This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news.
New English Translation (NET)
A Canaanite Woman’s Faith
21 After going out from there, Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that area came and cried out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is horribly demon-possessed!” 23 But he did not answer her a word. Then his disciples came and begged him, “Send her away, because she keeps on crying out after us.” 24 So he answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and bowed down before him and said, “Lord, help me!” 26 “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” he said. 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
This is a story which shows Jesus learning something new. He had grown up in a society which saw itself as the focus of God’s concern, and other peoples as therefore less important. Nevertheless, in the time of God’s Rule, it was believed, the other nations would be welcomed into God’s concern. The Canaanite woman doesn’t contest Jesus’ racial slur (dogs), in fact she mimes being a little dog, telling Jesus that she was more desirous of God’s goodness for her daughter than for than her own dignity. Jesus accepted this a sign that this representative gentile was already responding in faith to God’s rule, and that he should welcome her and heal her daughter. Like all human beings, Jesus could be wrong; his perfection was his readiness to learn.
No amount of pious commentary can make Jesus’ initial refusal anything other than offensive. He was just testing the woman, some say. I say, just imagine your Buddhist neighbour calls you a dog, do you accept his excuse if he says he was just testing? In fact you smack him on the mouth regardless. Well, you feel like smacking him. It’s vital to understand this, for without it we can’t see it as a story of Jesus learning from someone who has no status except her desperate love for her child. John Bell and Graham Maule composed a great song which has the line, ” We’re going to learn from the poor in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus did not have a “Son-Of-God-Implant” in his brain. He had to learn how to be a son of God just as he had to learn to walk and to read. It’s a privilege to have a story about his willingness to be taught. The truth that” in Christ there is no East or West” begins here.
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