Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


Different Treatment for Different Souls

St. Mark VII. 24; VIII. 21.

"He careth for you."

R EMARK on the different way in which the Lord treated different people, as shown in this Lesson. Surely we must believe that there was a meaning for it, each soul being treated in the way best fitted to help it. So God has his different ways of treating souls now. Keep before you the object of getting the children into sympathy with His blessed purposes for the world, and desirous to be helpful to Him in it.

§ 1. The Canaanite Woman

Read the fuller account in St. Matthew xv. 21-28.

In Joshua and Judges name the accursed people, to be driven out for their wickedness? Canaanites. Here, 1,000 years later, comes one of this accursed race to our Lord. But was she very wicked?

Tired and persecuted, the Lord withdrew to the north for rest (see map). He and His disciples could be tired as well as we. "Let us rest for a little; don't tell people." (v.  24). No use. The report of the great Teacher and miracle-worker had reached the north. One poor heathen woman had heard of His kindness, and sorely wanted help. Could not be kept back. She knew little of religion; but knew He was kind and powerful. "O Lord, save my little daughter. Cast out the devil." Bitter disappointment. Dead silence. Is He going to refuse? She struggles closer—"Lord, Lord, help me!" No use. He will not answer. Even the disciples plead for her, in order to get rid of her. What does He say? "Not meet to take," etc. Oh! how could He, so kind to others, be so harsh to her? What did He mean? Used the Jews' usual word of reproach for Gentiles—"dogs." Does she get up in a rage? "He called me a dog." Ah, no; she thought of the mad convulsions and horrible sufferings of her child, and she saw, too, something in His face not so cruel as His words. She will humble herself to the dust. She will force Him by her earnestness. And as she thinks of the little dogs under the table, a brilliant thought comes. She will catch Him in His own words: "Not meet to throw it to the dogs."  "Yes, Lord, it is  meet to do it (see R.V.), for even the little dogs eat of the little children's crumbs." What did she mean? Who was the Master? Who the children at His table? Who the dogs? Yes. She thought of the Jews as the children in the Father's house, and she said: "Lord, let me be even as a little dog. I don't want to claim a child's part; but I will not leave the table until you throw me the dog's crumbs. Even if you spurn me or drive me away, I will still follow you, I terribly want your help. I have at any rate a dog's claim."

Wonderful faith. Wonderful love for her little girl. No longer could the Lord restrain Himself. "O woman," etc. (Matthew xv. 28). Had He been unwilling before? Why so hard to her? We can only guess. He treated different souls in different ways. Probably He saw hers was a great soul, worthy of a great testing. He wanted to draw out and strengthen her faith. Must have been something in His look that kept up her faith all the time. Now she gained not only her daughter's cure, but a blessing for her own soul. He did not deal thus with other souls. See deaf and dumb in this Lesson. Each soul treated in a way suited to it. Teach here the power of intercessory prayer, and the lesson of faith, even when prayers not answered at once.

§ 2. The Deaf and Dumb Man

Read vv.  31-37. St. Matthew (xv. 30) tells of a great multitude, lame, blind, dumb, maimed. St. Mark just selects one of the cases to tell of more fully—deaf and dumb.

Can you do dumb alphabet? Why necessary? They cannot hear. So our Lord here made signs, touched ears and tongue, to show what He was about to do. But first took aside from multitude. Treated people differently, probably according to spiritual state. One healed in crowd—one taken aside—one healed with a word, another with a touch—one healed without even asking—one, as Syrophenician in this Lesson, only granted her desire after a great struggle. Treated each as was best for each. Why lead this man aside? Probably to make a deep impression. Think of the two alone. Lord looking with sympathy into the eyes of the poor mute. Giving him as much attention as if no one else in the world but himself to be healed. So often with people now. Healing from sinful life. Takes them aside by sickness or sorrow, that they may look, as it were, into His face, and be healed. Think how glad and grateful this poor fellow would be when he could enjoy all human speech and all beautiful sounds. How he would remember the Lord, who was so good to him. Nice to see how glad the crowds were. Even His own direction could not keep them still. They would insist on going all round to tell how good He was, and how powerful.

§ 3. Feeding the Four Thousand

Read ch.  viii. 1-2. What is this section about? What other miracle of feeding? Were they two different miracles? (vv.  19, 20). What difference between them? Why did He perform this miracle? (v.  2).

In case of Syrophenician had He compassion? In case of deaf and dumb? Yet He treated each differently. Show? First—almost refusal. Second—granted when asked. Third—did not wait to be asked. Notice the eager zeal of these people. Three days with Him out in the wilds. Food all used up. He also full of zeal for their good; teaching noble truths; healing the sick. What a heavy, tiring strain, for three days, denying Himself rest, food, sleep. Now had compassion. Was it for Himself, since He was so tired? Never thought of self, but only of others. Think of that compassion looking down on the poor world to-day, with its wants, and sorrows, and temptations. Is it just the same now? Yes.

"There is no place where earth's sorrows are so felt as up in Heaven;

There is no place where earth's failings have such kindly judgment given.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind,

And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind."

No need of saying much about this miracle, as we have had one like it in last Lesson. But think of the stupid dulness and want of faith even in His own disciples. See their question (v.  4), and the conversation in the boat afterwards (vv.  15-20). So all through His ministry. They could not sympathize with His noble thoughts about love to others and the glory of self-sacrifice. They could not even believe in His greatness and His power. How lonely for Him. He had come down from Heaven, where all hearts were in sympathy with Him, and all through His earthly life He had to bear that loneliness of spirit. Don't you think it would be a pleasure to Him if His disciples were feeling eager with Him about good; sorry with Him about the sins and sorrows of men; willing with Him to give up all for God and their brethren?

Are Christians now different from these disciples? Are we? Let us think more of this. Think about this beautiful plan of His about the Kingdom of God (Lesson II). Pray that we may be more in sympathy with Him; eager with Him about righteousness; sorry with Him about trouble; willing with Him to give up what is dearest for the sake of God and our brethren.

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