What's the most insulting thing anyone has ever said to you?

Let's face it, Mark 7:27 is one of those verses that makes us stop in our tracks and ask ourselves: 'Is Jesus really saying what I think he's saying here? Is he really telling this woman that she's a dog?'

It's a statement so blunt and degrading that many liberal commentators conclude that Jesus could never have said it, and that this whole episode never really happened. Nevertheless, we need to grasp that Jesus is being consistent with what the Bible says about the Gentiles - they were not part of God's chosen people Israel, and therefore of lower status than Israel. His statement may appear callous at first glance, but it forces the woman to give a response that is even more surprising than Jesus' bluntness.

Before we get to that, we need to see the big point that the whole of Mark 7:24-8:10 is making. The three separate incidents mentioned (7:24-30, 7:31-37 and 8:1-10) all take place in Gentile regions, and all apply blessings that Jesus is bringing for the Jews to the Gentiles. So in 7:24-30 we get a very similar story to that of Jairus and his daughter in chapter 5 but for a Gentile woman. 7:31-37 applies the blessings promised to Israel in passages like Isaiah 35 to a Gentile man, and 8:1-10 seems to be a repeat of the feeding of the 5000, but this time for the Gentiles. Notice that the end result is the same - just as with the Jews, 'all ate and were satisfied'.

When we see the common link of 'bread' between 8:1-10 and 7:27-28 (note that v27 literally reads 'Let the children eat and be satisfied first'), we see how remarkable this woman's response is. Not only is she humble enough to accept that, as a Gentile, she doesn't deserve anything from Jesus, but more surprisingly still she understands that Jesus has nevertheless come for the Gentiles too (an understanding which Jesus' response in v27 draws out and which he commends in v29).

Given that this is the first time in Mark's gospel that anyone has understood a parable of Jesus (and a Gentile at that!), it leaves us with a massive question: where has this understanding come from?!

Questions for application
  • Given that most of us at RML Mark are Gentiles, how does this passage make us feel?
  • Why do you think we find this passage hard to apply? How do we need to view ourselves in order to apply it correctly?
  • Why is this passage such incredibly good news for us?