Becoming Nothing

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.

Broken

I’m broken. It’s not easy to admit and it’s easier to write it than it is even to say. Who likes to flaunt their weaknesses or failures. Not me! But if I’m honest with myself, I see that sin is at work in me ALL THE TIME. I can relate to the apostle Paul all too well when he said, The very thing I want to do I do not do and the very thing I don’t want to do, that is what I do. Oh wretched man that I am!”

I’ve just come off a three-month season of deep reflection, plumbing the dark places of my soul and have been humbled significantly. For a season, I had become quite numb to the realities of life, who I am, how I’m faring, the deadness of my relationship with God, etc. These are hard things to find–and not so fun to admit.

There’s good news, too. I’ve recently studied a section of Scripture in Mark. In chapter 7:24-8:13, we see four short stories about Jesus. Three reveal how we get in on God’s grace, experience his power and find transformation happening in our lives. The last story draws a sobering contrast–how we are certain to repel the grace of God. For today, let me keep it simple:

In each of these three stories, we see needy, unimportant, overlooked, even despised people capturing the attention of Jesus. They are all broken, but Jesus is compelled to action BECAUSE of their brokenness. Here’s the key, however. In each story, the people knew and embraced their brokenness. They didn’t hide it. They didn’t reason it away. They didn’t attempt to put on masks, or sound pious, or present themselves in sophisticated or respectable ways. They were broken and honest about it. In fact, their brokenness drew them to Jesus because they embrace it so well. We’ll consider those spiritual truths in the days ahead.

Are you broken? Do you know it? Are you honest with yourself? With God? With others? Is it driving you to look to Jesus or inserting a wedge between you?