Mark 7:24-30 He left there and went away into the regions of Tyre and Sidon. He went into a house and he did not wish anyone to know about it, but he could not be there without people knowing about it. When a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him, she immediately came and threw herself at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. She asked him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "First of all you must let the children eat their fill; it is not right to take the bread that belongs to the children and to throw it to the dogs." "True, sir," she answered, "but even the dogs below the table eat some of the bits of bread that the children throw away." He said to her, "Because of this word, go your way! The demon has come out of your daughter!" She went away and found the child thrown upon her bed and the demon gone.
I have read over this story many times, but have missed the value of it. First, let us look at the geography of the story being told. Tyre and Sidon were cities of Phoenicia, which was a part of Syria. Phoenicia stretched north from Carmel, right along the coastal plain. It lay between Galilee and the seacoast. So the first thing that is of interest is that Jesus is in Gentile territory. Many scholars feel this was a bold statement by Jesus. In prior scripture, he preached nothing you put into your body could defile it, but instead it was what comes out of the heart that defiles (Mark 7:14). By Jesus being in Gentile territory he was easily saying that no one was unclean. Jews would never soil their life by mixing with unclean Gentiles, but here Jesus was in a Gentile’s house. Jesus was more than likely seeking refuge. He was under attack from every direction. Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t get a break? Jesus knew the feeling. The Pharisees and scribes were after Him for breaking their laws and regulations. Herod looked at him as a great inconvenience, and the people of Nazareth treated him with contempt. Jesus chose to withdrawal from the animosity of the Jews. “The foundation of the Kingdom of the Gentiles was laid. It is the forecast of the whole history of Christianity. The rejection of the Jews had become the opportunity of the Gentiles.” – William Barclay Daily Study Bible
Jesus could not hide his presence. Immediately a woman enters the scene. She throws herself at the feet of Jesus. She already has three strikes against her by normal standards: a gentile, a pagan, and a woman. The words that come next from Jesus’ mouth seem shocking. He says, “First of all you must let the children eat their fill; it is not right to take the bread that belongs to the children and to throw it to the dogs.” The word dog was used mostly as a term of contempt for the Gentiles. However, Jesus did not use the usual word; he used a diminutive word, which described, not the wild dogs of the streets, but the little pet dogs of the house. In Greek, diminutives are characteristically affectionate. Jesus gave softness to the word. Jesus does not shut the door on the woman; He only makes the priority of his mission known- first to the Jews, then Gentiles. My favorite part is how the woman responds to him. She is not offended, or irritated, but seems to fully understand something the Jews could not. She said, “but even the dogs below the table eat some of the bits of bread that the children throw away.” She implies she understands her place, and will be happy with whatever left overs they do not claim for their own. Basically, whatever (grace) you give me, I will graciously accept. Jesus is so overwhelmed with this refreshing understanding he tells her, “Because of this word, go your way! The demon has come out of your daughter!” Her story is one of deep understanding and total faith. Jesus understood the feeling of the disdained (unworthy, rejected, disregarded) woman standing in front of him, because he too felt the same emotions from his own people. This woman symbolically represents the whole Gentile world ready to embrace a Savior the Jews would reject.
The story is such a tender one about underserving grace. The woman knew she had no merit to ask for a miracle, but chose to believe in the Grace she knew Jesus could bestow. What a blessing the Jews missed because they were so rigid and unwilling to open their eyes. The truth is that none of us deserve anything but death because of our sinful nature. We are all reliant upon the grace of God for anything we receive. The old hymn states,
“Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
I hope that you have readily received God’s grace through salvation. Jesus died on the cross for our sin, was buried, and resurrected on the third day. He did all this because he loved us with an agape love.
Are we willing to open our eyes and truly see the measure of His grace?