In this sermon, Pastor Neil examines the faith of a gentile woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus responded to her plea, but many are troubled by how Jesus responded. Here are some excerpts:

The Faith of a Gentile Woman– Background

“It is not right,” said Jesus, “to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27). Wow! That is a stunner, isn’t it? I don’t know any way to get around it. This is a very hard saying. Why would Jesus say something like this? Was He a racist? Was He prejudiced against non-Jews? Did He mean that the Jews are better than other people? Was He claiming some sort of superiority – moral, spiritual, or ethnic – for the Jews? That’s how it appears in this instance, at least on the surface. Was Jesus prejudiced? It is an uncomfortable thing to consider…

Jesus Needed Rest

Jesus went to Tyre on purpose, to get out of the public eye. He needed some R & R, which is one of many indications of His humanness. Jesus got tired, just like us. He was hoping for a little time to get recharged and refreshed – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know He was there. He was hoping He could be incognito. But it didn’t work out that way. His fame had spread beyond the borders of Galilee and Judea. And He couldn’t keep His presence in Phoenicia a secret. Somebody recognized Him and the word spread.

The Gentile Woman Seeks Him Out

When she heard He was there, this woman sought Him out. She was a Greek-speaking Gentile who had been born and raised there in Phoenicia. Her heart was heavy, because her daughter was in bad shape, afflicted by a demon. She came to Jesus, fell to her knees, and begged Him to help. Her daughter meant more to her than anything in the world, and, more than anything, she wanted Jesus to heal her…

But how did Jesus respond to her plea? With these perplexing words: “Let the children eat first, for it is not right to take the bread out of their mouths and throw it to the dogs.”

Ouch! It sounds so unlike Jesus.

The Faith of a Gentile Woman

But notice what happens next. Notice how the woman reacts. She is not put off by what Jesus said. She doesn’t take offense at His words. Some of you have read the book Unoffendable by Brant Hansen. We might all benefit from reading it. Today it seems like just about everybody can get offended about just about anything. And too often, they (we) do. From our vantage point, it seems like this woman could easily have been offended by what Jesus said. But she wasn’t. She didn’t get angry, protest, or accuse Him of being prejudiced. She didn’t take offense at His analogy of the children (meaning the Jews) and the dogs (referring to Gentiles or non- Jews).

Her Persistence

It is not what we would expect to happen if this conversation were to take place today. But how does she respond? She says, in effect: “Lord, what You say is true. I’m not going to argue with you. But even the family dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table, don’t they? Don’t the little pups get to enjoy the scraps of food that are left over?”

Jesus, impressed by her persistence and the obvious depth of her faith, says to her: “That is a great answer! You can be on your way now, because your daughter has been healed.” And she was, right then, at that very moment. “She went home,” says Mark, “and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone” (7:30)…

Dogs

The word Jesus uses in conversation with this Gentile woman is not exactly a compliment, but it is more endearing than kuon. Jesus takes a bit of the sting out of it because He uses the word kunarion, the word for “little dogs” or “puppies” – the children’s household playmates.

His choice of words would soften the bite at least a little. There may also have been something about the way Jesus spoke to the woman that encouraged her not to take offense. Maybe there was something in His tone of voice, or the expression on His face… That twinkle in His eye is not obvious from the record we have in the Gospels. But I suspect there was something that made this woman see that Jesus wasn’t really rejecting her, that He was just testing her faith and resolve, and that He didn’t want her to give up. He didn’t want her to be put off by His analogy of the children and the dogs. And, to her credit, she didn’t give up and walk away…

The word Jesus uses in conversation with this Gentile woman is not exactly a compliment, but it is more endearing than kuon. Jesus takes a bit of the sting out of it because He uses the word kunarion, the word for “little dogs” or “puppies” – the children’s household playmates…

God’s Grace

This woman who came to Jesus to plead for her daughter didn’t object that the Jews should benefit first. It didn’t bother her that they should get the children’s bread, because by faith in Jesus she perceived that even the crumbs from the table – the crumbs of God’s grace – would be enough to answer her plea. Even the crumbs.

Here is a truth to take hold of: Even the crumbs of God’s grace are more satisfying than all the platters of wealth and health and talent and beauty and power and fame and applause you could ever experience in this life.

The crumbs of grace from God’s table will satisfy when all these other things leave you feeling empty and longing for something more. Which is why some of the most privileged people in the world are among the most unhappy.

The faith of a gentile woman. Pastor Neil has much more to say about this topic. Please click on the link below to hear the sermon in its entirety.

October 10, 2021

Mark 7: 24-30

Dr. Neil Smith

Download Transcript (PDF)