Today is the quirky story of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter being healed, as portrayed by one of the New Testament’s most gifted writers, Mark.
It is quirky because Jesus never meets the daughter whom he heals. This is an exorcism from afar. The other bizarre feature of this is the words that come out of Jesus’ mouth are almost seen as an insult or racial slur. This woman, this Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin begs Jesus to heal her daughter. His response? “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
It appears that her faith turns the tables. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Who are the children? Who are the dogs? What is Jesus’ purpose in this strange statement? I am convinced that Jesus was using this as a test. Perhaps he was thinking, “I know how to get under her skin. I will see what she is really made of here.”
Tests. They are dreaded by high school students and college students alike. There are tests to get us into the Army, into many jobs, get us out of high school. Tests come and often serve to move us to the next level of learning or what have you. Tests.
I hate tests. But they are all around us. Even when we are out of school the tests come, albeit in different ways. So many aspects of life are test-like – job responsibility, marriage, having children. Being in the church sometimes is a test – with the seemingly most abrasive people constantly thrust in our midst, perhaps at God’s direction to test us. Very few experience the church as “one big happy family”.
It appears, from the Syrophoenician woman’s faith, that part of the test of this life includes standing up to injustice and racial inequalities. She smartly puts her foot down, and from that her faith shines. Jesus may well have been playing Devil’s advocate, impressed that this woman could hold her own.
I believe God is still testing us.
How do you see God testing us still? Maybe testing you? And how are we responding? With faith and determination?
And what does God require of us, in this time and in this place?