Recall that Jesus has just finished a controversy with the theologians of Jerusalem over the meaning of ritual purification. He differed with them utterly over the meaning of the word unclean. This sets the stage for His great kindness shown here to the Syrophonecian woman.
“And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid” (Mark 7:24-37).
Because there was still a great need for rest, Jesus took His disciples to Gentile country. Someone had made a house available, and Jesus sought to keep their presence there a secret (v. 24). We see here the small beginning of the Gentile world mission. Remember that Mark’s readers are Gentiles, to whom he had to explain Jewish customs. They would certainly be very interested in this account.
A certain woman — who was culturally Greek, ethnically Syrophoenecian — had a young daughter who was demon-possessed, and she fell before Christ and asked Him to cast the demon out (vv. 25-26). Christ at first refuses on the basis of order. Let the children first be filled, He says (v. 27). He does not say let only the children be filled. But the woman is very quick, and says that for the dogs to consume the crumbs does not slow down the feeding of the children (v. 28). Jesus is very pleased with her response, and grants her request immediately. Go, He says, your daughter is freed (v. 29). When the woman got home, she discovered that it was so (v. 30). In this image, the Jews were children, the Gentiles dogs. The “oldest” children were filled with unbelief; this woman had faith. Contrast the behavior of the children at the table, and the behavior of the dogs beneath it.
Jesus probably took the long way around, and came again to the region of Decapolis, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee (v. 31). Recall that this is the region where the man once known as Legion preached. There they encountered a deaf/mute, an unfortunate man who had an impediment in his speech. He could make sounds, but not articulate sounds. He was brought and a request was made for Jesus to lay His hand on him for healing (v. 32). The behavior of Jesus on this occasion is unusual, and does not follow His usual pattern. Perhaps it was for the benefit of the man, or the onlookers, or perhaps it was because of the nature of the disease. We do not know. Jesus took him aside, put fingers in his ears, spit and touched his tongue, looked into heaven and groaned (vv. 33-34). He said Ephphatha, commanding the man to be opened. Immediately the man could hear, and the fetters on his tongue (whatever they were) fell away. He spoke clearly (v. 35).
Always remember that throughout this gospel we are asking who this man is. The answer, again, is obliquely supplied here. Jesus is the Christ. “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (Is. 35:4-6). Jesus is the Christ.
The multitude at this place is then filled with what might be called disobedient insight. The more He told them not to spread this around, the more they disregarded what He said (v. 36). The people were astonished beyond measure, simply beside themselves (v. 37). Mark concludes this section by telling us how the crowd spoke far more clearly than they knew. This was a man who heals the deaf and the dumb. He does all things well.
Jesus is the Messiah, and His ability to open physical ears and mouths points to an ability far beyond this. He has the ability to save men (remember the passage from Isaiah). God will come and save you, the prophet says. And how does God save? Entirely. What does God save us from? Our sins. What is the nature of sin? We cannot hear, cannot see, and cannot speak. But the touch of Christ changes everything.