Monday, June 18, 2018

A Real Slobberknocker

When Spit Flies


It’s a rather juicy and colorful country word I learned growing up. Folks would use it to describe a vicious collision during a football game. We’re talking about a hit so hard that spit would fly everywhere. Slobberknocker…get it?

If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ve probably heard announcer Jim Ross throw this term around more than the Rock throws the People’s Elbow. Yeah, I just mentioned wrestling in the same breath as Jesus.

A Trip to the Ten Towns

But long before Wrestlemania or the Royal Rumble, there was a real slobberknocker in a tiny corner of the world known as the Ten Towns. Folks there will never forget the day that Jesus used a glob of His own supernatural spit to knock a dude’s deafness into next week (Mk 7:31-37).

It all happens during a long road trip for Christ and His crew. Did you catch all that’s been going on? Let’s rewind a ways and review, shall we? It starts when the Lord’s own hometown of Nazareth gives Him a stiff arm (Mk 6:1-6).

Trying to Take Some Time off

After that He sends the Twelve out in teams of two to practice serving and loving people on their own (Mk 6:7-13). Jesus gets the bad news that the local king has killed His cousin (Mk 6:14-29). It’s right about here when the Lord starts looking to take His guys and take some time off (Mk 6:30-31).

Oh, but just the opposite happens. This is right about the time Jesus’ popularity peaks and things really amp up. After a big crowd chases him down the beach while He’s traveling by boat, our Savior serves them up an all-you-can-eat seafood buffer using only a a couple of fish sandwiches (Mk 6:32-44).

Problems on the Inside

When Christ sends His disciples off in a boat across the big lake, He miraculously meets up with them in by walking out the waves during a midnight storm (Mk 6:45-52). He follows that by healing all sorts of folks in several lakeside villages (Mk 6:53-56). Some are cured by just grabbing His clothes.

Follow that up with yet another showdown with religious power brokers from the Hebrew home office in Jerusalem (Mk 7:1-23). These dudes are all freaked out when Jesus’ team won’t follow their own manmade rules for obeying God through external actions. But He makes it clear that our problem isn’t on the outside but the churning urn of burning funk on the inside of hearts.

That’s when Christ gets so serious about getting away that He and His boys head north across the border near a city on the Mediterranean Sea called Tyre. Despite trying to keep a low profile in a foreign land, He ends up helping a desperate mom by driving the demon out of her daughter (Mk 7:24-30).

A Roundabout Route

We pick up the story in Mark’s biography of the radical Rabbi/Carpenter as He packs up and hit the road again. The author traces His rather roundabout route. “Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns” (v31).

If you’re following along on the map, you’ll see they head further north about twenty miles to Sidon before swinging back south in a clockwise loop. They make an end run to the eastern side of the lake we call the Sea of Galilee.

Off Herod’s Radar

In doing so, Jesus and His arrive back in the Ten Towns metro area. The Ten Towns, also known in some Bible translations as the Decapolis, is an alliance of cities which share a heavy influence of Greek culture.

This is non-Jewish territory. It allows the Lord to stay off Herod Antipas’ radar as well as avoiding those pesky Pharisees. But it’s not like Jesus can keep it on the down low for very long. His popularity had already spread to the Ten Towns (Mt 4:25)

His Reputation Precedes Him

That’s because Christ got an amazing amount of local media attention after healing a naked, demon-possessed dude living in a local graveyard (Mk 5:20). Let’s just say His reputation preceded Him to the Ten Towns.

So it’s not long before He’s asked to help someone. “A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to Him, and the people begged Jesus to lay His hands on the man and heal Him” (v32). Locals clearly believe He can help their friend.

God Takes Requests

This is a great reminder of a couple of things. First of all, we should do what we can for others what they can’t do for themselves. Specifically when that involves getting them closer to Jesus.

Second, the Son of God takes requests. He’s ready to hear our pleas on behalf of others. The fancy schmancy word for that is intercession. It’s action of intervening for someone else when we see the need for divine intervention.

