Mark 7:24-30 (along with its parallels in the other Gospels) is a text that has understandably left many a Christian in a knot. To summarize, Christ seemingly insults a Gentile woman who comes to Him: He ignores her cry to come and heal her daughter, and then He outright insults her by calling her a dog. It would appear to some that the gentle Lord who fed five thousand has vanished; no longer is Christ the one who comes alongside us and bears our burdens, but He is now the One who spurns our cries for help. What is this passage doing in the Gospels?
This passage, in short, is here to do two things, one of which is extremely relevant. First, it serves to condemn the Jews of Christ’s day. Notice verse 27 of Mark 7:
Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
The “children” who are seated at the table are the first-century Jews. They had, to put in one way, four-course meal laid out for them. The Messiah had come. Jesus was here. The Son of God had become incarnate. Yet, what did they do? They condemned Him. As one ancient Christian said,
The king of Israel is killed by an Israelite hand.
-Melito of Sardis, Passover Sermon
This is the first point and the tacit assumption behind this text: Christ came to the Jews, and the Jews spat in His face (literally).
The second point, however, is so precious that every saint must get it into their lifeblood. This woman came in simple faith/trust. She had, seemingly, heard of the Messiah; probably she had been introduced to the Scriptures, along with hearing some of His miracles. What does she do? She comes to Him, trusting Him to answer her request. He scorns her; He ignores her. Her response? Notice this, saints: she does not fume, she does not pout, and she does not walk away. Instead, without haughtiness or arrogance, she repeats her request. She is insulted: her Lord calls her a dog and reminds her of her place next to the Jews. Yet, she is not dissuaded. Once more, she asks, and now Christ shows His true colors. His smile breaks forth, His eyes twinkle, and her faith is rewarded.
Saint, know this woman, for she is us. We are often in her position: it seems our Lord has rebuffed us. He has cast us off and made us dogs. He has closed His ears to us. But we have the Scriptures, and we know what they say:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield:
the Lord will give grace and glory:
no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
If God be for us, who can be against us?
casting all your care on him, for he cares for you.
-1 Peter 5:7
We, like this Gentile, cling to these promises as we keep asking our Lord to answer. As quite as He may seem to be, we keep begging. Eventually, it will come: His face will smile, His hand will move, and the answer will come.