Lepers, Loons and Losers
Part 6: The Syro-Phoenician Woman
...a woman came to him whose little girl was possessed by an evil
Mark 7: 25 (New
I have a confession to make: I love the Syrp-Phoenician woman! I love
her tenacity as well as her trust in Jesus' ability, and eventual willingness,
to answer her prayer.
Here we have a mother in distress. Her daughter is very sick, a
sickness so severe that the child appeared to be possessed by demonic forces.
She had heard about Jesus, and now she came and fell at his feet.
Whether it was by her clothing or a possible accent, Jesus knew she was
a Gentile. What follows is a curious "give-and-take" with this desperate
woman. To her plea for a cure for her daughter, Jesus responds,
"First I should help my own family, the Jews. It isn't right to
from the children and throw it to the dogs."
At first, this does not sound like the Jesus of stained-glass windows
and Sunday hymns. It does not sound at all God-like. It sounds like a rather
harsh put-down directed at a person in need (not too many of us would
appreciate being called a "dog"). Some scholars believe that the translation "dogs" is
more rightly rendered "little dogs," a bit less harsh, but still no glowing
What is happening here? Did Jesus see some people as good and upright,
based on their nationality or religion while others were merely dogs? Not
really. What we have here is the humanity of Jesus coming through, a humanity
containing all the likes and preferences of our own. As a Jew, well aware of
biblical prophesy, and his mission given to him by his Father, Jesus understood
his job as being messiah and savior of the Jews first.
But need and pain know no religion or nationality. The woman in the
story was quick to respond with a sharpness keenly honed by a loved one's
She replied, "That's true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table
crumbs from the children's plates."
I can imagine Jesus looking at this poor soul at his feet, gazing into
her pleading eyes, and upon hearing her response, a smile crossing his lips,
"Good answer", he said. "And because you have answered so well, I
healed your daughter."
Human beings have preferences in many things: food, books, movies, etc.
Some preferences are of little consequence, others bring harm, even death:
- one race prefers their own to any other, even to the point
- one religion belittles and torments another,
- one nation wages war against another,
- one political party smears the opposition party.
And, of course, one sexual orientation, because it is the majority,
belittles its gay sisters and brothers, often (to their way of thinking) with
God's approval. Because of this, many of us find it very difficult to believe
that God does care about us, that God is willing to listen to our prayers, that
God even loves us. Like the Syro-Phoenician woman, as a minority, we often do
not feel worthy of God's time. But she did not let cultural pressure win.
Deep down she must have felt that this Jesus she had heard about would be
willing to look beyond her being non-Jewish, and would help her. She hoped Jesus
would be moved, if not by her nationality, then by her humanity.
Being a Gentile was no sin. Neither is being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or
transgender. And Jesus knows this, since he created us. Nothing keeps Jesus
from loving us and reaching out to us in our need, nothing except ourselves.
If we buy into negativity that is spoken about us, we will never have the
courage of the Syro-Phoenician woman to break out in faith and approach Jesus,
the Creator, Savior, Brother and Lover of us all, with trust.
This Gentile woman held on to her trust in Jesus and was rewarded. The
same is true for us. Jesus has proven his love for us, beginning with our own
creation, with the blessing of our sexuality, with his death and resurrection,
the list goes on and on. He has proven himself more than worthy of our
So when the misguided and mean-spirited try to crucify us on a cross of
bigotry and ignorance, let us, instead, remember this humble sister of ours,
and Jesus, whose only preference is to embrace us with his compassion and
Read Tom Yeshua's series from the beginning:
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