A Speech Impediment

In this case, the man can’t hear. We don’t know why. Chances are he could at some point. That’s because Mark describes him as having a “speech impediment” (v32). This is the compound Greek word μογιλαλος/mogilalos, which literally means to have difficulty speaking.

This doesn’t mean he couldn’t or wouldn’t talk at all. It simply means he was very hard to understand. When you have severe hearing loss, you have a hard time speaking because you can’t hear yourself. This means the guy could probably hear at one point. The dude has gone deaf over the course of his life.

Getting Alone with the Son of God

Whatever the case, Christ gets to work. But first He creates some distance from the crowd. “Jesus led Him away from the crowd so they could be alone” (v33). These days you would suspect this was to avoid some sort of HIPAA violation. But that’s not the case in the First Century.

I guess there’s the chance that He remembers how the last miracle He performed in the area wasn’t exactly received with open arms. Our Savior healed that demon-possessed man by sending a couple of thousand evil spirits into a herd of hogs. When the pigs died after taking a flying leap off a cliff, locals begged Him to leave (Mk 5:1-20).

Eliminating Distractions

But I suspect the Lord simply doesn’t want to put on a big show. It’s not looking for a photo opp or creating a media event. He’s simply providing a quiet and compassionate cure for a particular person.

Could it be that Christ is taking the man’s disability into consideration? Getting alone with him would also eliminate visual distractions. All he sees would be Jesus.

Hanging out with Jesus

Whatever the case, we can be sure that our Savior loves to get alone with us. He wants to eliminate the distractions that steal our focus from Him. Turn off the phone. Close the laptop. Walk away from the TV. Get alone with the Son of God. He loves to just hang out. Just you and Jesus.

To be sure, following Christ is a team sport. We desperately need other believers in our lives. But it’s also intensely personal. Jesus wants to get alone with each of us. As a matter of fact, He LOVES to get alone with each of us.

Sign Language

When the two of them are off to themselves Jesus begins the exam with a touch. “He put His fingers into the man’s ears” (v33). This is probably His not-so-subtle form of sign language letting His patient know what He’s about to do.

We’ve got to remember that this just about the only way Christ can communicate His care and compassion to the guy. After making the massive leap from heaven to earth, He’s not going to let the man’s deafness get in the way. He meets him smack dab in his disability.

Meeting Us Where We Are

And He does the same for us. He meets us where we are…right in the middle of our brokenness. In the middle of our depression. In the middle of our pain. In the middle of our sin. In the middle of our rebellion.

There’s an old tune by King David that goes a little something like this. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Ps 34:18). In other words, He never closer than when we’re at our lowest. Let THAT sink in.

Goober from the Son of God

After probing the man’s ears, that’s when things get a little…um…messy. “Then, spitting on His own fingers, He touched the man’s tongue” (v33). Yup, you read that right. Jesus spits. Goober from the Son of God. The Lord hocks a loogie.

After digging deeper into the original language for this verse, I’m pretty sure I’ve found my new favorite Greek word. It’s πτυω/ptuo. Go ahead, say it out loud. It’s sounds EXACTLY like you think it would…puh-TOO-ee! And it means EXACTLY what you think it does…to spit. I told you this was going to be a real slobberknocker!

Drool as a Tool

It’s not the only time Jesus uses His own drool as a tool in the healing process. A little later in Mark, He applies His saliva to restore the sight to a man in Bethsaida (Mk 8:22-26). John tells us about the time Christ combines clay and spit cure another guy’s blindness (Jn 9:6-7).

So if God can use slobber for His glory and our good, He can use just about anything. That includes you and me.

Heavenly Healing

But our Savior has three more little steps before this hearing impaired man receives his miracle. “Looking up to heaven, He sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha,’ which means, ‘Be opened!’” (v34). One, He looks up. Two, He sighs. Three, He commands.

First, Jesus looks up in another form of non-verbal communication. He wants this guy to know this will be a heavenly healing. As Christ’s kid brother writes, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:17). If it’s good, it’s from God.

The Savior’s Heavy Sigh

Second, He sighs. Here’s another example of where the English language has a hard time getting across the gist of the biblical Greek. The word the NLT translates as “sighed” (Gr. στεναζω/stenazo) means to moan and groan as the result of deep concern or stress. It’s expressing a complaint excessively or grumbling strongly.

