Flashback Episode — Answering the Insult: Mark 7:24-30

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In today’s hypersensitive society and culture, it’s hard to imagine Jesus being intentionally offensive towards someone. After all, since God is love, and Jesus came to represent God, shouldn’t Jesus love everyone equally?

In my mind, the answer to this question is a yes, but with this answer, we find several examples where Jesus simply is not overly interested in being kind or nice to everyone. When reading the gospels, we quickly discover that Jesus reserved some harsh comments for the religious leaders. I can understand challenging those who claimed to represent God on earth when they were doing a bad job, however, the passage we will be focusing on in this episode is not about Jesus insulting the religious leaders.

Instead, against all politically correct, hypersensitive advice, our passage focuses in on Jesus insulting a gentile woman who came asking for His help. While this sounds very un-Christlike, I wonder if this insult and the conversation that surrounded it, can teach us something about God’s character.

Our passage for this episode is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will read it using the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 24, we learn that:

24 Jesus went from there to a place near Tyre. He entered a house. He did not want anyone to know where he was. But he could not keep it a secret. 25 Soon a woman heard about him. An evil spirit controlled her little daughter. The woman came to Jesus and fell at his feet. 26 She was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

Pausing our reading briefly, so far, this event is normal. Jesus goes to a place, wants to keep a low profile, but was unsuccessful. When word spreads that He was in the area, people came requesting help. It would not be logical to think that only Jews would come if Jesus is capable and willing to help everyone, so here we have a Greek mother coming to ask for help for her daughter.

So far, this event is pretty straight forward. But in the next verse, Jesus shocks everyone present, and His response should shock us living over 2000 years later. In verse 27, Jesus replied saying:

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

This might just be the most offensive statement Jesus ever made in His entire ministry. In just a few words, Jesus lowers the status of all non-Jews to be equal to dogs – at least that is how our hypersensitive world today would interpret this statement.

Part of me wonders if this is not Jesus’ analogy. While it certainly seems as though Jesus is validating this prejudice by repeating it, I wonder if the Jews, as an unwritten national rule, believed themselves to be God’s only children, and every gentile person was equal to dogs. I don’t believe there is a different scripture in the Bible to support this exact idea, but we do know the Jewish leaders had a very clear “us vs. them” attitude and that they believed themselves to be superior.

I wonder if Jesus made this statement, not for the woman herself, but for those standing around witnessing this request. The implication in Jesus’ words is that this woman should wait in line till the very end – specifically after all the Jews who had come to be helped were through – and if there was time left, and perhaps a little bit of Holy Spirit left after everyone else had been helped, then maybe Jesus would help her. This interpretation of Jesus’ words doesn’t really sound like Jesus, except that Jesus might simply be speaking the thoughts of those witnessing this event.

Perhaps there was a long line of Jews needing help, and first-century culture didn’t say first come, first served, like our culture today. Instead, they had a Jews first, no exceptions mentality.

Once Jesus had everyone’s attention with His harsh response, we discover the woman’s quick reply. Continuing in verse 28, the mother responds:

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “That was a good reply. You may go. The demon has left your daughter.”

30 So she went home and found her child lying on the bed. And the demon was gone.

In this event, if we can step back from Jesus’ insult, we see some amazing themes at work. While it would be easy to focus exclusively on Jesus’ insult and ignore the rest of the event, we would miss an amazing truth that is contained within this passage.

While the woman’s response to Jesus’ insult might have had a feeling of sarcasm, her response displayed an impressive amount of faith. Her response basically says that any crumb or sliver of help will be enough. She isn’t interested in the scraps after the meal, if any “food” is left, but instead she is content with the crumbs that might fall during the meal. Pulling the idea outside of the meal metaphor, this woman tells Jesus she is fine with any help He can offer, and if one of the upcoming miracles doesn’t need all of its required elements, she is happy to have the leftovers.

This level of faith is amazing when we think about it. Looking at the faith of this woman, and the centurion that Jesus helped earlier in His ministry, I get the impression that Jesus’ gentile miracles displayed more profound faith than His miracles for those of Jewish ancestry.

But this isn’t the only theme we see hidden within this short conversation. Within this conversation is the idea that God came to bless the Jews, but that the Jews were to bless others with their blessings. The woman’s response challenges this ideal, saying that this bless-it-forward attitude is not happening. If anything, the Jews give them – the gentiles – crumbs, but generally nothing at all.

This gentile woman exposes the failures of the Jewish people in her response. While Jesus alludes to how God intended for the Jews to model God’s attitude and bless others, the woman’s response shows how this original plan was failing. I wonder if Jesus used this event as a teaching point later in His ministry with the disciples, telling them that they were to help and bless those that God brings their way, regardless of the person’s nationality or ethnicity, or even their race, gender, or beliefs.

The big truth for us living today is to not mess up this plan like the Jewish people did. God loves all people, and He has called His people to love others and bless others. In God’s eyes, His people will not display an “us vs. them” attitude, but instead God’s people will display an “us blessing, helping, and loving them” attitude. This is God’s ideal for His people, and as followers of Christ, it is our challenge living 2,000 years later.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to intentionally love and bless those who God brings into your life. Believe that God wants you to be a blessing to others like He has blessed you, and intentionally choose to be loving, kind, and compassionate to those in the world around you because God has been loving, kind, and compassionate towards you.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God and your connection to the Holy Spirit. We grow closer to God through praying and studying His Word, and while a pastor or podcaster can give you ideas, and things to think about, only through prayer and personal study will you grow your personal relationship.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 19: What happens when Jesus insults a mother who came asking for His help? Discover some truths about God and His calling for our life from this thought-provoking event.

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