Today’s Thought: Are you brave enough to ask in faith, believing in nothing less?
From there [Jesus] set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice; a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. (Mark 7:24-25)
Some of my favorite stories of Jesus are those where his humanity is on full display: when he’s so shaken by the death of Lazarus that he weeps; when he’s so angered by the moneychangers in the temple that he overturns their tables; and—in our story today—when he was so tired, all he wanted was to be left alone.
Mark tells us that Jesus went to a house in Tyre to rest; and apparently, he didn’t even tell his disciples where he was going. He didn’t want anyone to know he was there. But just like a mother who sneaks off for one quick cup of coffee in peace only to be discovered in less than 30 seconds by her children, word of Jesus’s presence in the region travels fast, and he is visited by a woman who has heard of the miracles he has performed.
Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin (v26). She is a religious and cultural outsider—this alone puts her at a disadvantage socially, but add to this her lowered status as a woman, and she has no business approaching a well-known Jewish Rabbi who claims to bring a message from God his Father. But, this woman is on a mission of her own.
A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. [Jesus] said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (v25-26)
What is Jesus saying? It sounds like he just called her a dog. Did Jesus just call that woman a dog??? Slow down! Timeout! It’s not what you think.
First, we need to remember that Jesus came to this place to hide from the crowds he’s been attracting and to rest from his non-stop touring. He doesn’t want to deal right now with another person asking him for help. Yes, that’s a very human response. One of the great mysteries is Jesus as completely human and completely divine.
Here, Jesus is tired but he still engages her in conversation, which would have been highly unusual for a Jewish Rabbi to speak to a Gentile woman. He reminds the woman (albeit in frank language) that he has come to save Israel first. Spreading the message to the Gentiles is his second goal. For now, though, the children must be fed first… the dogs must wait. Jesus is about to find out that you do not tell a woman with a seriously ill child to wait.
She answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (v28)
A woman… a Gentile woman… has just told Jesus that she may be a dog, but even dogs get crumbs from the table, and crumbs are enough to save her daughter. She’s brave, yes, but what about her faith! This Gentile woman had faith that Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi, could save her daughter… with just crumbs. Give me the crumbs, she says… I’m not too proud to ask because I know by my faith that these crumbs will save my child.
Then [Jesus] said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (v29-30)
Thursday’s Theologian: We are women, and my plea is, “Let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is.” — Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015), Christian missionary and author