In Mark 7:24-30 we read how Jesus left the area of the Galilee and headed northwest to the area surrounding the city of Tyre in Phoenicia (present-day Lebanon). While Jesus was searching for a place of solitude, perhaps to rest and spend time with his disciples, they were met by a pagan woman. This woman was from the area of Tyre and Sidon, and was a descendant of one of the seven nations that God had commanded the nation of Israel to drive out from the land of Canaan.
Sidon was also once the seat of Queen Jezebel, the wife of Ahab (1 Kings 16: 31), who had tried to destroy all of God’s prophets during the time of the prophet Elijah. This pagan woman’s arrival was probably not well received by the disciples, but she did not let that deter her at all. She had come to Jesus as she believed that He was able to help her and deliver her little daughter from an evil spirit that was tormenting her.
After she had shared her story with Jesus, and having pleaded with Him to help her daughter, Jesus rebuffed her plea in the form of a parable which meaning she immediately understood.
We read Jesus’ words in Mark 7:27 “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 the dogs.”
The word dogs was used quite widely during the time of Jesus. There are two Greek words for dogs. One was used in an offensive sense “κύων” (street dog, scavenger, unclean animals) whereas the other word “κυνάριον” was for a small domesticated dog that people cared for.
All the nations around Israel had heard about God and the Messianic hope of Israel, but not all of them believed—but this woman believed. She understood the meaning of the parable told by Jesus and continued to reveal its meaning:
Mark 7:28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Her humility and faith touched the heart of Jesus. It was in stark contrast to the rejection that He experienced from the so-called “children” of the nation of Israel. In the previous chapters, on more than one occasion, Jesus faced the unbelief and rejection of his own people for whom He had come.
The fact that Jesus did not cast away this woman, but received her and conversed with her, suggests that He never rejected anyone who came to Him with a humble heart and with faith in Him.
Today, just as He was more than 2000 years ago, Jesus is standing ready to hear your prayers for help and to answer them. The only question is, how will you come to Him? Like spoiled children (Scribes and Pharisees) or humbly and with faith, like a small domesticated dog that is alive and fed thanks to the mercy, care, and love of its owner, like the humble woman from Tyre.