“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps” (Mark 7:28).
Jesus was a master of the metaphor, the ability to say one thing with imagery but mean something else in fact. His many parables invited people to enter God’s way of seeing reality through stories. Jesus meets his match in the Syrophonecian woman, who bests him in a game of wits and wins healing for her daughter. The story is important for its message that God’s grace belonged to foreigners as much as Jews, to women as well as men, and for the startling suggestion that Jesus himself had something to learn as his mission unfolded.
When the woman begs him to heal her daughter, Jesus seemingly insults her by saying that the children’s food is not to be thrown to the dogs. She replies that the dogs under the table get the scraps, cornering Jesus in the logic of his metaphor. How can he send her away after that? As was the case in so many previous miracles, Jesus sees the woman’s faith and determination and knows that heaven has already granted her request. The Good News that up to now he had limited to the chosen people of Israel has gone global. Jesus must adjust his understanding and expand the scope of his mission.
How often in our own growth as disciples we find that our worldview is too small. Experience blows out our horizons and forces us from our comfort zones. There is always more to learn, surprises to adjust to as we find just how big God really is. The trap is to become learned, ensconced in our assumptions, ready with answers, an eager missionary to the ignorant, the helpless and misguided who lack what we have. The real zone of grace is on the edges of discovery, ambiguity and even controversy, where humility is the passport to finding God everywhere and in everyone.
The Syrophonecian woman, a foreigner and outcast, from beyond the borders and outer limits, turns out to be an evangelist, even to Jesus. Expect the unexpected. Discipleship is not just a call; it’s an adventure.