Wednesday before Proper 5: Mark 7:24-30
Reading: Mark 7:24-30
Dogs at the Table
In an odd life collision of circumstance, I turned in a writing sample yesterday on this very passage. I had a youth once (now an adult friend) that was pretty ticked at Jesus over his word choice in Mark 7. She was pretty terrific about really digging in to scripture and coming up with two handfuls of questions every time, often prefaced by, “What is THIS, Kevin!?” I love that stuff.
The truth is, we don’t really know why Jesus snapped back at the nice Gentile lady. Her request wasn’t out of line or even out of the ordinary. It appears that Jesus was on a bit of a break and trying to stay off radar, but other than that it seems like an unnecessary stiff-arm. She asks for healing; Jesus accuses her of being a Gentile dog, trying to steal food from the children of Israel. That can easily be construed as racism. She counters, indicating that even dogs eat the scraps dropped by the children—and suddenly this isn’t about a miracle anymore.
The miracle happens; Jesus remotely exorcises a demon and we all go on our merry way. But notice why he performs the miracle. Jesus would often perform a miracle based upon the faith of the person asking, and it’s clear that the woman has faith. Jesus doesn’t honor her faith, however. He honors her reply. Again and again in the gospels we see Jesus go toe to toe with detractors attempting to best him in conversation, silencing them every time. Here the woman appears to have gotten the upper hand, and simultaneously reveals for the first time the truth of the good news of Jesus—it’s not just for the children of Israel anymore. Jesus had surely come for the Jews, but others will eat at the table as well.
Have you encountered this passage before? What do you make of it?
Have you ever been challenged in where you set the limits of your willingness to minister? How did you respond?
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