The early Methodist Christians had so much to exclaim about in Jesus, so very much to make them want to shout and leap for joy. Much of Charles Wesley’s singing was missional exclamation. Methodist hymn-books still begin with missional and magnificent outburst. “If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ with them all.” So said Peter Böhler to Charles Wesley, inspiring the first line of the classic hymn, “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing, my great Redeemer’s praise.” Charles wrote this hymn to celebrate the one year anniversary of his ‘conversion to Christianity, this declaration of Christ’s power and victory in his own life, rich in Biblical imagery of the Kingdom of God, becomes our own hymn of praise. We stand with the angels before the throne of God, lifting our voices as one church to glorify the one who “bids our sorrows cease.”’ Halleluyah!
The Gospel reading from Mark chapter 7 encourage us to also pray and ‘sing in the knowledge that the Kingdom of God is not yet fully realized. We proclaim Christ’s victory as a declaration of hope that we will see Christ reign over all. We stand with the voiceless, the lame, the prisoner, and the sorrowing, and lift our song of expectation.’ In the Gospel, we read about how easy it was for Jesus to restore the certain woman, a Syrophoenician whose young daughter had an unclean spirit and a man’s hearing and speech. Yet it was very difficult to help the Pharisees and other authorities to hear the truth. Every time they were faced with the truth about Jesus, the angrier they seemed to become. Do you find it difficult to hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus?
The woman makes her way intentionally to Jesus without an invitation, falls down and begin begging Jesus to exorcise demon from her daughter. The woman is a symbol and a representation of you, and me, the church and our nations limited by our paganism, idolatry and children with unclean spirit as the enemy of their souls. One of the greatest benefits of our salvation has to be that of hearing God speak to us personally. There can be no intimate relationship with our heavenly Father without it because faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God. Faith to believe God’s word remains the essence of receiving the promises that God says we can have.
The symbol of this woman in us calls us to humble ourselves at the feet of Jesus, disregard every insult on our ways in order to focus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. The woman first expressed a simple but profound faith by coming to Jesus, and she now expresses a simple but profound faith by departing. The woman ‘serves as an example of persistent prayer that refuses to be discouraged when prayer is not immediately answered. She provides us with a model as a church for engaging ‘God fully and passionately in prayer rather than simply reciting rote prayers or a laundry list of our needs.’ The woman also serves as a model to us parents today who loves our children enough to take an active spiritual roles in their lives and not making excuses for not introducing them to Jesus. Parents are called to recognise the potency of Jesus, as the Bread of life for our children and family. The woman did not asked for a seat at the table, all she need from Jesus is a crumb or two. Many children’s life are stake today, tied down by different circumstances and vices. The woman summons parents today to arise and not to accept the defeat of the enemies of the souls of our children, the devil. Enough of practising and promoting laisez faire parenting and spirituality. The woman, though a Gentile but with her eyes of faith was a stark contrast to the scribes and Pharisees with the eyes of unfaith who challenged Jesus in the preceding story (7:1-23).
The man that was brought to Jesus with “an impediment in his speech” suggests a missional significant parallel with the church today. Just as the image of the woman’s daughter under demonic attack only find healing at Jesus’ voice, the image of a man whose tongue was in bondage only at Jesus’ command, finds freedom of movement and expression. The man can neither hear or speak properly, just as the church today cannot understand what Jesus is telling us, hence we are in decline because we are hampered in our faithful proclamation. We need Jesus’ touch so that we might see, hear, and understand. The church, family and nations need the voice, the word and the touch of Jesus to overcome the enemies of the soul of our children and to proclaim Jesus faithfully. Preachers are called to proclaim Jesus faithfully by challenging people to take up their cross and follow Jesus. In many other ways, we demonstrate our own blindness and deafness, we need Christ’s healing touch. We can only begin to hear and understand God’s voice and call upon us as we put ourselves in the shoes of the woman, by making our way boldly to Jesus. You can come to Jesus as you are but you can never remain the same again as no demon can stand the name and presence of Jesus, the Deliverer. Jesus! The name that charms our fears, deafness and dumbness not only bids our sorrows and enemies of the souls of our children cease, it is music in the sinner’s ears, it is life and health and peace to the woman with a demon possess daughter and a deaf man. Jesus broke the power of demon and bondage of the tongue, the Gentile woman “heard”. The deaf and mute man now “hears” and “speaks.” Remember, Jesus is able to break the power of your cancelled sin and set you free because His availing blood can make you clean.