Mark 7: 24-30 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 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.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
This passage causes a series of different emotions to come over me….some conflicting to the point that it makes me angry. I don’t like Jesus’ response. I don’t like the fact that he calls the lady a dog and that he refuses to heal her little girl (at least initially).
I know that the Gentiles were commonly referred to as dogs and I assume that this “label” referred to her heritage….and maybe it wasn’t as condescending as it comes across to me. On Sunday, Pastor Jon had a slightly different interpretation. He drew attention to the fact that she wasn’t a Christ follower. She wasn’t part of the family. She was, in fact a child sacrificing pagan idol worshiper who offered her own daughter up to a pretend god on an alter as a sacrifice….resulting in the demon possession. Thus, her standing was better described as “the dog” as opposed to “the children” who were part of the family. I guess that makes me mad at “mom” too….but now I’m just sort of mad at both sides.
When I examine my own emotional response I come to the conclusion that my feelings stem almost entirely from my prideful (and inaccurate) assumption that I am entitled to Jesus’ favor and power. When it comes to his miracles and blessings it’s “ask and you shall receive…”“First come, first served”, right? The woman deserves it…simply because she’s here, at the front of the line, asking for it. That’s pretty messed up and I should probably check myself a little bit.
Moving on, I see that this child sacrificing mother was able to be more mature than perhaps I would’ve been. She was able to see a bigger picture…the correct perspective…and act accordingly.
Pastor Jon said that the woman demonstrated her faith via “humility and persistence.” Ok, that’s cool I guess…I certainly understand that we should all be humble. But when God tells us no, aren’t we supposed to bow our head, tuck our tail between our legs and sulk away? Reminding ourselves that we suck at life and never deserved his grace anyway? That’s usually what I do.
Last week I heard an awesome talk by a guy named Micah Parker. Perhaps the biggest takeaway I got was his interpretation of Psalm 23. Verse 4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Micah said that the most important word in this sentence is “through.” We all go through valleys in life, but when we are stuck in one…we don’t grow. We just harden up, with bitterness, resentment, anger and self pity.
This is probably brutally obvious but persisting in the face of adversity is admirable. Struggling and trying and fighting through challenges provides God a perfect venue to pour out his blessings on us. He promises us that we can handle anything that comes our way, but we have to persist and get through it.
So, getting back to the original passage. It’s impressive for me to see this woman recognize her own depravity, and with no sense of entitlement continue to fight for her daughter. And in the midst of a problem that she couldn’t fix on her own, Jesus swoops in and says, “Ok, good job…I’ll take it from here.”