Monday 15 November 2021

Bible Book:

'Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.' (v. 28)

Mark 7:24-30 Monday 15 November 2021

Psalm 37:1-11


When Mark was writing his gospel around 70 AD, it is likely that he was mindful of non-Jews becoming followers of 'The Way' of Jesus. Today’s reading takes place near Tyre, a significant harbour town on the coast, some 40 miles north west of Capernaum. This area between Galilee and the coast was known as Phoenicia and was Gentile territory.

Jesus appears to be alone, as there are no references to his closest disciples. Some scholars suggest that was because he was engaged in mission and evangelism to Gentile neighbours; others believe Jesus might have been fleeing Herod’s hostility; another suggestion is that Jesus needed time to reflect on a less-than-successful ministry in Galilee. Whatever the reasons for Jesus being beyond Galilee, his fame had already gone before him and reports of his miracles had circulated. In spite of his wish to keep his presence secret (v. 24), a local woman begs him to drive out the demons from her daughter. The unnamed woman deferentially calls Jesus 'Sir' or 'Lord', remarkable in itself in this predominantly non-Jewish territory. What follows is a short and lively conversation suggesting Jesus is persuaded by the woman’s faith in him to enable a healing miracle. When the Syrian Phoenician woman returned home, her daughter was well.

Those familiar today with the miracles of Jesus will find nothing extraordinary about this healing. What does cause a raised eyebrow is the dialogue between Jesus and the mother of the child. Jesus at first seems to say that his ministry is primarily for the Jews, ie “the children’s food” (v. 27). He compounds this by referring to Gentiles as “dogs” in the same verse, and says that “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Those of us who are Gentiles might recoil at such a harsh comment.

However, we don't know the tone of voice Jesus used when he spoke these words. The woman herself does not seem to be wounded by his comment; she actually seems to agree with Jesus’ apparent insistence that his primary task is salvation for the Jews. Yet she suggests that the Messiah’s mission might also be for non-Jews, saying: “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”(v. 28). As reported here in Mark’s Gospel, this is not a theoretical theological discussion, but a piece of quick-witted conversation. There is mutual affirmation; of Jesus as 'Lord' on the one hand; of the woman’s faith on the other. It is this mutual understanding of divinity, purpose and faith that enables Jesus to perform the miracle – which he surely did with a reassuring smile!


To Ponder:

  • 'My country first' is being heard among the nations more and more at the moment. Does this passage have anything to add to a discussion on this subject?
  • Is there a conflict between today’s reading with Jesus’ saying “Love your neighbour as yourself"?


We pray today for those who feel they are outsiders. We pray to listen and engage with them so their voices may be heard.

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