Today’s reading was Mark 7:24-30
24 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. 25 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. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 “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.”
28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
This little passage is a TARDIS passage, in that it may look small, but inside it is huge (in significance).
At first glance, it looks a whole lot like Jesus is being racist, almost refusing to help the woman because she is not one of the chosen people, Israel, the children of God. But can this be right? We know from other parts of the gospels that Jesus has a heart for the outcasts, the afflicted, the less fortunate. Can he really be refusing her, on the basis of race?
My New Testament professor, Conrad Gempf, provided what I consider to be the best explanation of this passage. His opinion was that Jesus said what he said to provoke further faith in the woman. He imagined that as Jesus said this, he winked, as if to communicate to the woman… “And now YOU say….” And then she said exactly what he wanted to hear, and he blessed her with the miracle. It’s like a set piece, or a clever piece of improv, where the woman gets the drift and delivers the perfect next line.
The challenge I get from this passage is, How badly do I want it? How badly do I want Jesus’ action in my life, that I will not take no for an answer, that I will not be dissuaded, that I will keep coming back until I get what I need? This sort of faith may look presumptuous, but Jesus likes it, and often rewards it (see the Persistent Widow story in Luke 18:1-8).
It seems that Jesus responds well to the desperate. For this woman, she had nowhere else to turn. Jesus was her only hope. She knew it, and he knew it.
I remember talking to a friend a few years ago who has struggled for a long time with the temptation of pornography. Finally, in desperation, he sat in his car and literally screamed out to God to deliver him from this addiction. And God did. Beyond all his previous attempts, accountability, determination etc., it was this desperate crying out to God that made the difference.
So what are you dealing with in your life? A habitual sin? A lost family member? Deliverance from something or someone? How badly do you want it? Cry out to God. Let desperation move you to your knees. Cling on to Jesus and demand your “crumbs.” He will surely not refuse you.