“Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 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.’ But she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.’” - Mark 7:26-28
In Matthew’s account of this story, he tells us that Jesus did not initially acknowledge or respond to the Gentile woman’s pleas. Undeterred, she continued to cry out and caused such a commotion that the disciples begged Jesus to send her away. Why would he ignore her? Were his kindness and compassion reserved only for the Jews? Was he testing her to see if she would give up and go home? While his reaction to the desperate mother is challenging, we shall see that Jesus had a plan. Ultimately, her patience and perseverance would demonstrate the kind of faith he looked (and looks) for in all of his disciples.
As far as the Gentile woman was concerned, giving up was not an option. Doing so would condemn her daughter to a life of possession and torment. She knew who Jesus was and what he could do, and she recognized him as her child’s only hope. And so, she persisted, refusing to be dissuaded by the complaints of the disciples, Jesus’ silence, or the harsh words he eventually spoke.
The word “dog” was frequently used as a derogatory term for Gentiles. At the time, most dogs were strays that roamed the streets and scavenged for food, rather than pampered and beloved family pets. However, Jesus used a different word for dog, one that referred to the smaller, domesticated animals that lived in homes and waited under the dinner table for scraps. This might seem like a minor distinction to us, but it clearly encouraged the woman to continue pleading her case.
She acknowledged that God’s salvation plan began with the Jews, that his children must be fed first. She humbly admitted that she was not worthy to sit at the table with them. But she also believed that their scraps and leftovers would be more than sufficient to heal her daughter. Unlike the disciples at the feeding of the 5,000, this woman trusted in Jesus’ abundant provision. She knew that he could minister first to the Jews and still have enough grace and mercy to pour out upon a Gentile woman.
Do you have this kind of faith? Do you come humbly before the Lord, completely reliant upon his mercy? Do you trust in the salvation that has been made available to all people through the death and resurrection of Jesus? Do you persevere in faith as you bring your needs and requests to Jesus?
Reflect and Respond:
How is Jesus calling you to persevere in faith today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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