For the past several weeks, I’ve been captivated by the story of a woman I read about in my lifelong crawl through the Bible. This is a story about a woman who had the audacity to become engaged in a battle of words with the Living Word, Jesus.
Here’s her story as told in the 7th chapter of St. Mark’s gospel:
…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.
This story astounds me. This woman astounds me. She had three strikes against her from the get-go:
- She wasn’t a Jew.
- She was a woman.
- She was barging in on Jesus, who at this point was hiding from crowds for a rest.
Her love and compassion are unmistakable. She interrupts the resting Messiah, begging His help for her daughter.
Her audacity is unprecedented. When Jesus says no to her request, she pushes back.
Her humility is unthinkable, identifying with dogs sniffing for scraps under a table.
Her persistence is unflinching. She doesn’t take no for an answer.
Her wisdom is unparalleled. On the surface, it appears she actually outwits Jesus.
Her faith is undisguised. She believed Jesus is her only hope and acted on that belief.
Her reward is unimaginable. Jesus grants her request.
What kind of God is this who yields to the wisdom and faith of a desperate mother? Not the lightning-wielding tyrant portrayed by generations of writers and preachers and still embraced by far too many. No, this is One who knows our hearts, has walked in our sandals, and remembers that we are dust.
At that point in history, few men, especially religious ones, would tolerate this impudent, nagging, back-talking woman. Yet Jesus goes further (as He so often does) and rewards her for those very qualities, though He would call them confident faith, importunate seeking, and boldness.
It gives one hope. But then, that’s the point.