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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


A Winning Response

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:27-30, NIV)

At face value this is one of the strangest things Jesus ever spoke.

A desperate mother came to Him, fell at His feet, and begged Him to deliver her demon-possessed daughter. He appears to put her down — comparing her Gentile ethnicity to a dog and referring to Jews as children.

Is Jesus raising the age-old barrier that separates people from people, ethnicity from ethnicity, culture from culture? At first flush, His words seem cruel. He appears to denigrate her rather than help.

That’s how it may seem, but that’s not how it was.

Here is where we could have used a voice recording to better interpret the text. Tone is everything. If Jesus’ words were spoken harshly or brusquely, then He was being cruel. But what if He said it playfully, with a twinkle in His eye? What if He said it to draw out her faith, to help her realize that He came for Gentiles as well as Jews?

She responds to Him also with absolute confidence.

First, she calls Him Lord. Although not Jewish, she already had a clearer understanding of Jesus than many around Him. This is the first time in Mark’s Gospel that anyone has called Him Lord. Although a Gentile, her identification of Jesus stands in sharp contrast to the opinion of the religious experts opposing Him (7:1-23).

Further, she’s not at all hesitant to come back at Him with a playful rejoinder by saying even the dogs eat the crumbs from the children’s table.

Third, she had great faith that Jesus would indeed deliver her daughter — even though the girl was not present. She wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, thereby demonstrating a faith that persists even when the first response of Jesus seemed to be negative.

One other thing. New Testament scholar William Barclay notes there are two Greek words for dog — one to describe wild savage dogs, the likes of which are excluded from the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:15), and the other to describe the small household pet here in Jesus’ dialog with the mother.

Clearly Jesus responds to her faith. The question remains as to what would have happened had she not rebutted the Lord’s first statement. Is it possible to miss the great acts of God on our behalf because we too easily get discouraged, because we do not keep pressing, because we do not understand the essential goodness and willingness of the Lord to help us if we persevere?

This passage also tells us that Jesus knows what’s happening in the spirit world without Him being spatially present. He knew the demon was gone. Physical distance proves no barrier to prevent Him from making the demon leave. The demon has to obey even when Jesus is not in the same room or even the same house.

He has the final say over all evil no matter where it’s located!

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, Your Word says we ought always to pray and not to faint. I too easily faint. Let the faith of this Syro-Phoenician mother inspire me to press harder and not give up!

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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2010 On Your Mark

2009 On Your Mark

2008 On Your Mark

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