“You’re a dog.” - not the nicest words that you would expect. The truth proclaiming, others-serving, love-giving Jesus that we know from Scripture carried this conversation in a different direction than I would have expected. In Mark 5, He had spoken gently to the little girl that He had revived. In Mark 6 He had offered food to the famished masses and comfort to the fearful disciples. Now, as He engaged the Syrian woman, in no uncertain terms, He called her a dog. Not the compassionate response that we would expect, right?
Culturally speaking, this is a hard thing for us to swallow. We don’t like people using labels to define us in a negative way. Rather, in this age of “bullying”, labels are one of the most destructive and hurtful things. So why then would Jesus call this poor woman a dog? The key difference is culture. In our culture, this type of label stings. But in First Century Jewish culture the term “dog” would be used quite frequently to describe anyone who was an outcast in the Jewish society. This was a term used for beggars, the diseased, and certainly anyone who was of a different race. The term as used in this text is indicating that there was a great divide socially and racially between Jesus and this woman.
But this divide did not keep Him from ministering to her in her hour of need. In spite of His seemingly difficult retort, she persisted on in faith. “Jesus, I may be a dog, but even dogs get to eat crumbs from the table.” Jesus, seeing her faith, responded, “Because of your faith, your daughter is healed.”
She did not retreat from Jesus in disgust at the difficulty of His message. Rather, in faith, trusting that He was the only One Who could help her daughter, she had persisted and believed on Him. Overstepping cultural and racial barriers, Jesus showed that He had not come to simply reach people from His same ethnic group. He had come to be the Savior of the World. He had come to reach the whole world. He had come to minister to Jews and Gentiles alike. All could come to Him in faith, and as John 6 said, He would not “cast them out.” His love was for the entire human race, not just for His Jewish race.
Food For Thought: Read Matthew 17:22-29. What reaction do the disciples have that is different than that of Jesus? What reaction can we sometimes have towards those we would consider strange or outcast, that Jesus would not have?