Thursday, April 26th. Mark 7:24-30

 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

This has always been a difficult text for me.  Through the years, after having written several sermons on it as it has come up in the schedule, I’ve heard this text in different ways.  But I always come back to the same place – either Jesus is demonstrating his humanity here in the midst of a particularly difficult day or Mark is doing it for him.

Jesus seldom looks more reluctant, racist, or cold-hearted than he does here.

He sneaks into town to hide out in a house hoping no one would notice him.  While we all need our rest and time to unwind, this still comes across as diva behavior and falls short of the Jesus we expect, the person going about doing good.

A woman with an ill daughter comes to find him. Mark tells us that she is a Gentile and immediately our minds make connections:

Jews and Gentiles don’t mix.  That is ridiculous as God is their mutual Creator and Father and they need to learn to live in peace and harmony with one another.  We know this is God’s intentions because this is how we see Jesus act. We especially expect Jesus to show love and hospitality to strangers.

Well, maybe so…but not so much here.  Instead, Jesus seems rude, dismissive and sarcastic.  Let’s be honest here – if sick children don’t tug at your heart strings then you are plain and simply heartless.  And Jesus, with his rude reception of this desperate mother who sought nothing more than help for her daughter, comes across right here like a class A jerk.

But this woman fires right back at him like a seasoned bartender or a small town waitress in a diner who long ago quit playing polite with men acting like jerks – with a soft voice that only emphasizes the seething anger under its surface, she says, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Such is the tone that our world expects the powerless to take when asking for crumbs from the powerful.  Be nice.  Be polite.  Know your place.  Realize WHO you are talking to (as if the powerful person somehow ascended to their position by divine right rather than historical accident.)

Nothing is more important to this woman than help for her daughter and she is not going to be dismissed, even by a dismissive remark.  My mother in heaven, a fiercely proud woman with a strong back, a sharp tongue and a deep love for her children would  be cheering for that Syrophoenician had she been there that day.  You go girl!

And Jesus is moved.  He even says it: “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.”

Here’s my take on this passage for today.  Especially as it falls on the heals of Jesus dealing with the Pharisees and their conception of religious rules.  We could very well have a sense of Jesus as seen by this woman.  Jesus doesn’t do what we expect when we expect it.  He doesn’t seem to follow OUR rules.  But that ought not dissuade us from sticking to our guns, from being bold, from hanging in there, especially when we do so for the sick, the weak and the worldly powerless.

This Syrophoenician woman is one of my heroes in the Bible.

Let us pray:  Jesus, this is a hard story for us to hear.  It is hard because you seem so much less caring than we expect you to be, even though the daughter is cured in the end.  And yet we finally hear great encouragement in this story – not only of your power to heal but also the power that lies deep inside of us that gets expressed through our own honesty and unwillingness to back down when people need help.  For all of this, even the parts that are hard to understand, we give you thanks.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


4 Responses to “Thursday, April 26th. Mark 7:24-30”

  1. maxmaw Says:

    First, a minor note: “Especially as it falls on the heals of Jesus dealing with the Pharisees and their conception of religious rules,” includes a typographical error. ‘Heals’ should be spelled ‘heels.’

    Second, I’ve always understood Jesus’ admonition, “‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,’” as resembling the situation with Lazarus; everything in good (i.e., God’s) time.

    In other words, Jesus says that she feed the children before their food spoils, otherwise you would have to throw it away, feeding the animals as it were. He has plenty of time to address her plea.

    The woman informs Jesus that they subsist on the crumbs, and not to fear that the children would be left hungry. But, foremost and more immediate, she remains concerned about the health of her ailing child.

    IMO, Jesus acknowledges that she has the correct priorities for her family; first health, and then hunger of her children. For the obvious maternal love that she demonstrates, he heals her daughter immediately.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    For me it emphasizes the truly human nature of Jesus. If we didn’t see humanity he would be unbelievable.

  3. Kerry, Allie, Jonathan and Steve Says:

    I love your honesty. I don’t understand ANY of this one. Thank you for all you bring into our lives.

  4. Sharon Longnecker Says:

    Thank you for this devotion. By your openness, you allow us to be honest about our own questions about such texts. Even though it turns out right in the end, the process is hard for us to understand. Here we rely upon our knowledge of Jesus and the fact that he was sinless to carry us through this one.
    P. S. Don’t worry about the typos–easy to happen when you are creating these excellent devotions on a daily basis, not to mention taking care of a big congregation.

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