Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
“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.”
“Lord,” she replied, “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 7:24-30
In today’s passage, Jesus hoped to escape the crowds for a time before heading back out for ministry. This proved impossible as word spread not only among the Jewish people but also the Gentiles. This woman interrupts his plans and, through this parable, He is telling her your time has not come yet – His mission right now is to the Jews, Gentiles will come later.
She does not accept His answer and responds directly to the parable, “… even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She is sharp and bold! But it’s how she responds that is astounding: instead of being offended at Jesus’s parable, she respectfully engages in it. In the parallel account in Matthew 15, she calls Jesus the Son of David, indicating that she understands He is the Messiah that had been promised to the Jews. She knows she is not one of “His people.” She knows she does not deserve what Jesus can do but also knows He can save her daughter. Her answer demonstrates her faith. Jesus grants her request, revealing that Jesus is merciful even to the outsider.
We can learn a lot from this woman. In Jesus the King, Tim Keller writes, “She’s not saying, ‘Lord give me what I deserve on the basis of my goodness.’ She’s saying, ‘Give me what I don’t deserve on the basis of your goodness–and I need it now.’”
Mercy is not contingent upon our goodness or lack thereof. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are brought back to the cross, yet again, where Jesus mercifully gave of Himself so that anyone can be in right relationship with the Father.
True mercy, and our ability to be merciful to others, come from the goodness of Jesus. Be encouraged, friends, through Jesus, we can receive mercy from the Father, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can extend mercy to those around us.
- Let’s pray this prayer together today: Oh, merciful Savior, thank you for extending the utmost of mercy to me by paying the price for my sins. Apart from you, I can do no good thing, but your Word says nothing is impossible with You. So, Lord Jesus, I pray for your power that is made perfect in my weakness to enable me to live mercifully and love well. Amen!
- If you’re curious about this passage of Scripture, I recommend checking out Tim Keller’s book, Jesus The King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God. In chapter eight, he unpacks this passage more deeply.