Scripture: Mark 7:24-30
24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. 25 But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, "Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 28 But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29 And he said to her, "For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." 30 And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.
Meditation: Do you ever feel "put-off" by the Lord? This passage describes the only occasion in which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) A Gentile woman – an outsider who was not a member of the chosen people – puts Jesus on the spot by pleading with him to show mercy to her daughter who was tormented with an evil spirit. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus very likely did this not to put the woman off, but rather to test her sincerity and to awaken faith in her.
What did Jesus mean by the expression "throwing bread to the dogs"? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles with arrogance and insolence as "unclean dogs" since the Gentiles were excluded from God's covenant and favor with Israel. For the Greeks the "dog" was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew's Gospel records the expression do not give dogs what is holy (Matthew 7:6). Jesus, no doubt, spoke with a smile rather than with an insult because this woman immediately responds with wit and faith - "even the dogs eat the crumbs". Jesus praises a Gentile woman for her persistent faith and for her affectionate love. She made the misery of her child her own and she was willing to suffer rebuff in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?
"Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and never doubt your loving care and mercy. Increase my faith in your saving help and deliver me from all evil and harm."
Psalm 106:3-4, 35-37, 40
3 Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at
4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you deliver them;
34 They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons;
40 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage
"The Gentiles, those who dwell on the borders, can be saved if
they believe... Think of it this way: Each of us when he sins is
living on the borders of Tyre or Sidon or of Pharaoh and Egypt.
They are on the borders of those who are outside the inheritance
of God." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 11.16.3)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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