(HUFFINGTON POST) — Pious readers encountering this question may be shocked or offended. (Perhaps the impious as well!) And to tell you the truth, I had a hard time framing it this way myself, as it seems to border on being disrespectful, even unseemly. Yet that's the question that kept coming to mind as I read the passage many preachers will be dealing with this coming Sunday. It comes from the seventh chapter of Mark's Gospel and also borders on disrespectful, even unseemly.
Let me set the scene. Jesus, as Mark records, wants to get away, and so he goes to visit a house in Tyre, a seaside community quite a hike from his usual haunts in Galilee. Mark tells us that he doesn't want anyone to know he's there, but a woman finds him anyway, bows down at his feet, and begs him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. And this is the exchange that follows:
"He said to her, 'Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.' But she answered him, 'Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.' Then he said to her, 'For saying that, you may go -- the demon has left your daughter' (Mark 7:27-29)."
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Do you see what I mean? Why on earth would Jesus, the guy who has spent pretty much the rest of Mark Gospel healing anyone with so much as athlete's foot, respond to this earnest woman's plea with not just an insult, but an ethnic slur?