The Insult

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Mark 7:24-30 (Read also Matthew 15:21-28)

Jesus went out into Gentile territory for some peace and quiet, He went into the old port city of Tyre in Phoenicia. He wanted to be anonymous, He didn’t want hordes of disciples following Him as before. Jesus was on a holiday trip. Then came this Greek woman from the region, chasing after Jesus. She knows the miraculous power that Jesus carries and she is desperate for Him to heal her daughter. We are told that her daughter is “possessed by an impure spirit” and is “suffering terribly”.

Jesus’ usual demeanor towards the sick or suffering is one of compassion (Mark 5:1-18) but here He gives her a sharp and insulting reply. He says that His mission is toward the children (of God), the Jews, and likens Gentiles (like her) to dogs. Dogs, in those days were considered unclean animals, their status was below a slave. Even though they were accepted as pets or work animals in households, calling someone a dog was still highly derogatory.

Jesus, being a Jewish rabbi, sees Jews apart from and above the other nations (Deuteronomy 14:2; Exodus 4:22, 19:5). They are the exclusively chosen nation and the children of God. Here He eludes to Himself as the bread (Exodus 16; John 6:32-40) – the sustenance of life. He is their bread, He belongs to the children of Israel. His mission of reconciliation and redemption is first towards the Jews. Although He didn’t agree with what the Jews have made the Law out to be, He was still a fervent believer that they were God’s priority.

In the face of Jesus’ offensive words, the woman’s reply was powerful. She acknowledged that Jesus was for the Jews but did not exclude herself from making Jesus her own. She humbled herself to be identified with a dog and says that even the dogs eat the crumbs of the bread that fall off. For the faith in her heart and humility in her words, she was rewarded with the healing she wanted.

Her humility caused her to lay her own ethnicity before Christ. She did not assert her own status, her own ethnicity, her own home town or the fact that He was standing on her side of the fence! She bowed to agree with Jesus that she is secondary. Giving up her rights to be respected, she considers herself wholly at His mercy. In His kingdom, she has no rights. In His economy, she is but lowly, poor and desolate. She is humble but bold. In her humility, she is assertive. She asserts that the kingdom has crumbs; it has extras from the plenty. She asserts that even the extras are more than enough for her. In His kingdom, abundance is poured out. In His economy, there is no small change because even the small is immeasurable to us.

This woman helps us to understand how we as Gentile Christians relate to the Jews and our Jewish Jesus. We as Gentiles receive the side benefits of God’s redemption of Israel as ingrafted branches (Romans 11:11-24) / sheep in the other pen (John 10:16). Through the blood of Christ, we are inducted into God’s household (Ephesians 2:11-22). 

So even the side benefits of God’s redemption is more than enough. You see, the crumbs aren’t left overs, they are side benefits from the plenty that are for the children. His kingdom is one of abundance (Matthew 14:13-21) and overflow. There is more than enough in His kingdom for both the Jews and Gentiles. Every bit of grace from God is more than enough grace for us. Even bit of provision is more than enough for us. His finished work on the cross is more than enough redemption, healing, deliverance, freedom and provision for the world.

This woman exemplifies the combination of humility, boldness and faith. May we approach Christ as she did.