Today I was reading Mark 7. One particular verse stood out and I just could not let it go. It actually made me mad. A Greek woman begs Jesus to drive a demon out of her daughter and his response to her is “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Now I have read enough Bible to know that the Jewish people are the “children” Jesus is referring to and the “dogs”? That’s the Gentiles. That’s ME! I’m reading this and thinking Jesus is literally calling me a dog. So far beneath the Jews as to not even be human. WOW! I knew I needed to looking into this more because Jesus does in fact heal the woman’s daughter and her faith is held up as an example. Her response to him was “Yes Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Instead of getting offended like I was, she told Jesus that her faith and belief in him was so strong that she was willing to settle for any crumbs he had left over. That even those crumbs would be enough to heal her daughter.
What I wouldn’t give for that kind of faith. And as I looked into it, many of the articles I found said that Jesus was giving her a promise. That his message of salvation would not be only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. That he used the term “dog” because that was how Gentiles were often described as, or viewed by the Jewish people. It was like Jesus had a sense of humor. He was speaking tongue-in-cheek. Telling her that there would be more than enough left over after the “children” of God had eaten their fill.
And in the original version the term “dog” was used to describe a household pet and not a wild animal. Think about the people you know who own dogs. Sometimes they are loved and cherished even more than the children of the household. Right?
I find it interesting that this story is included in and comes after Jesus’ speech about what is really clean and “unclean”. That is “what comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean”. Mark 7:20-23
In Matthew’s version of this story, the hearts of Jesus’ disciples are hardened and they make repeated attempts to send this woman away. To keep her from bothering Jesus. But in her faith, she persists. Who is “unclean” here?
In Mark 8:11 the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign from heaven, they ask him to prove that he really is who he says he is. But was there really any sign that would be good enough for them? Jesus knew the answer. Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:12) I want to have the faith of the woman who was willing to settle for Jesus’ crumbs, but so many times I feel like the Pharisees, asking Jesus for another sign, for more proof that he is there and present in my life, in this world and that he loves me.
I think sometimes that is the nature of faith, it’s the journey. I’m sure that there are people to whom faith comes easily, with never a doubt. Sadly I am not one of them. I work every day to try to grow in faith and love. Sometimes I’m successful, lots of times I’m not. But maybe it’s in the persistence – like the woman begging Jesus to heal her daughter – that we are healed. Maybe it’s by constantly pushing through the road blocks, that life is throwing up in front of us, that we make our faith journey. Maybe the rocky path isn’t rocky because you’re facing trials and tribulations, maybe the rocky path is the one on which faith doesn’t come easily, but you still persist in walking?