So the Savior heaves a heavy sigh. What’s the Messiah moaning and groaning about? You can just about bet He’s brokenhearted over the damage our sin has caused. Not just to His Dad’s perfect creation but to ourselves as well.

We can trace it all back to our first parents. Adam and Eve fell for the lie from a satanic snake that God was holding out on them (Gen 3:1-7). Things have been spiraling in the wrong direction ever since. Let’s not get cocky and think we wouldn’t have been such suckers for original sin. The universe is broken and we’re the ones who broke it.

The Power of God’s Words

Third, Christ commands. Thankfully, Mark does the heaving lifting of translation for us. “‘Ephphatha,’ which means, ‘Be 
opened!’” (v34). That funny looking word is actually in Aramaic, the local language spoken in first century Israel. It’s closely related to Hebrew and is still spoken in parts of the Middle East today.

Jesus orders the deaf man’s to open up and start working again. Never forget the unbelievable power when God speaks. We’re talking about words that carry total authority. If you’re wondering what I mean, He created absolutely everything out of totally nothing by simply saying a few words (Gen 1).

If God can do that, there’s nothing stopping Him from doing anything else. If He says it, stand back and watch what happens. It’s one reason Jesus is known as the Word (Jn 1:1). What He says goes. Demons hit the road. Disease disappears. Eternities change.

Sudden Sound

It should come as no surprise what happens next outside the Ten Towns. “Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!” (v35). Once again, Mark uses his favorite word, here the NLT translates “instantly” (Gr. ευθεος/eutheos). The author drops some form of it 40-plus times.

In other words, there’s zero recovery time. The man doesn’t just have a significant improvement in his hearing. His ears are crystal clear. Imagine going from total silence to sudden sound. In an instant, you can hear birds singing, leaves rustling, and water trickling.

Jesus’ instantaneous healing of his hearing leads directly to correcting his speech. They are tied together. Now that he can clearly hear again, his can clearly speak again. By the way, that’s pretty solid confirmation that his deafness wasn’t a birth defect.

Doing Messiah Things

The Lord does what the prophet Isaiah predicted that Messiah is supposed to do. “And when he comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!” (Is 35:5-6).

It’s what Jesus tells the followers of John the Baptizer when they wonder if He really is the Hero from heaven everyone’s waiting for. “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the God News is preached to the poor” (Mt 11:5).

A Sneak Preview

The Son of God is providing a sneak preview of what His kingdom will eventually look like! When He returns for His ultimate encore, everything will change for the better. He’ll totally kick sin, disease, and death to the heavenly curb once and for all. If you think this is a slobberknocker, just you wait!!

Why Keep It Quiet?

Once the guy can hear and speak again, you would expect his assignment from Jesus would be to spread the word. Not so fast, my friend. “Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more He told them not to, the more they spread the news” (v36). Wait, what?

What’s the dealio? Just remember where we are in the story of Jesus. First, the Messiah is in Gentile territory. Remember how He made it clear that at the top of His to-do list is taking the Gospel to God’s chosen people, the Jews (Mk 7:27)?

Staying on Schedule

Second, Christ has a VERY specific timetable. He doesn’t want to attract the attention of the Roman Empire too soon. They have a little problem with anyone who challenges their authority by claiming to be the King of Kings and God Incarnate.

Third, Jesus has disciples to, well, disciple. He has a limited window of three-and-a-half years to transform this ragtag team of misfits into an apostolic strike force that will change the world.

Doing What He Says

But as you can see, word of what He’s doing spreads like wildfire. The more Jesus tells us not to do something, the more we do it. Sound familiar? I need to constantly remind myself that following Him means doing what He says. It means trusting Him with the leadership of my life.

Knocking It out of the Park

It’s just hard for these folks to keep the lid on the goodness of God. “They were completely amazed and said again and again, ‘Everything He does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak’” (v37).

The original language basically says their wonder over what’s gone down is way off the charts. Jesus has knocked it out of the park. This is such a home run healing that it can’t be measured.

