Jesus consistently demonstrated his care and compassion for “the least of these.” In the following Scripture passage, we see another beautiful example of both Jesus’ love for broken people and his ability to reveal the condition of a person’s heart in a matter of seconds.
Mark 7:24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
This woman was most likely overlooked by her community because she had a demon possessed daughter. They were cursed, unclean, scary, and devalued. Yet, this woman has a conviction that if she could only get Jesus’ attention, her daughter could be freed from the unclean spirit. This mom is on a mission, determined, and willing to go to all lengths to find a future for her little girl. Scripture states, “She begged.” There is a sense of determined desperation here.
Jesus’ response is, quite frankly, startling.
And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (v.27) In this statement, Jesus is clearly communicating that this “food”, the truth of God, is for the Israelites, not the Gentiles (dogs). By the way, a dog was not a positive term in these days. They were dirty diseased scavengers.
Seems harsh? Listen to the woman’s response…
“Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (v.28)
And here is revealed a profound spiritual truth. This woman demonstrates absolute authentic humility. She doesn’t dispute the fact that she’s nothing. She doesn’t try to convince him of some entitlement. She doesn’t even get upset that she is reduced in value to a scavenging dog. She simply states another fact of life–even dogs get to eat a few scraps from the table–and in saying that, she is asking only for that.
Jesus confirms that her humble response is the key to unleashing his favor and power: “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” (v.29)
Especially as Americans, we struggle with this kind of authentic humility. We are hard-wired to be capable, self-confident, oozing with self-worth and independence. But it all flies in the face of the gospel. Jesus is looking for people who actually recognize they are broken and have no right to receive anything from God–that they are, quite literally, beggars in the presence of a holy capable God.
The Syrophoenician Gentile modeled well what need to fully embrace: Absolute authentic humility.