From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed (Matthew 15:21-28, Common English Bible).
I always find it interesting the way God works. I started working on my sermon a little for this Sunday, Mother’s Day. This story will be my text. I had actually picked this text back during Lent. Then it lands the week of Mother’s day on my blog. I know some might be thinking that perhaps this is the reason I spent most of last week on the same two lessons, so it would come out this way. First, you are too cynical. Second, while I did realize Saturday this text would come up today, I honestly didn’t think about it before then. I am going to save most of what I have to say about this story for Sunday. So, if you want to hear it, either hope I can get it recorded and uploaded or come to church in Sweeny Sunday.
For some, this may seem a bit of a strange text for Mother’s Day. And, to be honest, most times when I have read this story it has left me a bit cold. Here is this woman throwing herself at Jesus’ feet, begging him to heal her daughter and Jesus calls her a dog.
For those who think I am being a bit harsh in my assessment, I offer two arguments. First, when the woman asks Jesus to help her he says, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” She asks for help and he calls her a dog!
Second, the lesson tells us she was a Canaanite woman. There are scholars who argue this is where we get our word canine. I am not sure how true this is, but the words would seem to fit.
When Jesus calls the woman a dog, some scholars argue he wasn’t saying to be mean. He was saying it to point out to the woman that his mission was to the Jews for now and not to the Gentiles whom most Jews saw as dogs or dog people. Hence, “It’s not good to take the children’s [God’s chosen people] bread and give it to the dogs [the Gentiles].
For her part this woman was determined. “But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.” She knew that whatever Jesus had leftover would be enough for her needs. And who says nobody likes leftovers!
With that, Jesus pronounced the woman’s faith as “great.” More importantly, he also pronounced her daughter healed.
One last thought. Remember Jesus telling a parable about a persistent widow and an unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). I am not saying Jesus is the unjust judge, but I can’t help but think that Jesus saw a little of the persistent widow in this Canaanite woman from Tyre.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved