Summary: How a Syrophoenician Woman’s faith overcomes barriers.
Today I thought I’d take a challenging text and work with you on it.
Now it may be perfectly clear to many of you, but I know for at least few it is not.
It was one of the questions which came up in the adult Sunday School class last year, and today it is one of our lectionary readings from the book of Mark.
It is one of those stories in the Bible that highlight a special scenario with a woman and how Jesus treated them.
As difficult as learning the Greek language may have been, here is one situation where knowing the original language of the New Testament comes in handy.
The text we might wrestle with is the part where Jesus is quoted saying “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
I am going to be honest with you….this is not a good translation.
The word used in Greek which is translated “dog” in your Bible, is “Kunarion” which actually means “puppies”, or “young dogs”.
Jesus is not calling the Syrophoenician woman a “dog” in the terms we might use today, to be demeaning.
Yes, in today’s language, calling someone a dog means they’re not very pretty.
But here again, as many times before, Jesus is using an example from everyday life.
As you may or may not already know, the Jews are the chosen people of God.
They were expected to bring about the kingdom of the Lord by the way they lived.
Unfortunately, they went a little off track, and Jesus was sent into the world to help guide them back onto the right path of righteousness and God’s plan for them.
This was Jesus’ original mission.
I’d like to make a bold comparison to help our understanding.
Let’s say you are the parent of an only child, and your only child is trapped inside the 3rd floor of a burning building.
There is another child trapped on the 8th floor, but you only have enough time to save one child before the building explodes into flames and everyone dies.
So what is your decision?
Do you save your own child, or the one you don’t know?
Here is Jesus’ situation…He came to save the Jews so that God’s plan could be fulfilled and through the salvation of the Jews, the whole world would be saved.
So here is Jesus, at a place where he believes he can go to get some rest.
Remember, he entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there.
Having been a secretary for 5 Vice Presidents of a large corporation earlier in my life, I can relate to this situation.
As a secretary, my first job when answering the phone was to find out who was on the other end.
If it was someone important, the call would go through.
If it was a sales rep, I’d take a message and let the V.P. decide if and when they would call back.
Many of you may experience similar situations at home…especially during dinner, when unwanted telemarketers may bug you and you just don’t want to be interrupted at the time.
You want to be unavailable.
You need to be unavailable, so that you can spend some quality time with your family or close friends.
Now we can put this text into proper context.
The Syrophoenician woman was not on Jesus priority list.
She was on His secondary list.
His first responsibility…His “Priority List”, so to speak, was the Jews.
This woman was a Gentile, and so what Jesus was saying was that He must first feed the Jews with Spiritual Food.
But the woman showed sincere faith and belief in Jesus.
She was not going to go away and be turned down easily.
She had a great need.
Her daughter was posessed by a demon.
I would take a chance in saying that most likely, Jesus was her only hope for the salvation of her little girl.
She replies, “Yes, Lord”…again, the Good News Translation does this scripture no justice….The word she used was “Kurios”, meaning “Lord”, “Master”, “Supreme in Authority”….
She is addressing Jesus as the one to whom she submits herself….
“Yes, Lord, even the puppies under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
She’s not asking a lot for herself.
She’s not asking for the whole cherry pie.
She’s not asking for the whole enchilada.
She’s not asking for a personal pan pizza.
She’s asking for a small portion of Jesus’ power, love, and grace…
Just some tiny crumbs.
She is acknowledging Jesus’ priority.
And at the same time, she is acknowledging Jesus’ authority….
His ability to cast out the unclean spirit from her daughter.
In fact, the text we are studying today is titled, “The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith”