“Jesus Through the Eyes of Mark”
(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
Good Shepherd seeking out one of His lost sheep. Christ left Capernaum
to find seclusion and rest in the country around Tyre and Sidon. The
Jews hated these people who were of the old Canaanitish race. It is
ironic that had the children of Israel followed God’s command on entry
to Canaan, this problem would have been completely abolished.
Regardless, the Cananitish woman must have heard something about Jesus
because she determined that He was the only hope for her besieged
daughter. Though she must have thought she was seeking after Him,
Ellen G. White in
“He placed Himself in her path” (p. 400).
Here is a lesson we can learn. Because we can imply from the
circumstances that someone had told her about Jesus, we can also imply
that the Holy Spirit was working on her heart to not give up hope.
This is a demonstration of the model Christ gave His disciples of how
the gospel is to be spread. The Great Commission is to “go tell” the
gospel. The Holy Spirit works on the heart in ways humans are not to
witness. Then, when Providence deems the timing to be perfect, the
individual is confronted with the real Christ. The faith may be
tested, but we may trust that decision is always preceded with
sufficient information to make the step of faith a choice, not a
reckless leap in the dark.
The woman must overcome her fear of the prejudice of the Jews
surrounding Jesus in order to make her desperate plea for help.
Christ’s initial reaction seems to justify those fears.
Uncharacteristically, He ignores her. When she pressed her case, the
disciples “supposed that the prejudice of the Jews against the
Canaanites was pleasing to Him” (ibid.).
It is tempting to believe that Christ was using Divine omniscience to
perceive the strength of her faith. To believe that is to disbelieve
Philippians 2, which tells us that He laid aside those prerogatives,
and Christ’s own statement, “I can of Mine own self to nothing.” (John
5:30, KJV). How the Spirit prompted Him we don’t know, but the same
privilege is available to those who ask for such guidance in humble
Christ’s response, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house
of Israel,” seems on the surface to be an outright lie. But we need to
understand how God defines the house of Israel. We are given His
definition in Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye
Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (KJV). E. J.
Waggoner explains the concept: “All are alike sinners, and all are
saved in the same way. They who would make a distinction on the ground
of nationality, claiming that there is something different for the Jew
than for the Gentile, might just as well make a difference on the
ground of sex, claiming that women cannot be saved in the same way and
at the same time as men” (
Waggoner further explains that the “promise” spoken by God to Abraham
concerned his offspring, or heir. Noting that the promise language in
Genesis contemplated Christ as the “Offspring,” Waggoner states that
“God’s purpose is to ‘gather together in one all things in Christ’”
(Eph. 1:10, KJV; ibid., p. 85).
Now that we have defined the House of Israel, we can better understand
the conversation between Christ and the woman. Ignoring His first
comment, the women presses her case, and to demonstrate her
helplessness she “came and fell at His feet” (Mark 7:25, KJV). The Jew
would never display such an undignified position in public. Again,
Christ’s response seems to support the prevailing prejudice: “Let the
children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s
bread, and cast it unto the dogs.”
In making this statement, Jesus spoke the truth about the privileges
that had been bestowed on the children of Israel. They had been given
special gifts and advantages which they had misinterpreted as evidence
of their superiority above all others. If we think this lesson applies
only to ancient Israel we misunderstand the definition of “Israel”
discussed above. Privilege and advantage from God are always
accompanied by responsibility.
This heathen woman was beginning to grasp this concept when she
responded to Christ “Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of
the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28, KJV). “But the woman saw that her
opportunity had come. Beneath the apparent refusal of Jesus, she saw a
compassion that He could not hide” (
she initially thought of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, not sent to any
nation but Israel.
We can thus understand that the action of providing crumbs was more
deliberate than an unintended breach of table etiquette. It can
reasonably be implied that this custom arose out of a sense of
obligation that the dogs which were provided existence and shelter by
their master, were to be fed. The woman’s response evidenced her
humble faith that “if she may have the privilege of a dog, she is
willing to be regarded as a dog” (
One of the principles given to Jones and Waggoner in 1888 was the
concept that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for the entire world,
“children” and “dogs.” It was by this sacrifice that the human race
was allowed to live. The consequences of eating of the forbidden fruit
surely die” (Gen. 2:17, KJV, emphasis added). As soon as there was
sin, there was a Savior. Like the dogs under the table, it is possible
for human beings to reject the saving sacrifice of the cross, but like
the dogs, it cannot be rejected without a struggle. The metaphor can
be extended. The dogs have been given shelter, comfort and necessary
food to sustain life. To reject this, the dog must struggle against
the natural needs built into his body. The person who, like the
prodigal son is pursuing happiness in the world, must recognize that
his need is for the comfort of a loving heavenly Father.
It is only by overcoming this built-in need that we are allowed to
continue on a path of rejection. It can be said, God has made it hard
for the heedless and headstrong to be lost. Once it is understood that
“while we were yet sinners,” and His enemy, Christ died for us, we can
with gratitude accept the “adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:5) and allow God
to write His law on our hearts. We are no longer under condemnation of
the law, but obedient children, fully adopted into the family of
In Tuesday’s lesson, Peter, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
answers the world’s greatest question: “Who do you say I am?” Jesus
Christ is the Savior of the world, the Messiah, by Whose name and no
other we can be saved. Like Peter, we cannot come to this realization
on our own, only by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Once we come to
that realization, we take up the same cross Christ took: “Father, not
My will, but Thine be done.” The cross that Christians are called to
bear is not represented by the burdens of living in this world of sin.
It is relinquishing our will to the will of our heavenly Father, by
Whom we have been adopted in the Beloved. That is how Christ lived His
life and it is how we are privileged to live ours.
The Sabbath School lesson ends with the Transfiguration. The presence
of Moses and Elijah testifies to the saving power of the cross to
reach backward as well as forward in time as Christ is the Lamb slain
from the foundation of the world. Truly the sacrifice of Christ on His
cross saved the world and can transform both those who die in Christ,
and those at the very end who have allowed the cleansing, restoring,
and setting right that is Christ’s present ministry in the second
apartment of the heavenly Sanctuary. May this be our prayer.
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