In part of the gospel lesson for this Sunday, a woman desperately approaches Jesus begging healing for her little girl (Mark 7:24-30). The writer describes her as a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. As such, she would have had no business or theological right to approach the Jewish rabbi, but she does. Jesus’ response to her seems unrecognizable: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Hmmm…Is Jesus really calling her a dog? Too tired, Jesus? Too busy? A snob? Are you only willing to serve “your kind” just when we are starting to believe that all people are “your kind”?
Here in Jesus’ response lies one of the most daunting depictions of his character in all of Scripture, in my opinion: “We cannot give the good food to the dogs.”
Still, the mother seems to understand something about her own agency as a human being and pushes back. Perhaps in doing so, Jesus is set free to take a closer look; to go a little deeper. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” she tells him. Jesus is impressed, and her daughter is healed. He says it is because of her faith.
I’m guessing that Bible scholars have had a field day with this passage over the years. It certainly continues to arrest my attention, because the Jesus presented is not the one I think I know or want to know. Jesus seems out of character, and quite frankly so does she. Who are those people in our world today considered as “dogs” – not the lovable kinds of household pets that we adore, but those bothersome nuisances to be discarded and considered worthless? Who are those people whose pursuit of basic human rights are interruptions to others, making them uncomfortable?
I hope you will join us this Sunday as we explore our Scripture passages, and if not, perhaps you will go on line next week to listen or read the sermon. I’m counting on the Holy Spirit to make all things clear(er).
Grace and peace,