Today we are going to look at one of those passages in Scripture that frankly, no one really understands. Listen to what happens in Mark 7:24-30:
The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
24 From there he 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, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He 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.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Ok, there’s a lot happening here. In Mark’s Gospel, for the first time, we see Jesus heal a Gentile. We see Jesus talking with a women (who is a Gentile) which went against the customs of the people by like 1,000%. But these things aren’t out of the ordinary, we see Jesus do things like this quite often. This is what is different about it. The language that He uses when talking to the woman.
First He says that the children, which in this case refers to the Jews, must be feed first. That’s not too unusual in Jesus ministry, several times He sends the Disciples out only the Jewish village. Jesus is following through with the echoes of Genesis 12 where God tells Abraham that his descendants (the Jewish people) will be a light to the world. In other words, the call of Abraham was ultimately that the Jewish people would be that light to all the world. This is God calling out once again to His people.
But what happens next is the part that is hard to understand. He says to her “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” In other words is seems to be implying that Jesus is calling Gentiles dogs. Now some Biblical commentators will say that the word Jesus was using there was more the word for puppy, a play thing, a term of affection. But that really doesn’t seem to be the case.
This is the part that we struggle with, why did Jesus use that term?
Well, let me give you my opinion. And like I say all the time with my opinion, it and a $1.50 will get you cup of coffee.
I think the first reason He called here that was for her benefit. Let there be no doubt, He loved her. He loves the world, He created the world. So know this. He loved and valued her. So, why then did He do it this way? I think He wanted here to know that she was of great worth to her. He “tested” her. And here’s the thing about when God tests us. The test is never for His benefit, it’s always for ours. He knows what we will do. He is not surprised by our choices. He knows what we will decide.
The test is not for Him. It’s for us.
Jesus knew she was beloved and His. She didn’t. In this conversation, she said out loud that she matters. And she found within her strength that she didn’t know that she had. This conversation pushed her to look within herself and say out loud who she was. She was a child of God. Jesus knew it. Now she knew it.
And the second person, or persons, this benefited was the disciples. They had seen very little interaction with Gentiles. This would have been one of their first encounters with a Gentile. And now they see a Gentile WOMAN speaking to Jesus, arguing with Him and now being rewarded by Jesus saying that she has the type of faith that everyone should have.
Could there be any doubt now that Jesus came for the entire world?
This conversation and healing wasn’t just for her benefit, but it was the benefit the Disciples and those that followed Jesus. He guided the conversation to a place where she had to say out loud what Jesus knew to be true. She mattered. She was valuable. She was His.
He knew that. In saying it, so does she. And so did all those that followed.
Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 7:31-37.
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