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, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
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.”
But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Mark 7:24-30
One of my favorite stories in all scripture is this one. Jesus has traveled north and west to the coast. He has crossed a boundary again as this land is, without a doubt, predominantly Gentile and not all that friendly to Jews. According to Josephus, during the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66AD, the people of Tyre turned on the Jews in favor of the Romans.
Jesus enters a house to avoid crowds as even here, his popularity grows. Remember, people from Tyre and Sidon were present when he taught the crowd from the boat. There is no mention of the twelve, but one can assume they are there.
In rushes a woman and bows at his feet. She crosses boundaries as a woman and a Gentile and begs as one with special standing (supported by the Greek) with this Rabbi. She asks for an exorcism for her daughter; shades of Jairus and the unclean woman. Also, illusions of the women of Zeraphath and Shunam (1Kings 17, 2 Kings 4).
Jesus’ answer seems abrupt and insensitive. His expression of the children being fed bread first and then the dogs reveals the boundaries as the former refers to Jews and the later Gentiles. Context matters as this was how Jews saw Greeks, Romans, or any considered Gentiles because they are considered unclean (the preceding bLOG was about clean and unclean).
Remember, the twelve are likely watching this uncomfortable scene, and this might be more of a teaching moment for them than an insulting pushback against this Syrophoenician woman.
She respectfully fires back out of love for her daughter, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Jesus hears her passionate retort, agrees, and sends the woman on her way. Her daughter is healed!
The following two bLOGs are about his ministry to Gentiles. Jesus is teaching the disciples that they will be reaching out to the Gentiles too. For the Message of The Kingdom crosses all boundaries.
Who do you consider unclean? They are worthy of access to Him as well!
Teach us to see who we don’t see. Please help us to know we are not sharing our ways but yours.
I pray this in the name of the King. Amen!