I recently used the term “pitbull” (in a loving and complimentary way) to describe another person’s ability to get a particular job done well, without a lot of direction and on time. It is someone on which I place a great deal of trust. Some people are extremely gifted in this way and they are the ones you know can always count on when an important task needs to be done. I could tell by the reaction my comment received that those hearing it didn’t immediately associate “pitbull” with something good. I understand how my comment was not received as the adjective of admiration I intended it to be, since many people view pitbulls as vicious and mean. It’s safe to say that I’ll never use that term again! While I used a dog analogy to express appreciation for a particular person, make no mistake, Jesus did not intend to bestow a compliment of the Syro-Phoenician woman He called a “dog” in this week’s passage from Mark’s gospel. Jews commonly referred to Gentiles as dogs, largely because they were considered unclean, and that was the context for Jesus’ comment in this parable. Yet, despite being a dog (something she acknowledges), Jesus loves and has compassion on her. It was a reaction that must have surprised and definitely defied the wishes of his disciples (Matthew 15:23). Jesus bestowed His grace upon her, however, only after she kept after Him like a barking dog, not stopping until she got what she wanted.
Would you have been offended by Jesus’ response if you were the Syro-Phoenician woman? How would you have responded? What does the woman’s response reflect about her character and understanding of Jesus? What does your response say about your willingness to reach out for God’s help?
Mark then takes us to another story in a different region, of a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. Again, Jesus has compassion on the man and restores his hearing and speech. Despite Jesus’ warning to the contrary, those witnessing the miracle spread word of the things Jesus had done far and wide.
What do you think Jesus was doing by putting His hands in the mans ears and mouth and then by looking up to heaven?
Is there a connection between these two passages and with those immediately around them?