Summary: We don't always recognize when God is testing us. Most of the time the tests are disguised as trouble, trials, and adversity. A discussion of the four characteristics of great faith.
This year we’ve been going through the Gospel According to Mark and we’re picking up where we left off before we started our emphasis on Missions and Christmas. This message is entitled, “Faith That Feeds on Crumbs.” When I first read this passage, I was in for a big surprise. Speaking of surprises, here are seven interesting facts that have also surprised me; maybe they will surprise you, too.
1. The Texas State Capitol is taller than the United States Capitol in Washington D. C. (so are the Capitols of Illinois, Florida, Louisiana, and Nebraska)
2. The electric chair was invented by a dentist.
3. The microwave oven was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.
4. Sherlock Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” (in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books)
5. Every second, Americans collectively eat 100 pounds of chocolate.
6. A snail can sleep for 3 years.
7. The Bible is the #1 most shoplifted book of all time.
But I was more surprised when I first read this passage. It appears on the surface that Jesus insults a mother by calling her a dog. In our text today a woman from the area of Tyre, modern-day Lebanon, comes to Him asking for help and He basically calls her a dog—or at least Jesus compares her to a dog. In Jesus’ time, it was common for Jews to call Gentiles dogs, but it was a highly offensive label. Even today it is an insult when someone calls a person a son of female dog or a female dog.
So, at first, I’m surprised Jesus used the d-word. I was shocked the first time I read it. I couldn’t believe these words came from the lips of the Savior. But when I took the time to dig into the passage, I learned it is an awesome lesson about great faith.
Mark 7:24-30. “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil 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 their dogs.’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘but 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 was a woman with a quick mind and a quick wit. She responded to Jesus’ statement with a sharp reply. I admire this woman not only for WHAT she said, but how quickly she took the statement of Jesus and turned it into a profession of faith. I’ve always admired people who are quick on their feet. I have to think and plan ahead to say something corny, but some people are just naturally witty.
It’s like the college guy who was working at a grocery store. He was in the produce section and a little old lady came up to him and said, “Sonny, I see heads of lettuce here, but can I buy just half a head of lettuce?” He said, “Ma’am I don’t know, but I’ll go ask the manager.” So the guy went up one aisle and down the other and found the manager at the back corner of the store. He walked up and said, “Sir, there’s an idiot over there who wants to buy half a head of lettuce.” What he didn’t realize was that this little old lady was fast and she had followed him step for step. Just as he was talking to the manager he caught a glimpse of her in his peripheral vision and so he said, “Sir, there’s an idiot over there who wants to buy half a head of lettuce…and this dear lady wants to buy the other half!”
So they took care of the lady, and the manager picked up on what the guy had done. He said, “Son, you’re pretty sharp. Where are you from?” He said, “I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota; home of the world’s ugliest women and greatest football players.” The manager frowned and said, “Son, my wife is from Minneapolis.” Without missing a beat he said, “Really, what team did she play for?” Like that boy, this Gentile woman had a quick wit. But Jesus didn’t just admire this woman’s wit—He admired her faith. Let’s examine four characteristics of great faith.