Read Mark 7:24-30
24 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in,but he couldn’t keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit,26 and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter.
Since she was a Gentile,born in Syrian Phoenicia,27 Jesus told her,”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.”
28 She replied,”That’s true,Lord,but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”
29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home,for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home,she found her little girl lying quietly in bed,and the demon was gone. (NLT)
Sometimes Jesus doesn’t make a lot of sense. We approach him with a straightforward request and we don’t seem to get a straightforward answer. True,we can’t expect him to simply do our bidding. He isn’t the means to our materialistic ends. He won’t give us a bad thing no matter how fervently and mistakenly we ask for it. But there are times when we scratch our head and wonder what is wrong with our particular request that seems to go unheeded.
This passage sheds a little light on this. A non-Jewish woman wants her daughter healed and asks Jesus to do it. That sort of thing Jesus can do in his sleep-in a manner of speaking. But instead of responding with an instant healing he seems to dismiss the woman in an offensive way. What he says makes theological sense. He has come to first deliver the good news of salvation to the Jews. The plan is that they will pass it on to the rest of the world. Jesus was limited in space and time and couldn’t heal every sick person or perform all asked-for miracles.
His response doesn’t equate the woman to a dog (though some Jews did refer to Gentiles that way). More likely he is making the simple point that his strategy is to reach the Jews first. Just as a family will make feeding its human members a priority over feeding the household pets. Of course the woman reminds him that the pets still get any scraps,so she can still get an answer for her prayer. Jesus agrees with her and her daughter is healed. Strategic priorities won’t stop Jesus from answering a cry for help. Making the Jews his earthly priority didn’t mean dismissing the Gentiles.
We are in a different situation to that of this woman. But we can still be put off by Jesus’ apparent non response to our cries for help. All we can say is that he always hears our prayers and always acts rightly. To say that we don’t always understand his response,or don’t always discern it is not to say there is no response. All we can usually hear is our own urgent need screaming at us in such a way as to drown out all else. Faith,in the end,is not about our knowing what Jesus is doing in response to our prayers. It is about trusting that he knows what he is doing. And he always does.