Monday, November 9, 2015

Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7: Some Brief Comments

There is an interesting story about a Syrophoenician woman who comes to Jesus to ask for help with her demonized daughter (Mark 7.24-30).  Jesus seems to act out of character when he responds to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  The woman responds, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”  Jesus responds to this answer and tells her that the demon “has gone out of your daughter.” 

What’s going on in this exchange?  I’ve been helped in thinking about the episode as having a beginning, middle and the end.  In the beginning the woman comes to Jesus and asks her request.  At the end of the episode she leaves Jesus having received from him what she desired.  That’s important to notice since we often get hung up on the interchange in the middle.  The woman did receive what she desired from Jesus but she is also challenged by Jesus.  In the middle section of this short story Jesus is reminding her that he is the Jewish Messiah.  Her response is one of faith.  She accepts Jesus’ perspective.  She did not come to Jesus to dictate to him how he should minister.  She came in faith.  When challenged by Jesus she answers the challenge in faith.  It’s also helpful to remember that we only have the words of the exchange.  We don’t have the tone of voice of Jesus.  Jesus’ words seem, to some, to be harsh but the woman heard in the words of Jesus a challenge to keep interacting with him.  She did keep pressing in by faith and received healing for her daughter.

What does that mean for us today?  We too should come to Jesus in faith.  We will often find that he challenges us to deeper understanding of who he is.  Jesus did not come simply to dispense blessings.  He came to manifest the Father’s glory and bring us into communion with God.  We don’t dictate the will of God.  We come in faith—trusting in Jesus’ perspective on life. 

So how do you view Jesus?  Is a personal genie you appeal to whenever you have some need or is the sovereign Savior to whom you come in faith in goodness?  Jesus is always challenging but he is also good.  Come to him in faith and trust in his goodness.