There are some biblical characters that I really enjoy! The Syrophonecian woman is one of them. (See Mark 7:24-31) Jesus has just come through what seems to be a highly irritating exchange with the Pharisees and scribes. Their hardness and heartless adherance to the traditions of the elders (This always reminds me of the nameless “they” in “they say”) along with the slowness of his own disciples left him drained and needing some down time. So he goes to find some rest at someone’s home. But there is no rest to be had.
I find it quite interesting how a pagan woman got to where Jesus was seeking to hide. The disciples have been so good at shooing away people and children, but somehow, she gets through. According to the Greek she doesn’t just ask Jesus a question, she makes her request over and over. It sounds somewhat annoying. So I guess in part, Jesus caustic response might be more understandable given his exhaustion and her persistance.
A cursory reading of the story leaves wondering some things. In addition to wondering how she got in: does she expect Jesus to come with her? Had she heard about how Jesus seemed to provide a magical “remote” healing of the Centurian’s daughter? If not, why didn’t she bring the girl with her? How sick or what kind of demon possession did she have? What was her name? These are the questions that go through my mind at first glance. Then I peel back a few layers and I really wonder, why was Jesus so sarcastic with her? Didn’t he just get done rale against the Pharisees and their blind following of tradition? Wasn’t Jesus’ comment just another form of Greek/Pagan bashing that would support their pharisaical mindset?
The only way I can read this story and make Jesus’ behavior make any sense is to see it as a possible teaching moment for those who were listening. I think this way based on Jesus’ openness to healing those outside the Jewish faith. He didn’t hesitate to heal the Centurians child, or Legion. In John 4, it states that Jesus “HAD” to go through Sammaria, which resulted in his encounter with the woman at the well, when clearly that wasn’t the best way to travel. So it would make no sense that all of a sudden Jesus had nothing to offer this woman.
I wrote the previous parts to this post last week. Today we moved on in our study of Mark and covered Mark 8:1-21. The beginning portion of this chapter is Mark’s report of the feeding of the 4000. There is a lot of discussion regarding this second miracle. Some commentators wonder if it’s just a repeat, an error, that there really wasn’t a second separate feeding. Many feel that there were significant differences which possibly point to not only a second feeding, but a feeding that focused on Gentiles. Those who support this thinking point to the number of loaves and baskets of fragments, seven, because seven and seventy are important numbers to the Gentiles. Also the fact that Jesus didn’t have to worry about the crowd pressing him to be a leader who would overthrow the Romans–the Gentiles didn’t have as big a beef as the Jews in this regard. But the thing that stuck out most clearly to me was just the placement of the miracle: on the heels of his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman.
Could it be that Jesus did go to this woman’s home or region? Could it be that her faith prompted his trip and the resulting three day teaching? This miracle doesn’t appear to be the teaching opportunity for the disciples that the feeding of the five thousand was. Here Jesus is prompted to feed these people out of sheer compassion, concern that if he sent them home they faint along the way. In the first miracle the remnants that the disciples collected were described as small pieces, or crumbs, while here the leftovers are much larger pieces and they filled large baskets not the beggers baskets Mark describes in the sixth chapter.
I know it’s mere speculation on my part that there is any connection, but how many other things do we believe that are conjecture or interpretation? Who’s to say it didn’t happen this way? I like thinking about what a difference this woman could have made with her faith–and it wasn’t just about bread. I imagine there was great joy as she shared her story. I believe that others came to Jesus with a spiritual hunger that far outweighed their need for bread. And if it did happen that way–I think they were fed to over-full.
When I think of this woman’s faith, I’m humbled and challenged. Do I feel entitled to something big? Will I accept the small miracles of daily grace that come my way? How faithful am I about telling my story? Do others see Jesus in me? I want to feel close enough in my relationship with God that what other might see is imputance, God will interpret as holy boldness.
There’s just so much to glean from this story. But what I hear myself doing the loudest is cheering her on: Way to go girl!