He tried to get away for a bit. Needed some down time. So Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon, entered a house and hoped no one would notice. Yet, writes Mark, “He could not be hidden” (7:24). Ministry for the man Jesus was ramping up. His mighty works were being spoken of widely and many were wanting to know personal healing through His miraculous power. And though He came first to His own people, the nation of Israel, those outside “the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12), also heard of Him and some were even so bold as to reach out to this Man who claimed to be Israel’s Messiah.
Enter a Gentile woman, a Syrophoenician by birth. She walked into the house, fell down at Jesus’ feet, and pleaded with Him. Not for herself, but for her daughter who had “an unclean spirit” . . . “and she begged Him to cast the demon out of her daughter” (7:25-26).
And while the interaction between the Savior and this seeker seems a bit awkward to us, I’m thinking it was quite remarkable to those who observed their interaction. First, Jews did not acknowledge Gentiles very favorably. Second, men did not engage women who were not their wives — much less Gentile women. Third, Jesus came first “to His own” (John 1:11) — His primary mission was to the nation of Israel. But Jesus engages the woman, and in this encounter hints that the Bread of Life which He came to give, though offered to the twelve tribes initially, would be offered to all.
But the encounter comes off a bit harsh. Jesus, it seems, rebuffs her. He says that the children, Israel, should be filled first and that the food for them should not be thrown to the dogs. Ouch, that’s kind of an unexpected thing for Jesus to call a woman in such need. While it may have been a common term of contempt used by Jews for Gentiles, somehow it doesn’t feel right coming from Jesus. Some have said that Jesus uses a “softer term” . . . that by referring to her as “a little dog” (NKJV), or puppy, there is a compassion conveyed by Jesus. Regardless, that it was meant to test her is clear. And it sets up an amazing response by this desperate woman kneeling at the feet of Jesus.
But she answered Him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the childrens crumbs.” (Mark 7:28 ESV)
“Yes Lord, I’m only a little Gentile dog,” she says, “but I know that even puppies can benefit from the crumbs dropped by children from the table. That’s all I’m asking for, just a few crumbs. Your power is so great, that just the afterglow of it will meet my need. Your grace so life giving, that just a drop will satisfy my longing. That’s all I’m asking for, just a few leftover crumbs from the food of your ministry to the Jews.”
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. (Mark 7:29-30 ESV)
It was how she responded . . . it was something she said that made the difference. Not that it was the words themselves but the humble, repentant, faith-filled heart behind the words. Just a few crumbs . . . though I don’t deserve even that, that’s all I need, Jesus. And because of that utterance, Jesus says, her petition was granted and her daughter was healed.
Faith often is known by how we respond and by what we say. What we believe is confessed with the mouth. We declare our dependence. We acknowledge His grace and power. And without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
O to be people who continually abide in the life-giving provision of the Bread of Life because of something we said.
By His grace . . . and for His glory.