Have you seen the movie The Greatest Showman? In it, the outcasts of society sing: “I’m not a stranger to the dark / hide away, they say / ‘cause we don’t want your broken parts / I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars / run away, they say / no one will love you as you are.”
Mark introduces us to a woman just like these outcasts:
“Immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of [Jesus] and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.” (Mark 7:25-26, ESV)
Here’s someone who has nothing going for her.
1) She’s a woman.
2) She’s got a demon-possessed family member (in other words, there may be some kind of curse on her home).
3) She’s a Gentile. And it’s not enough for Mark to say that she wasn’t Jewish. He points out she’s from Syria. There’s a certain emphasis here that she is not on the home team.
Who cares – especially at that time – about a little girl, in particular a Gentile, and especially when her mom asks for help?
The very idea that Jesus went to Gentile territory in the first place shows that He cared:
“And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house…but immediately a woman whose little daughter…” (Mark 7:24, ESV)
Jesus wasn’t afraid of being defiled by Gentiles.
And yet, even Jesus uses this common Jewish expression to call Gentiles dogs. Granted, the Greek word he used here is a diminutive form. It means “little dogs,” so maybe puppies or lap dogs, as opposed to feral scavengers. That softens the blow a bit, but Jesus is emphasizing the fact that the gospel is first for the Jews and then for the Gentiles.
The idea is not that Jesus didn’t come for Gentiles. But during His earthly ministry, His priority was to “feed the children,” (that’s why it says let them eat first). This is a foreshadowing of the gospel going out to the whole world, but Jesus is essentially saying, “It’s not your turn yet.”
This is a woman who is outside God’s people. She’s the least likely to receive help from Jesus. And even Jesus rebuffs her.
She’s not worthy. She’s just like us. She has nothing going for her.
There’s a phrase in that song from The Greatest Showman that I disagree with. It says, “And I know that I deserve your love / there’s nothing I’m not worthy of.”
We do have value in God’s eyes, but we don’t deserve His love. And we’re not worthy.
When Jesus calls this woman a dog, she agrees with Him! She says,
“Yes (in other words, you’re right!). Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28, ESV, emphasis added)
“She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.” (Mark 7:26, ESV). Jesus encourages this. When he rebuffs her, He’s not trying to get rid of her. He wants her to press in. He wants her to seek Him in desperation.
This is exactly what Jesus wants us to do. He doesn’t want us to get our lives cleaned up and come to Him. He wants us to ask for help from where we are.
Nothing in your life disqualifies you from being helped by Jesus. You don’t have to have it all together. In fact, one of the best things you can do is admit that you don’t have it all together.
“And he said to her, ‘for this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.’” (Mark 7:29, ESV)
It turns out there is Someone who wants your broken parts, your scars, and who loves you as you are.
Come to Him.
Say, “This is me.”
And let Him make you glorious.
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