This past weekend Pastor Kathleen looked with us at one of the most perplexing Jesus stories in the Bible. The story, from Mark 7:24-30 seems to suggest that Jesus calls a mother in need a dog:
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.
Take Away #1: Jesus once again breaks social and religious barriers by heading into a non-Jewish area. A good Jew, especially a good Jewish Rabbi, would never step foot into such an area. But Jesus recklessly does so because all are included in God’s grace.
Take Away #2: The woman shows extraordinary hutzpah (faith)! She’s a Gentile (non-Jew). She comes from a line known for being enemies of the Jews. And she’s a woman (duh!). And this non-Jewish, enemy of the Jews woman breaks with social protocol and approaches a man without permission, and a Jewish man at that.
Take Away #3: Jesus responds with head-scratching grace. At first he seems to reject her, suggesting she’s a dog. Then he commends her for her faith and heals her daughter. What is Jesus up to? Was he having a bad day? Was he caught off guard? Unlike today where dogs are household pets, dogs in Jesus’ day ran wild. They were “outsiders.” Jesus is in outsider territory, ambushed by an outsider woman. Could it be that Jesus is making a point to the audience looking in? That Jesus comes for Jews and Gentiles alike? That this Gentile woman is a model for faith—something the Jews might want to consider?
Take Away #4: The crumbs of God’s grace are more than enough. But in Jesus, we are invited beyond crumbs to the feast of grace.