In other words, it’s a real slobberknocker!

Jay Jennings

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Table Scraps and Puppy Love

Everybody Loves Puppies

I know some people just aren’t dog people. Even as a dog person, I get that. But everybody loves puppies. I mean EVERYBODY LOVES PUPPIES! It’s hard to find someone whose heart doesn’t melt whenever they see a tiny tail-wagger.

Did you know Jesus has a soft spot for a cute and cuddly puppy? Okay, I know we never read about the Lord swinging by the local shelter to adopt Son of Man’s best friend. But Mark tells the story in his bio of our Savior about the time Christ showers His grace on an adorable little mutt (Mk 7:24-30).

Begging for Table Scraps

It’s an account that a lot of folks have a hard time wrapping their heads and hearts around. I used to be one of them. At first glance, it appears Jesus dismisses a desperate mom like He’s angrily shooing away some pesky mongrel begging for table scraps.

But a closer look shows us something different. Something more tender. It’s a moment filled with mercy and grace. It’s more like a moment when a cute little puppy catches the eye of our Savior. A moment that changes everything.

Previously on the Gospel of Mark

To understand what’s going on, we need to back up a bit. If you were binging this as a series on Netflix, this is where the announcer would say, “Previously on the Gospel of Mark.”

As we pick up the action, Jesus’ popularity is blowing up. He can’t go anywhere in Galilee without gathering a crowd (Mk 1:28, 33, 45; 2:2, 13, 18; 3:7-10, 20; 4:1; 5:14, 21, 24, 31; 6:31-34, 54-56).

A Crazy Few Days

The Lord has become such a local celebrity that people notice Him everywhere He goes. That’s especially the case around Galilee, His home turf. It’s making it nearly impossible for Him to get alone with His team of twelve. They’ve been hoping to get a little R&R for a while (Mk 6:31).

The past few days have been crazy for Jesus and the boys. The disciples have just returned from their first attempt at helping people without their Leader (Mk 6:7-13, 30). The news of the king’s execution of Christ’s cousin is still fresh (Mk 6:14-29).

An All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Buffet

Jesus provided an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet to a crowd of at least 5,000 men which probably numbers at least 20,000 people total (Mk 6:32-44). Later that same night, He walks out on the waves to meet the boys in their boat in the middle of a nasty nighttime storm (Mk 6:45-52).

Back on the beach near Genneseret the next morning, things explode again when people recognize You-know-who’s in town. Locals do everything possible to get their family and friends who need help close to Christ (Mk 6:53-56).

A Churning Urn of Burning Funk

That’s followed by yet another awkward confrontation between Jesus and Jewish leaders (Mk 7:1-13). They’re upset that He and His squad aren’t following the religious rules they wrote. He’s upset that they are editing and adding to God’s Law.

In the last episode, the Son of God warns folks that we shouldn’t worry too much about what we eat. The real nasty stuff is the churning urn of burning funk in our own hearts (Mk 7:14-23).

Hitting the Road for Tyre

It’s at this point that our Savior and His disciples pack it up and hit the road. They leave the western shore of the big lake we call the Sea of Galilee. “Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre” (v24).

Things have gotten so wacky that the Lord decides to actually leave the country. Tyre may be just 30 miles away but it’s over the border in what’s known as Syro-Phoencia. It’s name is just mashup of the ancient lands of Syria and Phoenicia.

See Rock City

Jesus and the Twelve get away somewhere near this Phoenician coastal city. The name Tyre actually means “Rock.” It makes you wonder if they have signs painted on barns and billboards reading “See Rock City”? Okay, maybe not.

As a big city, Tyre’s a big deal. It’s not just the capital but an incredibly prosperous seaport and the center for international trade. Because of that, it’s place flowing with money. Locals had a rep for being materialistic. Think Los Angeles.

Keeping It on the Down Low

Whether or not Christ hopes He and His crew will get lost in the crowd, it is clear that He tries to keep their presence on the down low. “He didn’t want anyone to know which house He was staying in, but He couldn’t keep it a secret” (v24). You won’t find this little tidbit describing His desire to fly under the radar anywhere but here in Mark’s Gospel.

