Scripture: Mark 7:24-30 First, a little background to the passage: The Jewish people had developed a lot of animosity toward Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. The Gentiles were pagans, god worshippers. Some had sexual rituals…a Jewish person would not go to their homes for fear of being defiled. For one thing, they would abort children in their homes and Jewish people would consider it a cemetery. The idea of Jews was to avoid them all for fear of being defiled by one. To speak with a Gentile was taboo; to speak with a Gentile woman was scandalous. The religious Jewish people had completely lost the mission they were “chosen” for- “to be a light to the nations” and replaced it with being “chosen” and special as if though God cared for only them and all others were defiled and unworthy.
Observation: The woman in this story was a Gentile from the southern part of what is now Turkey. She would have been at least a former god/s worshipper of some sort. It is true and clear that Jesus’ mission was to the Jew first. They WERE God’s chosen. But why and what were they chosen for? To be a light to the nations. Jesus interacts with a number of Gentiles, even a female Gentile in the story of the woman at the well, and all of this is highly taboo and unheard of. So it’s important to watch what Jesus DOES, not just what he says. The first thing is that he spoke with this woman at all. This is in and of itself shocking. The Jewish term for Gentiles is often “dog” which denotes being outcast (dogs weren’t pets to them, they were kept outside the cities and were used to clean up other decayed animals. They were more like buzzards in our minds today I suppose).
Jesus conversation with her is actually intended for the people (primarily Jewish) to overhear. He said what the people are thinking, ‘Why take from the children and give it to the dogs?” or “Why should a Gentile receive benefits intended for Jews?” This was a common idiom, albeit racist, Jesus is quoting from his culture.
This context continues throughout the New Testament and Paul breaks through that the good news of Jesus IS for all and not merely the Jewish people. It’s hard for us to understand this as Gentiles who are the ones mostly who are believers, but the first context of Christianity was distinctively Jewish.
Anyway, watch what Jesus DOES. Did he help her? Yes. Was he hesitant to do so? No. Did he want those with him to understand that he came for all? Yes he did. And the economy of the Kingdom is not heritage, it’s faith in the soul and heart.
It’s hard for us to understand why Jesus would seemingly be so harsh with this woman and even seem to call her a “dog.” But look carefully and we see that his words aren’t for her; they are for those whose attitudes deemed her unworthy. The closest similar context I can think of would be like a white man in the 60’s where some drinking fountains were for whites only. And there’s a line of people for the “white” water fountain and a black man walks up panting and parched, obviously in great need of water-much more than others in line. And the white man in front of the line turns and says, “Is it right for a black man to drink? Or even ahead of a white man?” And he lets him in front because of his great need. The question is not for himself, nor does it portray his beliefs. What he DOES shows his beliefs and, while the others may not like it, they understand that what he DOES in that situation states a conviction that he holds.
Of course, while it speaks to racism, Jesus wasn’t talking about that-his focus here is about faith itself.
Application: What Jesus DOES clearly trumps his words and he is also showing this truth: God accepts us not on the basis of “who we are” but rather by our faith. This woman came to Jesus, not her other gods or anyone else, because she had faith he could help her. He did…because of her faith, not because she had the right background, race, or even morals. Jesus judges not by the color of our skin, our background, or anything other than the content of our faith in Him.
Prayer: I have faith Lord. Help my lack of faith.