“But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet.” (Mark 7:25, ESV)
Desperation: “the feeling of being in such a bad situation that you will take any risk to change it.” [Cambridge English Dictionary]
Is there anything more desperate than a parent who is concerned about a child? They will “bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe,” [to steal the words of John F. Kennedy] in order to help their child.
If you have children you understand this, I don’t need to convince you.
We meet a desperate woman in Mark 7.24-30, and when we finish the passage and set our Bible down and meditate, we come away astounded and amazed. This woman will not be put off by any barrier: not by the fact that she is a woman, not because she is a Greek and not a Jew, not because Jesus puts her off at first. Not. For. Any. Reason.
This is what desperation does. It makes you forget the social niceties of your culture, it forces you to put aside all of the things in your character that would normally prevent you from stepping out and clutching the solution to your problem and refusing to let go. So you grab on, and you will never relent, because you have a little daughter at home and she is cruelly oppressed by a demonic spirit and she needs relief and you can think of only one place to go. It’s a person whom you’ve only ever heard stories about. He’s a Jewish rabbi, but he seems to have extraordinary power. Perhaps…
Watch her as she falls down at Jesus’ feet, humbling herself before this man is easy in comparison to what she is experiencing every day with her daughter. She won’t get up. She will not leave. She will get what she is after. What is there to lose?
Observe the urgency in her voice and in the prostration of her body as she begs Jesus to drive out the demon.
And then…what’s this? Jesus puts her off? This is unexpected. He is always and everywhere opposed to the demonic spirits and he has authority over them. We know this for certain. His words: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
She knows what he is saying. She is a Gentile, he is a Jew. His mission is to minister to the Jewish nation, not to the Gentiles. [not yet, that will come, but not yet]
Jesus is testing her here, but she doesn’t know any of that, she only knows that she has a daughter at home who is slowly but inexorably being destroyed and she has to helplessly watch day after day after day. This Man is her last hope.
She is the only person in the Gospel of Mark who takes on Jesus’ words, who responds back to him, if not in opposition, in essence demanding him to reconsider: ““Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Notice the respect here, “Yes, Lord.” Notice the humility: “Little dogs under the table eat the little crumbs of little children.”
Watch the smile upon Jesus’ face as he hears her response. She is humble, she is begging, she is desperate, but she is a mother who will not be put off. She will wrestle with him until she has her purpose. This is great faith, and Jesus knows it and commends it.
She receives what she asks for. Without being present, without speaking any words to or about her daughter, he simply informs her that the demon has left her daughter, and he must, and he has. Her daughter is free.
Is there any better picture of our need for Christ than this desperate woman? We won’t throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus until we come to the end of ourselves and release all our pride and expectations and desires, awash in the understanding that he is our last and only hope. Little dogs, little crumbs, little tables, may our hearts embrace them all in our need for Jesus. May we come to him in desperation.