Special Needs Yesterday & Today

One of the most difficult situations facing many people today concerns the spiritual difficulties and special physical needs of a loved one. Many of us can relate to a family member who is psychologically tormented. Our church and community also have many parents who bear the extra responsibility of caring for a child with special needs.

The needs that we see with people in our community today are no different from the needs of people who were being brought to Jesus wherever he went in his region.

25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Jesus Heals a Deaf Man
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus[a] charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Mark 7:25-37

Meeting Needs Beyond Racial Barriers

The main theological issues that Jesus’ ministry in Mark 7:24-35 brings into view are humility and grace. These are the character traits being exemplified by people and God.

The interesting context of Jesus’ healings in this passage is that they are done in Gentile areas surrounding Galilee.  As 21st century Gentiles who have 2,000 years of Christianity to teach us about the equality of all ethnicities, we think it is natural that Jesus would go to heal Gentiles. But this would have been a very shocking mission to the Jewish people of the first century.

The religious traditions of Jesus’ day had totally neglected the truths of the Old Testament that the salvation of Messiah would be for ALL of the peoples of the earth. Jesus has indeed come to establish a kingdom that is for ALL peoples, not just one.

We should be encouraged that Jesus not only reaches out to Gentiles, but he reaches out to Gentiles in great need. This is where we find humility. 

The two people who Jesus heals (as well as their friends and families) are well aware of their needs. They have a great sense that they cannot heal themselves, that they are dependent on Jesus’ help, and that they have not done anything to earn his healing.

This is where Jesus displays grace. Jesus not only heals these people, but he does in a way that is compassionate and takes into account some of the cultural expectations of Gentiles. Jesus is never focused on what people can do FOR him, but on how he can demonstrate God’s glory, love, and salvation TO them.

Discussion Questions

  • How does the Syrophoenician woman exhibit humility?
  • What is Jesus demonstrating about his grace to her?
  • How is the deaf man experiencing humility?
  • Why does Jesus make a point to touch the deaf man?
  • How did the obvious needs of these of these two people open the door to a relationship with Jesus?
  • What does Jesus’ healing these people teach us about his ultimate salvation?
  • Are you sometimes reluctant to admit your own needs to Jesus?
  • Why do we sometimes not want to face our own spiritual, physical, or special needs?
  • How do our needs teach us genuine humility?
  • Describe a time in your own life where your needs taught you something about the grace of God.
Jonathan Pugh
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