We see right from jump street that’s not happening. Not only is He at the peak of His popularity back home, people from Tyre had already made the trip to Galilee to check out the radical Rabbi/Carpenter from Nazareth (Mk 3:8). His fame made it there before He did.

A Sneak Preview

If you’re wondering, this is actually the Lord’s second trip to a non-Jewish country. You might remember the whole scene in the Gerasene cemetery with a naked dude and herd of pigs taking a flying leap off a cliff (Mk 5:1-20).

Meanwhile somewhere in the Tyre metro are, Jesus tries to avoid publicity. I wonder if He uses an alias like celebs at a hotel. Whatever the case, this is a sneak preview of where some of these very same disciples would take the Gospel of grace in just a couple of years (Mk 13:10; 14:9).

Word Gets out

The Son of God hasn’t been there long before the word gets out. “Right away a woman who had heard about Him came and fell at His feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit” (v25).

Right away we see the words “right away” (v25). Once again, Mark uses one of his favorite terms to keep the pedal to the metal. Some form of ευθυς/euthos shows up 40-plus times in the second Gospel. It’s the author’s way of saying buckle up.

Helping Her Baby Girl

You get the impression that Jesus hasn’t even had time to put down His luggage when this distraught momma throws herself at Him in hopes of getting rid of the demon terrorizing her baby girl. Does she believe He’s the long awaited Messiah? We don’t know. One thing for sure, she believes He’s the answer to her daughter’s problem.
It’s easy to blow right past the scandal of this encounter. First of all, women have almost no status in the First Century. The Greco-Roman world thinks so little of the ladies that they’re nothing more than property.

Little More than Property

To make matters worse, this woman pleads on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter. Mom has zero leverage in society. If it’s possible, her little girl has even less. Men consider them little more than property back in the day. With one exception. You guessed it, Jesus.

Don’t Get Smug

Before we get all smug about how far we’ve come in regards to women’s rights, we really need to slow our roll. Just do a little search on the #MeToo movement. Two thousand years later, men are still abusing their power and position to sexually harass and assault females.

Sadly this extends to nearly every corner of our world. Home. School. Work. Church. Yeah, you read that right. Church. This scandal has taken down some of the most influential leaders of the Christian faith.

Demolishing Gender Barriers

If there’s one place our daughters, sisters, wives, and moms should not only feel safe but valued, it’s in the Body of Christ. God creates ALL of us in His image (Gen 1:26-27). Jesus personally demolished the barriers between genders (Gal 3:28). Peter commands every husband to treat their wife as “equal partner in God’s gift of new life” (1Pet 3:7).

Maybe you need to repent and confess your treatment of women. Maybe you need to report something you’ve seen, heard, or even experienced. Whatever the case, it needs to stop. Are we clear?

Falling at His Feet

Meanwhile back in the story, we see how this frantic mom “came and fell at His feet” (v25). Did you know that Jesus never turns down anyone who throws themselves before Him? Every. Single. One.

Check out the list. There’s that naked crazy man terrorizing people in the graveyard (Mk 5:6; Lk 8:28). What about Jairus coming to Christ to heal his baby girl (Mk 5:22; Lk 8:41)? Don’t forget the woman suffering from years of hemorrhaging (Lk 8:47). Have you read about Lazarus’ sister Mary at her brother’s funeral (Jn 11:32)? And then there’s Jesus’ best friend John (Rev 1:17; 19:10).

Hitting Rock Bottom

The big idea is that each one of these folks realized they couldn’t do it on their own. They needed God. It’s just like Jesus says in the opening lines of His most famous sermon. “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Mt 5:3).

Jesus wants us to come to Him for help so badly that He allows us to hit rock bottom. There’s an old saying that goes a little something like this: “God’s office is often at the end of your rope.” When we get there, we can throw ourselves at His feet. He’s been waiting there for us the whole time.

When Hope Is on E

We have no idea what this mother and child have been through to this point. You can bet their lives are soaked with tears and their hope is on E. Whatever they’ve tried, they’ve come up empty. So when she hears Christ is in town, “she begged Him to cast out the demon from her daughter” (v26).

