Martin Luther on the Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

Martin Luther’s comments on the faith of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30:

“What a superb and wonderful object lesson this is, therefore, to teach us what a mighty, powerful, all-availing thing faith is. Faith takes Christ captive in his word, when he’s angriest, and makes out of his cruel words a comforting inversion, as we see here. You say, the woman responds, that I am a dog. Let it be, I will gladly be a dog; now give me the consideration that you give a dog. Thus she catches Christ with his own words, and he is happy to be caught. Very well, she says, if I am a dog, I ask no more than a dog’s rights. I am not a child nor am I of Abraham’s seed, but you are a rich Lord and set a lavish table. Give your children the bread and a place at the table; I do not wish that. Let me, merely like a dog, pick up the crumbs under the table, allowing me that which the children don’t need or even miss, the crumbs, and I will be content therewith. So she catches Christ, the Lord, in his own words and with that wins not only the right of a dog, but also that of the children. Now then where will he go, our dear Jesus? He let himself be made captive, and much comply. Be sure of this: that’s what he most deeply desires…

By such tenacity and unflinching faith the Lord is taken captive and pressed to answer, O woman, if  you can tolerate and survive such blows to your heart, so may it be granted to you, even as you believe. Yours is not the typical pattern that I find. The Jews are soon offended in me and fall back at the slightest pretext, even though I have shared with them a salutary teaching. You, however, cling firmly to the hope that I will help you and you don’t let go of me.” [“Reminiscere Sunday – Second Sunday in Lent”, Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Volume 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000), 325]

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