A Woman's Faith
24Jesus left and went to the region near the town of Tyre, where he stayed in someone's home. He did not want people to know he was there, but they found out anyway. 25A woman whose daughter had an evil spirit in her heard where Jesus was. And at once she came and knelt down at his feet. 26The woman was Greek and had been born in the part of Syria known as Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to force the demon out of her daughter. 27But Jesus said, “The children must first be fed! It isn't right to take away their food and feed it to dogs.”
28The woman replied, “Lord, even puppies eat the crumbs that children drop from the table.”
29Jesus answered, “That's true! You may go now. The demon has left your daughter.” 30When the woman got back home, she found her child lying on the bed. The demon had gone.
Since the death of John the Baptist, Jesus has been seeking a place of solitude and rest. Meanwhile, ministry needs have prevailed, to the point where the Twelve don’t even have time to eat (Mark 6:31). This passage opens with Jesus stealing away to a house by the Mediterranean, but even here he’s recognized. A Syrophoenician woman finds him and begs him to heal her daughter.
On first reading, Jesus’ response to the woman seems harsh. Why does he seem to push this lady away? Back in Matthew 7:6 Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” There must be a foundation for the gospel, or it won’t be accepted. Yet, Jesus also taught that even those who live among the pigs can be redeemed as sons (Luke 15:11-32).
Jesus is simply clear in his mission, prioritizing his time accordingly. He was sent to the children of Israel during his three years on earth, not to Syrophoenicians. Still, Jesus doesn’t turn the woman away, even though she’s outside his ministry priorities and interrupting a much-needed sabbatical. Jesus hints at the reason with a little word laden with hope: “first.” His intent is that the gospel will go to every people, nation, and language. We know from Luke 13:29 that one day this woman’s people won’t be fighting for crumbs anymore. They will take their seat at the great feast in the kingdom as equals with the Jews (and us).
Do you struggle to find a balance between meeting needs and rhythms of rest and recovery? Do you feel that tension between ministry priorities and responsiveness to the Holy Spirit? Jesus was clear on his mission, but he also honoured human limitations. If the God-man needed rest and prioritized his ministry, where do you need to do the same?
Emmanuel, you came to earth and experienced all the limitations of humanity. Give me wisdom to find the balance between my limitations and the seemingly endless needs, resting in the fact that it is your work, not mine. May you get all the glory. Amen.