Crossing the border to escape the crowds, Jesus found faith
were he didn't expect, or want, to find it!


 

From there Jesus arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could
not be hidden.

A woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard
about Him, and she came and fell at His feet, [saying, "Have mercy
on me, O Lord, Son of David!" But He answered her not a word.
His disciples urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out
after us." Jesus answered, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel." {Matthew 15:23-24}]

The woman was a Greek, a SyroPhoenician by birth, and she kept
asking Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus
said to her, "Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take
the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs."

She answered, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table
eat from the children's crumbs." Then He said to her, "For this
saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter."
And when she had come to her house, she found the demon
gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.

                                                    Mark 7:24-30 NKJV, condensed


                            Careless Kids and Hungry Pups

Jesus needed a break from the demanding mobs. Instead of seeking
solitude in the mountains, this time he crossed the border into Gentile
territory. Wishing to keep his presence a secret, he took sanctuary
inside a house. But even there, someone recognized him and, because
good news can not be contained, the word spread.

What happened next will prove whether Jesus meant what he said
about abandoning the old ways. The Greek woman in this story was not
"clean" in the eyes of a good Jew. Jesus did not want to see her. He had
hidden in a house to avoid people, yet she came and fell at his feet and
begged him to exorcise her daughter's demon.

His mission was to the "lost sheep of Israel." Here in the region of
neighboring Tyre and Sidon, Jesus had a dilemma. It was physically
impossible for him to satisfy everyone, everywhere, who needed healing.
He had expected the unbelieving Gentiles to leave him alone, so this
lady's request caught him off guard. If he healed just one person, the
sick would gather around him. They would crawl out from under every
stone. He ignored her for awhile. His disciples wanted her gone.
But she persisted.

She had acted quickly when she heard about Jesus, as though there
was no one to add caution or deterrence to her decision-making process.
It's hard to go first, without actually ever seeing any of Jesus' miracles.
It was faith, pure and simple, in the goodness of God. And if Jesus were
from God, he would surely help her even though she wasn't Jewish.

Jesus often spoke in riddles and used word pictures to make his point.
This encounter would be no exception. Children and pups are the images
he used. He tried to put her off, saying, I'm not done feeding the children
yet, I must finish the children before I start feeding pet dogs
. The woman
quickly replied, Yes, Lord, but . . . We know she had been listening very
carefully to what Jesus said because she finished his metaphor . . .
puppies eat the crumbs that fall on the floor! In other words, just as
dogs under the table may eat whatever they find, in like manner, let your
healing power flow through the cracks to my little daughter. That's faith
talking and finding a way to make it happen.

This is an unusual story because people seldom debated with Jesus.
Jesus possessed an aura of authority. Yet here she was, a Gentile
woman, taking his analogy up another notch. Jesus was impressed.
It seems it took a woman to remind Jesus about the crumbs on the floor
after the children have eaten!

He had often debated with the Pharisees, but it was never like this. What
made the difference? There was no arrogance, no self-righteousness.
She believed he could restore her daughter if only he would. In her
pleading she was content to be the woman at Jesus' feet, the dog under
the table. But Jesus didn't leave her there. He sacrificed his quiet refuge
so she could receive what she needed from her Father in heaven.

When Jesus healed a person's body, they were energized and got up,
leaving their beds. In the miracles of casting out demons, people stopped
their wild behavior and relaxed. Our nameless heroine went home and
found her little daughter lying calmly on her bed. Those who have had a
troubled child will catch the distinction in those final words.

This foreigner put her faith in a big God, much bigger than the small
group of people on the land named for their forefather, Israel. She
believed in the possibility there was a King of the universe whose
loving kindness could spill across the border and into her life situation,
regardless of anyone's creed or traditions. Because of her faith and
humble wisdom, Jesus freed her and gave her a place at the table.

This story points out some interesting options. We can eat the crumbs
on the floor that fall from God's kingdom. We can sit at the table with
the messy children who take their bread for granted. Or by faith we can
feast at the banquet table of the King.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: What border have you crossed lately and where were you going?

 

Jesus was reaching the point where he almost couldn't function in Galilee
anymore, because of his immense popularity? Most of us don't know what
that is like but on TV we see celebrities fight the crowds and cameras.
            How do you react to those scenes?
            What was the last crowd you were in?

 

Jesus couldn't stop the crowds; the mother and daughter couldn't control
the daughter's "demons".
            Name something you have no power over?
            What effect does that lack of control have on you?

 

If you were writing a beatitude to go with this story, how would you word it?
Blessed are those who ________________________________________.

 

What adjectives would you use to describe this woman?
            Why do you suppose Jesus gave her what she wanted?
No other family members are mentioned.
            Would the story sound any different to you if she were a single mom?
                        If so, what would that add to, or take away from, the story?

 

In what ways is the pleading of this Gentile woman like us when we pray?
Do you feel like you are under the table, sitting with the children, or feasting
            at the banquet of the King?

 

It sounded like Jesus told her: Lady, I was sent to Israel; you and your kind
must get in line and wait your turn. Yet she did not get offended.
            Is it fair to say Jesus wanted to get rid of her?
            Did she deserve to be heard and receive his attention?
            How did she react to what sounded like a "No"?
            What do you do when confronted with a negative?

 

How does it happen that faith lives in unexpected places, among people
who were never taught to believe?

 

Jesus looked at this woman's heart, mind and soul and liked what he saw.
He liked what he heard from her lips, too.
            Could the same be said about you?   Why or why not?
We know God loves each of us, but what does God like about you in particular?

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