There are several provocative things about this passage of Scripture. First, Jesus was hiding (Mark 7:24). He didn’t want anyone to know where he was. Has this ever happened to you? You were looking for God, but he was hiding from you?
Next, a strange woman tracked him down (Mark 7:25-26). She not only found out which town he was in, but also she located his exact hideout. Whether we’d admit it or not, sometimes it’s the strange ones who find God before anyone else does, for some reason, the ‘normal’ ones don’t know where to look.
Third, the strange foreigner had a demon-possessed daughter and believed Jesus could cast out the unclean spirit (Mark 7:26). We don’t believe in unclean spirits anymore, fewer of us have ever witnessed an exorcism. Do you believe demons can possess a person?
Fourth, Jesus refused to help the woman because of her race, for she was not Jewish, but Syphrophoenician (Mark 7:27). So he wouldn’t give her the healing gifts meant for his own people. Has God ever done anything that seemed unfair or unjust to you?
Next, even though she begged him, he called her a name, a bitch, to be exact. “Let the children be fed first,” as the old saying went, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27). It’s bad enough he called her a dog, but, you’ve got to understand, in ancient times, dogs were not thought of as cute and loyal pets, but wild, dirty scavengers. The name ‘bitch’ captures the sense the best. Has God ever offended you like this before?
Sixth, the woman didn’t slink away in disgust, disappointment, or depression, but stood up to Jesus Christ. She immediately responded to him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). She believed wholeheartedly that the crumbs of Jesus were far better than the richest delights of this world. “Bitch may I be,” she smirked, “but you have all the goods!” Have you ever violently asserted your confidence in the magnificence of Jesus Christ, even when you had been previously denied?
Seventh, Jesus turned her words of confession into healing agents, saying to the woman, “For this statement you may go your way, the demon has left your daughter” (Mark 7:29). The woman went home and found her daughter lying peacefully in bed without the demon (30). Did you know your words carried authority in spiritual realms? Did you know your thoughts and words about your life and your God matter?
This passage has many disturbing elements to it, but probably the greatest one is the woman’s initial sense of entitlement. Just because she had a problem (a daughter with a demon), she felt entitled to receive help from Jesus, as if Jesus owed her. But Jesus doesn’t owe anybody grace…
Which is why it’s called ‘grace.’ God gives his grace freely and lovingly to those in need. We don’t merit it or deserve it. We don’t get grace because of our race, accomplishments, or level of need, for if we did, it would be based on our merit, rather than God’s love.
Finally, consider how God often roughs us up, before he helps us. Jesus knew he could speak roughly with the woman, he knew there was something inside her that could handle it. In testing her, he brought out treasure hidden deeply within her, which would have remained buried, if he had granted her request immediately. The treasure he found was true faith. The woman would have never known this kind of true faith was in her if Jesus had gone easy on her.
Have you been hurt by Jesus? Has God ever let you down? Often, there are two parts of God’s grace toward us, the rough side and the smooth side, and we need both. The rough side of grace shows us our sin, helps us to see we are undeserving, and calls forth a richer faith from within us.
“We need to realize just how much we need God’s mercy and goodwill,” wrote Martin Luther. The rough side of God’s grace exposes our true situation and need.
If you’re experiencing the rough side of God right now, meditate on the faith of this strange woman, learn from her, and wait in faith and hope.
Go to God and pray, “Bitch may I be, but your grace is all I need.”
- Out of the seven things mentioned, which surprised you the most? Why?
- How has God been ‘rough’ with you? How did you respond? How would you like to respond next time?
- If there is treasure hidden within you, how can God mine for it?