Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Mark 7:27-28 The pet dogs under the table also eat

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 19, 2019

27 Jesus said to her, “First let the children eat their fill, because it is not good to take bread from the children and throw it to their little pet dogs.”

Everything Jesus has done so far in Mark’s Gospel has been ministry among the Jews of Galilee and Judea. Now, venturing out in or near the Gentile lands of Phoenicia, he has encountered a woman who is a Greek and who speaks Greek. She is not a Jewess, but she has made a request of Jesus: “Drive the demon from my daughter.”

Jesus’ actions toward the woman show that God tests the faith of some people in ways that seem more severe than others. When he called Andrew, Peter, James and John, he did nothing more than ask them to follow him. Now he sounds almost rude as he brushes aside the request of a Gentile woman.

Yet the gospel is in his words. He doesn’t say, “Instead, let the children eat.” He says, “First, let the children eat.” First implies a second or an afterward. Jesus also uses an insult to give her a chance to show to the Jews the depth of this Gentile’s faith. He calls her a “little pet dog.” Whether it is the French chienne, or the German schweinhund, or the kunaria (κυνάρια) Jesus uses here, it is an insult in most languages to call someone a dog. Apart from this passage and Job 30:1, most of the references to dogs in the Bible are about wild dogs, feral dogs, or insults like this one.

The children Jesus is talking about are the Children of Israel. The dogs are the Gentiles, who were not God’s people and who were outside God’s plan because of their unbelief. But here is a Gentile woman who was an exception: She was filled with faith; the gospel of forgiveness and the promise of eternal life had thrown aside her unbelief and had brought her into the family of believers. She wasn’t going to let go of that no matter what anyone (even Jesus) called her.

28 “Lord,” she answered, “the pet dogs under the table also eat some of the children’s crumbs.”

The Lord’s ministry was first of all to the Jews, as Paul teaches: “The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). The “little pet dogs” were those Gentiles living among the Jews who might receive the gospel as it was preached nearby.

I don’t know that there is a more powerful statement of faith in all of the Bible, or in human history. Rather than be put off by what seems to be an insult, this Gentile woman embraces it. In today’s terms, she “owns” it. She is perfectly fine with being described as a dog, but she is a dog in the house of the Lord, a dog lying under the table of God’s own children. So, if she is a dog, she will be fed. At least she will have the scraps and crumbs that fall from the fingers of the children which came from God himself. This will be enough for her; more than enough. These scraps and crumbs will mean everlasting life! She understands her place in God’s kingdom, and she is overjoyed that she has such a place. We have much to learn from her! She doesn’t act entitled to more than she is offered. She is thrilled by what is offered, and she embraces it. This Gentile Greek woman is to faith what the “heroic wife” is to marriage (Proverbs 31:10-31). She takes the position she has, and she makes more of it than anyone ever thought possible. She suddenly rises to an impressive and unforgettable status among Christians, becoming (after the Wise Men) one of the very first Gentile Christians ever.

The Lord had said: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Most of us who read this devotion are Gentiles by birth. We rejoice that the gospel has been offered to us. But today our place with the Jews has become reversed. Today many millions of Gentile Christians know the Savior and put their faith in him, but for the most part the Jews have rejected him. Thank God for your faith and your place in his kingdom, and pray for the Jews, that they would be restored to faith. It is not enough to have the dust of Israel under one’s fingernails or the blood of Israel in one’s veins. It is the faith of Abraham that matters: a faith that trusts in the Savior who has already come, who gave his life on the cross to pay for our sins, and who reached out to this Greek woman and her little daughter. This is the Savior who has reached out to you.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


Browse Devotion Archive