Bigotry or Blessing?


Mark 7:24-37, The Syrophoenician Woman.

The character of God, and not just the reputation of Jesus, has proceeded him into the gentile territories of Tyre and Sidon. After all, he can’t even go there to lay low for a bit. For those who have eyes to see, you can’t hid the divinity of God under the flesh of humanity (The Orthodox Faith, 3.17).

More to the point, when your name is Joshua, and you are heading into Canaanite territory, people take notice. This time however, Joshua doesn’t come to wipe them out, he comes to wipe them clean (Hauerwas, Matthew, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, 144). In this story, the Church Father’s found a profound image of God renewing his commitment to the Gospel which was proclaimed in advance to Abraham: All the nations will be blessed through you (Galatians. 3:8, CSB).

In a poignant moment of the passage, Jesus compares this woman’s request, to a dog requesting food that first belongs to the children at the table. The observant reader is stunned: Did Jesus just call her a dog? Is Jesus endorsing racial discrimination?

This is foreign to the heart of God that we see in Jesus elsewhere. There must be more. And there is. Jesus is placing his finger on her pain – The pain of a half-truth about her life – That God preferred the Jewish people over Gentiles.

It is a half-truth because God did distinguish the Jews from the Gentiles. The untruth is that God distinguished them because one is superior to the other. 

The full truth that Jesus has now come to deliver is that God distinguished the Jew from the Gentile to make clear for whom the People of God existed — to be a blessing to the gentiles, to be a blessing to people of all nations. This was the Gospel proclaimed to Abraham and now being fulfilled in Jesus. 

The full truth in Jesus is that she is in fact, now elevated to the status of a child of God who belongs at the table. The apostle Paul quotes Hosea declaring, “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God’” (Romans 9:25-26, NIV).

In the end, it is the posture of the woman that wounds our imagination – the posture of desperation. Not even to be a child with a full loaf at the table, but simply the crumbs of the bread of life will be more than enough. She is content to be on the border of God’s blessings, and God gives her so much more. He gives her his word, his blessing – Go, the demon has left your daughter.

 In the end, do we all not live on the borders of Tyre or Sidon (Origen, Commentary on Matthew 11:16)? Are we not all on the border of those who inherit the unsearchable riches of Christ? Are we not all desperate for a crumb of the bread of life? Are we not all longing for just a taste of life? The good news is, God nourishes us with so much more – His whole Word. 

Hear the full message here.

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