Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Mark 7, verses 24-30.
I must admit: at first read, this story put me ill at ease. There’s the whole thing about Jesus not ever getting any privacy. I like my privacy from time to time and I bet Jesus occasionally craved some private time as well. Yet He never seemed to get any. That irks me.
And then there’s the thing about insinuating the woman is a dog. What is up with that? Is Jesus just irritated? We don’t think of the Son of God being upset, but let’s be real and say He could have felt that way. Yet reading the verses makes it seem more likely that He was also testing the woman. He uses this parable, describing how the Word of God would be given first to the Jews before other non-Jewish people would come to know it; after all, the Jews were/are the people through whom He revealed Himself. The Greek woman – a foreigner in Judea – seems to know this; it sounds like she’s familiar with the story of Israel. She plays along and acknowledges God’s revelation, and accepts it. The story, thus, isn’t a slight against her: it’s using a story to make a point. Don’t forget that this account also comes on the heels of Jesus reminding us how it is our words that show us to be defiled. He wouldn’t and didn’t defile Himself by personal insults or slights. Instead, Jesus questions, then actually honors her, especially her faith.
Finally, a word about the Greeks. In their day, the Greeks were the most educated, intellectual people on the planet. ‘Their day’ (when Greece was the most prominent, powerful nation on the Earth) was actually several hundred years before Jesus’ time, yet the Greeks still prided themselves on knowledge, logic, thinking and pride in their culture. We don’t know if the woman with whom Jesus was talking was educated, intellectual, or anything like that. We can see she was intelligent and wise, both in quoting Hebrew Scripture and in her foresight in recognizing Jesus for who He was. She was also brave and faithful, putting her trust in this stranger who was making Himself known to be the long-promised Messiah. Those were summarily rewarded.
To be frank, much of Scripture can put me ill at ease. At times, it’s supposed to make us uncomfortable because only then can it serve as a mirror, reflecting back our sins while at the same time offering us knowledge about God’s forgiveness and comfort in times of adversity. No matter how I feel about it, what Jesus says is much more important.
Savior, thank You for the nature of Your Word.
Read Mark 7, verses 31-37.