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. 27 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.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” – Mark 7:24-37
I’m not very good at it, but Jesus was a master. His conversation with Nicodemus is one example. His conversation with this woman is another.
Monty Roberts is the original horse whisperer. He is able to take a wild horse – newly captured from the planes of Colorado – and within 20 minutes have it follow him around a circle pen, its muzzle on his shoulder. Check out this video of his technique. I’ve been mesmerized every time I’ve watched him Join-Up® with a horse.
Watching Jesus with this woman seems off-putting until you get to the end of the encounter. She’s a woman in need. She has a daughter who was demonized. And Jesus refuses her!
The Pharisees had a prayer (which is a sad commentary on their view of women and man’s best friend). “I thank You, Almighty God, that I am not a gentile, a slave, or woman.” It’s not clear whether or not she was a slave, but she was definitely a woman and a gentile. She had no standing in most people’s eyes.
And Jesus seems to accede to this valuation of her. He essentially calls her a dog. Let’s not be too hasty, however, in judging what is happening here. This is only the first forré of this conversation. Jesus is pushing her away so that she will not just beg for his mercy, but so that she will lay hold of her rightful place by faith. She will claim nothing of Jesus except that which he would allow her to receive, believing he is good and merciful and kind.
The woman will claim no standing other than that of a hungry puppy, happy with scraps that fall from the master’s table. But she receives far more. Jesus commends her faith, heals her daughter and sends her on her way.
I’m not sure there is a difference between begging, and asking for a morsel of God’s mercy in faith. Nor am I completely convinced that this is a case of horse whispering – though it seems a likely possibility. But I am confident that God is rich in grace, mercy, and love. And the most feeble request of him in faith will bring the blessings of his love.