“But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” (Mk. 7:27-28)
A couple of commentators point out that this conversation between Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman has to do with timing. It’s not whether the “little dogs” will eat but when. This indicates that Jesus’ ministry is not just for Israel but also for the Gentiles, which the book of Acts makes explicit.
Others have been concerned that Jesus is countenancing some form of racism in his remark, but this is to miss the primary point. Israel was the son that God had brought out of Egypt. Israel was the son that was invited to sit at God’s table and be continually fed. The point is not that all other races or cultures were inferior as such. The point was that God had invited someone else to the table, and Jesus recognized the protocol of a good host: feeding the guests. Only later can the food be distributed. The woman’s answer provides a way for Jesus to be both Just and the Justifier of this woman.
One of the other details we should notice is the fact that Jesus assumes that His bread is for children. We already noticed the Eucharistic overtones of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 in the last chapter. Mark can hardly be recording this short episode about a Gentile being able to eat with the Israelite Children without any regard to the Eucharist, particularly with all of the later discussions about table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus is Himself the bread of God come down from heaven, and He is bread for the children of God. This is the children’s bread. Another way of saying this is that you can’t come to this table unless you’re a child. This isn’t bread for the already grown strong. If you think you’re strong and fit for this table then you’re not. This table is for children. This bread is the children’s bread.