I'm guessing I wasn't the only one who felt confused and to be honest, a little offended when the Gentile woman asking for an unclean spirit to be removed from her daughter was called a ‘dog' for her troubles (Mark 7:27). What could Jesus possibly mean in using such a word to describe a desperate mother?
Firstly, let's take a look at how the Gentile (called Syrophoenician in the passage) woman responded. Was she offended, angry and upset as would perhaps be understandable? Well, no actually, quite the opposite; she responds with great humility (Mark 7:28). This is key, for it tells us how the Gentile thought of herself in the light of Jesus, she acknowledged that she in herself wasn't worthy of the bread, (which we have seen previously in Mark symbolises the message and offer of a rescue that Jesus brings), and that she has no right to this rescue. And how does Jesus in turn respond? 'And he said to her, for that statement you may go your way, the demon has left your daughter' (Mark 7:29).
Crazy times; In observing this rather mind-bending episode I think we're supposed to draw parallels between the woman's response and how we should respond when faced this message of rescue - that we are sinners, undeserving of any good thing from God, that Jesus is God and he has come to the save the world. We shall see in later weeks how exactly Jesus intends to rescue the world; for now however, we can see that this is the way to go, not expecting salvation because we deserve it, nor assuming that we somehow naturally deserve this gift because of anything we've done, but acknowledging the worthiness and greatness of Jesus (and that alone) and its paramount importance in our reconciliation with him.
Moving through the passage then, there is something else we're supposed to see when we look at Mark 7:31-37 and Mark 8:1-10. Having just allowed a Gentile to experience his power, Jesus goes on to firstly heal a deaf man and by secondly feed four thousand people. These events are crucial because they show us that Jesus' message and his offer of rescue applies equally to both these groups, Jews and Gentiles, and that both groups have no claim to righteousness on their own merit.
This then, underlines the key point of application; that as sinners we have no right whatsoever to this rescue Jesus is offering, and yet how incredible is it that Jesus despite this chooses to come down and offer his message and rescue to us anyway!