A woman came to Jesus, begging him to heal her “little daughter.” She fell at his feet and implored him to cast the demon out of her child. Everything I know about Jesus leads me to expect him to help this desperate mother. Stories of his compassion. Accounts of long days spent healing those in need. Yet Jesus defies my expectations and puts this desperate mother off. Jesus says,“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Did he just call her a dog? Wow.
Jesus has made his way to Tyre, which is outside the Jewish regions. He is in a place where Gentiles live. The mother pleading for her child is from a different ethnic group, nationality, gender, and religion. Truly, she is not one of his “tribe.” Despite that, she pushes back, defying custom and propriety by arguing, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he relents. And the daughter is healed.
I don’t like Jesus’ initial reaction. I don’t like him telling this woman that her need is somehow less pressing because she is not in his group. But I am pleased with the outcome. I like that Jesus responds to her insistence. I love her clever use of his insult in her argument. I am relieved to find that Jesus has compassion and healing for people outside his circle. Even one who talks back.
None of us are outsiders from God’s perspective. We all are children of the same creator. No matter our ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, we are all beloved by God. No matter what we have done, or what we believe, or how we question, or how we have snapped back at God, we are all beloved by God. God’s love, healing, and new life transcend the categories humans use to separate us from each other. God’s love, healing and new life change everything.
Mark 7: 24 – 30
From there [Jesus] 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.