Monday, March 28, 2022 | Mark 7:24-37
At first glance, the story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman strikes feelings of embarrassment and confusion in me. In the middle of the story, I find myself hoping that Jesus will miraculously resolve the situation after seemingly insulting the woman before him.
However, a closer look at the context reveals that Jesus is not insulting her but further criticizing the Pharisees and their teaching that the Messiah would come for the Jews only and not for the Gentiles. Jesus redefines what it means to be pure before God, emphasizing the posture of the heart over manmade laws that cloud the purpose of the purity they sought. Earlier in Mark 7 Jesus invokes the prophet Isaiah in saying “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mark 7:6-7)
The Syrophoenician woman contrasts the posture of the leaders of Israel in relationship to Jesus. We read that she, desiring for Jesus to cast an unclean spirit from her daughter, “heard of him and came and fell down at his feet.” (Mark 7:25) This contrasts the Pharisee’s posture toward Jesus which has been one of false superiority and of seeking to destroy him, particularly for his miracles of healing. (Mark 3:6) In response to Jesus’s criticism of the leaders of Israel, she answers “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28) The unnamed woman, in contrast to the leaders of Israel, understands that she, trusting in God’s manifold and great mercies, is not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under his Table, but asks that she may partake of the heavenly feast where Christ may dwell in her and she in Christ. (Adapted from The Prayer of Humble Access, 1979 BCP, Pg. 337) Christ immediately casts out the demon from the Gentile child, affirming the Syrophoenician woman’s posture towards him and elevating a heart that draws near to him for healing and salvation.
Alisa Huston has been attending Trinity Cathedral with her husband Ethan for almost a year. She has served on the altar guild, as a lector and will soon serve as an acolyte.