The 800-Pound Gorilla

Gender isn’t the only issue on the table in this encounter between Jesus and the desperate woman. The other 800-pound gorilla is religion and race. “She was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia” (v26). A couple of issues we’re still wrestling with today.

The first label she wears describes her belief system. “Gentile” (Gr. ‘Ελληνις/Hellenis) literally means someone who is Greek. No, not someone from the nation of Greece. It’s  Israelite slang for any non-Jewish person.

The Spread of Greek Culture

This nickname goes back to the days of none other than Alexander the Great. A couple of hundred years before, the Big A rolled out of Greece and conquered all of the known world. A huge part of his plan for global domination was spreading Greek culture and language to the ends of the Earth.

The Jewish people stood their ground. They dug in their Hebrew heels and refused to go Greek. As a result, they looked down their nose at everyone who caved and labeled anyone who wasn’t a cultural Jew as “Greek.”

Paving the Way for the Gospel

What God’s chosen people didn’t realize was how He would use the spread of Greek language as a big part of expanding His heavenly kingdom. With everyone using a common tongue to communicate, it paved the way for Gospel to race around the world like a tsunami of grace.

That’s why all of the original documents of the New Testament are in what is called Koine Greek. It was the common trade language Alexander forced upon around the people he conquered. Little did this dictator know he was just a pawn in God’s bigger plan.

Writing for a Roman Audience

Mark goes on to tell us that this woman was “born in Syrian Phoenicia” (v26). He’s clueing in his readers on her geopolitical background. Since the author of the second Gospel is writing for a Roman audience, he wants them to know her place in the empire.

This pegs her homeland as the Roman province just north of Israel along the Mediterranean. A quick check of Matthew’s version of this very same story tells us she’s also a Canaanite (Mt 15:22 ESV). These were the people living in the Promised Land when the Israelites arrived (Ex 23:23, 28). In other words, an enemy of the Jews.

A Mixed Breed Mongrel

The bottom line is that this lady checks all the wrong boxes. Woman. Gentile. Foreigner. Enemy of God’s people. She’s a total outsider when it comes to gender, religion, culture, and heritage. If she were a dog at the shelter, she’s the mixed breed mongrel that nobody wants.

Nobody, that is, but Jesus. As we so often see with our Savior, none of these labels mean a hill of beans to Him. Who can ever forget His tender conversation with the Samaritan divorcee at a drinking fountain (Jn 4:4-30)? He readily accepts those the rest of us regularly reject.

A Harsh Response?

But the Lord’s initial response seems…um…well…kinda harsh. “First I should feed the children—My own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs” (v27). Did He just call this desperate woman and her daughter both dogs? What the WHAT?!?

Maybe Jesus isn’t who we thought He was. Maybe someone stuck this story into Scripture to throw the Messiah under the back of the Bible bus. But a closer look at the original language reveals His heart. A heart both devoted to His chosen people and broken by this lady’s urgent cry for help.

First Things First

First and foremost, don’t miss the fact that the Son of God first says “first” (v27). This lady certainly doesn’t. He doesn’t mean never. He just means wait. Hang in there. God hasn’t forgotten about you. He simply has an order of doing things. He has a plan. And His plan includes you!

Next Jesus reveals the order of His divine to-do list. His top priority is to “feed the children—My own family, the Jews” (v27). That’s His way of saying His mission starts with the chosen people. A heavenly mission that goes back a few thousand years.

Back to Tower of Babel Bungle

This goes all the way back to right after the whole Tower of Babel bungle. That’s when Yahweh handpicks Abram to receive His blessing (Gen 12:1-3). Think of it this way. God’s choice of the Jewish people begins His selection of a Gentile from what we know today as Iraq.

One of the best and brightest of the first century Jews, a guy named Paul, puts it this way in a letter to Jesus’ followers in Rome. “Remember that Christ came as a servant t the Jews to show that God is true to the promises He made to their ancestors” (Rom 15:8).

