One of the things Mark shows us in his gospel is how Jesus challenged people. When He told His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side” of Lake Galilee (4:35), they experienced a “furious squall” while He was asleep in the boat. I don’t think we’re to understand that the One who controls the wind and the waves didn’t foresee this and was caught off guard by the storm, but rather used the occasion to test the faith of His disciples.
Then there’s the synagogue ruler, Jairus. His young daughter was dying when he came to Jesus. Christ agreed to go see her but got caught with another person who needed healing. By the time he was finished with that, some people came and told Jairus his daughter had died. Are we to believe Jesus clumsily handled this situation or was He challenging Jairus? Jesus’ reply to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” would suggest that the latter.
I think this is exactly what he is doing with Greek woman from Syrian Phoenicia who came to Him because her young daughter was possessed by a demon (7:24-30). He knows this woman has great faith and insight into the kingdom of God and He wants to draw it out of her, so He challenges her by telling her it’s not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. Would Christ do that? The Jesus Mark is telling us about would and does!
It’s seems clear Mark is showing Jesus forecasting some things about the kingdom of God in chapter 7. There’s His confrontation with the Pharisees and teachers of the law about ritual hand washing and unclean food. Christ “called the crowd to Him” (v. 14) and made it clear that it was not defiled hands or food that was the problem—it was the defiled heart (v. 14-15). Mark will add in v. 19, “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.” He clearly sees the advent of the Jesus’ kingdom bringing the dissolution of the old covenant dietary laws, making it possible for Jews and Gentiles to share the same table.
When looked at in this light, Jesus’ encounter with the woman simply builds on this. He pointed out how His earthly ministry was to the Jewish people (see Matthew 15:24) and they had precedence (“First let the children eat all they want”).
How would she respond to His challenging words? She noted how she shouldn’t have to wait because the dogs actually ate while the children did—and Jesus loved her answer! “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” He loved it because with the advent of His kingdom the day was soon coming when they would not only eat at the same time, but at the same table! And He loved it that this Gentile woman had shown such faith and insight.