Monday, March 05, 2007

Children and dogs

I've been reading the book of Mark in the New Testament of the Bible--which is quickly becoming my favorite among the Gospels--and stopped to think about this troubling passage: Mark, Chapter 7, verses 24 - 30.

24Jesus 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. 25In 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. 26The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27"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."

28"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

29Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter."

30She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

This story always rubbed me the wrong way. I guess the reason I'm starting to like the book of Mark is because he chronicles most of the troubling things Jesus said and did. One chapter after this, Jesus shuts one of his disciples down by saying, "Get behind me Satan." Ouch! Three chapters later, he's throwing over tables and chasing people out of the temple with a whip. How's that for nonviolence in action? Anyhoo, as I was meditating on this passage about the Phoenician woman, I wrote a page in my journal about it:

So often Jesus said or did something that judged on face value, would be needlessly offensive. However, knowing that he was the Son of God working within a limited timespan, leads me to believe he did nothing needlessly.

Considering the way so many people have been discouraged from receiving from Christ--because of their ethnicity, (Gandhi, for example), or gender, or lack of gender! (transsexuals)--and of the self-rightousness of their opponets, I think this single moment in scripture presents an extremely crucial idea. This woman, having been verbally rejected by Christ himself, did not let those words turn her away from receiving from God (father, son, spirit) what she knew only He could give.

Christ obviously stood in the position of God's authority, serving like religious leaders of today do. As that authority, he spoke words of discouragement (and insult!) over her desire to receive from God. Still her response was essentially, "I may not be worthy, but even the least in the house receives something and I've come for that something. Do not withhold it from me."

She received. She received! She received exactly what she asked for. Her daughter was healed. Her family was restored. That's absolutely, fabulously crazy--and undeniably encouraging.

No comments: