“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Mark 7:28
We celebrated Easter a couple of weeks ago, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a great day in many ways, one of which was being with family for a meal together. At this stage of life there are not only my children, but their children as well and the table typically set for the meal is not quite large enough to accommodate us all. My daughter-in-law, who hosted the meal, is sharp and had recognized the challenge. She had set up a table in another room close by where all my grand children could enjoy a meal with limited adult supervision. Just that made the meal a bit more exciting. I could hear the conversation and threshold of chaos, but I could ignore it because it was in another room away from what I could see. The adults gathered at the main table and the kids at their table, all except for my oldest grandchild, who wanted to have a seat at the adult table and not be in charge of her younger siblings and cousins in the other room. Her mom had arranged it so she sat in with all of us, which I’m sure was greatly appreciated. Surprisingly, everything went well in that other room exclusively arranged for children. This was a test of my faith since I expected to have them eating each other by the end of the meal…but they all survived. My faith is growing!
I remember those days growing up when I was relegated to another room with a seat at the children’s table. As I got older I wanted to be treated as “more mature” and to be offered a seat at the adult table. It was a way of being respected and valued. The meal was pretty much the same, but the company was much more sophisticated. I find that there are still many occasions where I want to be invited to sit at the adult table, the place of influence, sophistication and honor. I want the respect associated with that table and feel that to some degree I’ve earned a place at that table through at least age and experience, if not some measure of talent. It is one of those places of entitlement in my life and it betrays the insecurity I feel at being marginalized as irrelevant or obsolete. To be honest, I struggle with these insecurities daily and I know God wants to heal these places of brokenness manifested in my fears, vanity and pride that express themselves in my sense of entitlement. I want the respect that a place at the adult table indicates.
There is a story of a Gentile woman who came to Jesus in an outlying region while He was trying to go unnoticed. In their exchange the woman expressed her desperate concern for her daughter who was under the influence of an unclean spirit. She begged Jesus to drive out the demon and free her daughter. Jesus seemed in His response to not only dismiss the woman, but also identify her as a dog. It doesn’t sound to me like an appropriate or compassionate response from Jesus. She has not only been told there is not a seat at the adult’s table, but no seat available for her at the children’s table either. Whereas I might have resented the inference and the unkind characterization of Jesus, this woman persists and responds in a way that reveals something more insightful. She sees the feast under the table.
This woman had faith that even a crumb from Jesus would be more than enough to satisfy the desire of her heart. This woman was willing to humbly identify with the dogs to receive even a possible crumb from Jesus. She made a feast of the scraps, the crumbs, and the leftovers from the table Jesus had prepared. In that place beneath the table, the place associated with the dogs, she discovered the fulfillment and satisfaction of the desire of her heart.
Here’s the thing, if we choose to obsess over a place at the table we may miss the feast available underneath the table. Our obsession with a seat at the table, the place of perceived influence, honor and respect, may prevent us from experiencing the feast underneath that is seen with the eyes of faith, received with humility and celebrated with gratefulness.
The woman in faith, humility and gratitude was able to discover the abundance of Jesus underneath the table comprised of the crumbs, scraps and leftovers. It was there, in the space underneath, the place of humiliation and helplessness that this woman not only found the answer to her prayer, but also the honor bestowed upon her by Jesus. In the Matthew’s Gospel account of this story Jesus responds to this woman’s remarkably insightful answer with these words, “Woman, you have great faith!” (Matthew 15:28). Because she was able to hear something more in the words of Jesus than just His priority regarding the children of Israel, she became an influential witness, an example of great faith, written down in the pages of the Bible.
My pride and vanity, my sense of entitlement, can often prevent me from experiencing all Jesus has for me in the humble, obscure and seemingly less significant and respectful places of my life. I love the honor, influence and respect that comes from sitting in the front row, reserved seats. But I’m discovering that my life is comprised of far more small, less prominent and humble places than it is the big, splashy and widely influential places. It’s a dogs life, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing when Jesus spills over the crumbs of His life-giving bread. The question for all of us is, will you have the eyes to recognize the feast under the table available to those willing to identify with the dogs? May you have this day the faith, humility and gratitude to receive what Jesus makes available to you in what seem like crumbs, scraps and leftovers, falling generously from His table. You may be surprised at how fulfilling and life changing these morsels are. Enjoy the song here, as well!