Holman NT Commentary describes the amazing interaction this way: 

“Jesus took the man away from the crowd so the healing would be private, and the man would not attract public attention. Then Jesus communicated with him in a way that he could understand. Is not this like Jesus? He meets us where we are so he can take us where he wants us to go. Notice that Jesus placed his fingers in the man's ears. This seems to indicate his hearing would be restored. Saliva on the tongue indicated that his tongue would be healed so he could talk. Jesus then looked up to heaven, indicating the source of his power for healing (see John 11:41; 17:1). 

Jesus then gave a deep sigh. This showed the incredible empathy of Jesus. This was an inward groan indicating Christ's compassionate response to the needs of this man. He not only felt for him—he felt with him (see Romans 8:23; 8:26). Jesus uttered a one-word prayer— Ephphatha —which is Aramaic for "be opened." Mark felt the need to explain this to his Roman readers. Jesus' prayer was answered immediately. This man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosed, and his speech impediment was gone.” (Source: Holman New Testament Commentary - Mark (p. 114) B&H Publishing Group.)

We all know that people can be cruel to people with disabilities or other challenges. Some might make assumptions regarding their spiritual capabilities because of their disabilities. 

How do you view people with disabilities? Do you view them with compassion? Do you believe Jesus can change their lives, or do your actions reflect that you assume that Jesus is only able to work through those who aren’t disabled?

Jesus demonstrates through this healing that there are no barriers – racial, cultural, or physical – beyond the grace and goodness of God! 

If our lives have been changed by Jesus, then we know what He can do for others. We should look for people who need to be brought to Jesus and look for ways to get them to Him so their lives can be changed! If he changed us, then we KNOW He can change others, this should motivate us to bring others to Him, even if they are different from us!

Let’s learn how we should respond when Jesus brings healing to those who were once excluded.

The Astounded Crowd—Mark 7:36-37

When someone’s life is changed by Jesus, we can’t and shouldn’t remain silent! When we truly see God at work, we will have to tell others! Wouldn’t it be great if what was said of this group was said of us as believers today: “the more He ordered them, the more they proclaimed it.” (v.36)

Are you still amazed at how Jesus does “everything well”? Do you truly believe this? If you do, it will be reflected in how you overcome barriers to bring others to Him so they can be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus included the dejected of Tyre and the disabled in Decapolis. He went beyond the barriers of gender, ethnicity, and human disabilities to express compassion and to provide healing.  

What barriers might you have to overcome to share and show the love of Jesus to others? 

What do you need to do to overcome those barriers?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

Download PDF Version

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LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 


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