Like a Dog Begging for Grace

Interesting insight from David E. Garland on the Syrophoenician woman who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter who was oppressed by a demon (Mark 7:24-30). Jesus seemed to refuse to help her at first, saying that it was not right to take the children’s food and give it to dogs. This is one of the most perplexing passages of the Bible, Jesus comparing someone to a dog:

The woman’s attitude in the face of refusal is the key to this passage. She comes empty-handed and can make no claim. She has no merit, no priority standing, nothing to commend her. Her manner is the opposite of the snippy “you-owe-me” attitude that prevails among so many today. She does not argue that her case was an exception or lobby for special treatment. She does not point that Jesus is not even in the land of Israel; how could he deprive Jews of bread by helping her? On the other hand, she does not cut herself off from the miraculous power of Jesus by thinking that she is too unworthy to receive anything at all. She accepts his judgment and bows down as a beggar for grace…

The woman shows the greatest humility that expels her prejudice when she begs for a few crumbs from the bread sent to the Jews. She does not become caustic or bitter about the privilege of others. She does not resent their share of God’s blessing. She accepts her place and comes, as everyone must, as a sinner, poor and needy. Dwight Moody is reported to have said that Jesus sent no one away except those who were full of themselves. She may have been a Gentile idolater, but she did not suffer from I-dolatry. She did not come expecting praise for her faith but wanting healing for her sick daughter. She accepts that she is unacceptable.