God’s First Round Draft Pick

Over and over, Scripture reinforces the Hebrews as God’s first round draft pick (Dt 14:2; Neh 9:7; Amos 3:2; Rom 11:26). But it’s not like they were some off-the-charts-can’t-miss prospect. God makes it clear He actually picks the Jews because they were NOT all that (Dt 7:7).

There seems to be little doubt that the Hebrews occupy a soft spot in God’s heart. But while His blessing certainly starts with Abraham’s descendants but it certainly doesn’t end there. His love flows both to the Jewish people and through them to the whole wide world

A Supernatural Sequence

As a matter of fact, God called that shot right from the get go. He tells Abe from the very start that “all the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3). While Jesus certainly starts with the Jewish people, He really leaves no doubt His divine rescue mission is an expression of God’s love for every person on the planet (Mt 8:11; 21:43; Jn 3:16).

Once again, Paul reveals the supernatural sequence of salvation. Christ came “saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” (Rom 1:16). We can be sure that God is absolutely crazy about all people (Ps 22:27; Is 56:7; Mt 28:19-20; Rom 15:9-12).

Feeding the Dog

Now with the big picture of God’s love in mind, let’s zoom back into Jesus’ conversation with that desperate mom just outside of Tyre. He tells her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs” (v27).

Our Savior uses an interesting Greek term (Gr. κυναριον/kunarion) the NLT translates as “dogs.” This is NOT the usual word (Gr. κυων/kuon) for a vicious feral dog living in the streets or running lose in the wild. Think Cujo.

Picture a Puppy

This particular noun actually describes a smaller dog like a family pet. A lap dog. Picture a puppy. Specifically a cute and cuddly fuzzball bouncing around the table at mealtime. It’s excited by the sight and smell of food and doesn’t know any better. You can’t help but smile every time you see it.

Like a that adorable puppy, Christ doesn’t shoo her away. Most scholars believe He’s probably testing her faith.  Chances are He wants to use the situation as another opportunity to teach that God is throwing the doors wide open to anyone and everyone who places their trust in Him.

Like a Dog with a Bone

The worried mom doesn’t see Christ’s comeback as a problem. Nope, she sees it as an open door. So she walks right on through. “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates” (v28).

She doesn’t argue with the Nazarene. Instead she takes His canine analogy and runs with it. She passes this faith test and responds with respect and worship. She sees His response as an open invitation. This lady’s like a dog with a bone. She just won’t let go!

A Hunk of Gospel Ribeye

Jesus loves her persistence. “Good answer!” He said. Attagirl! Her tenacity shows that she has boundless confidence and faith in who He is. Rather than chasing her away like a dog begging at dinnertime, He does just the opposite.

The Son of God hands her a delicious hunk of Gospel ribeye. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter” (v29). Forget the table scraps. He gives her the miracle she came for.

Beating Feet Back Home

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion she beat feet back to the house the moment the Messiah said those words. What she sees when she hits the door is just as He promised. “And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone” (v30).

The terrible torture of her baby girl is over. Her pain is gone. Her agony has ended. No more screaming. No more tears. Her daughter rests comfortably in her bed. Can’t you just see her tucked under her “Frozen” sheets and squeezing her favorite teddy bear.

Power from a Distance

There’s also a couple of important theological lessons we shouldn’t miss with this little miss. First, Jesus’ miraculous healing demonstrates His power over the spiritual world. Satan is NOT the evil equal to the divine Son of God. Not even close.

Second, this makes it clear that Jesus doesn’t need to be physically present to do what needs to be done. His power transcends the distance. No need to worry that He can’t do what you need now that He’s headed back home to heaven.

Puppy Love

Some people love pure bred dogs like golden retrievers, bulldogs, and boxers. Others are all about those designer dogs such as labradoodles, schoodles, and cockapoos. Then there are those who have a heart for mixed breeds and mongrels.

Jesus loves them all. Or should I say, Jesus loves US all. That’s because our Savior has a particular soft spot for mutts and strays. He’s the person who goes to the shelter and not only wants to take each pooch home but actually does. Looks like the Lord has a serious case of puppy love.

Jay Jennings