Crumbs for the Dog

Matthew 15:21-28
21And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
22And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”
24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
26And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
28Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

In our reading for yesterday Jesus manages to thoroughly offend the leaders of the Jewish Temple by letting them know that adherence to their laws was not what made a person righteous or unrighteous. Hand washing and food choices are not critical to salvation. But what comes out of a person in the form of words display what is in their hearts and that reveals the state of their righteousness. Since Jesus is fully in control of His mission of salvation He leaves the area around Galilee and heads to the area of Tyre and Sidon in order to avoid further contact with the Pharisees at that time. It is not yet time for His Passion and Sacrifice. Tyre was not a Jewish stronghold. In fact, it was not Jewish at all. The Pharisees were not going to follow Him there as they wouldn’t want to sully their “cleanness” by associating with Gentiles. Tyre and Sidon were pagan and had a rather nasty history as the birthplace of the evil Queen Jezebel and her pagan worship practices. It certainly was an interesting choice of locations for Jesus to visit.

While there Jesus is approached rather boldly by a Canaanite woman. How she knows about Jesus is a mystery as the text is silent about that and we have no need to speculate. The text does however provide clues as to what she believes, just not how she got there. The first surprising thing is that Jesus is willing to speak with yet another woman. (In John 4 we have another story of Jesus’ willingness to engage in conversation with a woman.) She approaches Him with a surprising salutation. It is surprising because it reveals knowledge of Jesus that is odd because Jesus and the Disciples are in pagan territory. She crys out to Jesus, calling Him “Lord” and “Son of David”. Both of those titles reveal a faith that at this point is found rather far from home. The text does not tell us how she comes to this knowledge but the conversation reveals that she believes Jesus to be Lord and King.

Frankly, we are a little shocked by Jesus unwillingness to help her. He doesn’t even respond to her plea for help at first. We haven’t seen this before. Finally the disciples ask Him to make her go away. “Give her what she wants or get rid of her.” I doubt if they cared what He did about her, but they wanted her gone. Jesus finally tells her that He came for the Jews and she responds in the positive to that message. But – and here’s where we see that she has a great faith – she asks that just the crumbs of what is being given to the Jews be shared with her as that will be enough to give her daughter healing. Just a scrap of Jesus love is all that she needs. He willingly grants that miracle –instantly by the way- because her faith is great.

After reading about those who should have recognized Jesus and refuse to do so in the form of the Pharisees this woman stands in stark juxtaposition. Someone who had no business even knowing about Jesus has great faith and calls upon God in her hour of need. Once again we see that it is not us who bring about faith but the power of God alone. The disciples must have gazed in amazement at this woman and her miracle. I know that I do.