... On that Canaanite woman...

March 17, 2017

Why Matthew 15: 21-28?

 

Is Jesus a snob?  Or, does He have another agenda?

 

In this passage, we find Jesus ignoring a woman with a legitimate need, even crying and begging for His help.  Jesus' response?  Ignores her.  Why?  She's a Canaanite.

 

Canaanites were pagans, immoral and disgusting to good, religious Jews.  Neither wanted anything to do with each other.  One saw the other as foolish, and one saw the other as beneath them.  

 

But, this lady was different.  She was willing, because of her need, to go to a place of judgment, likely expecting shunning and ridicule.  Why?

 

Jesus meant hope.  Jesus meant something she couldn't find elsewhere.

 

The proper response for a good Jew was to ignore her.  After all, she was filthy, and what would people say if good Jews associated, or worse, was seen associating with dirty people?  It might be a stumbling block to others after all, because everyone knows nothing could come from such an association, right?  It's always safest to assume the worst in others and minimize any possible or perceived risk, right?

 

Since Jesus didn't reply, the disciples ask Him to send her away... she was annoying and inconvenient.  Painful even.  It was a nice setup by Jesus.  It is to become an eternal lesson for them... and for us.

 

Jesus then engages... tells her that he's not here for her people.  With no other hope, she then throws herself at His feet begging for mercy.

 

Time for religious metaphor... nothing more impactful than that when you want to call someone a dog ... a disgusting lower life form.  Historically Middle Eastern people and even today don't view dogs as cute creatures to keep in your home.  They're closer to big cockroaches.  Ouch... what a thing for God-in-the-flesh to call a woman begging for help.  But, it serves the set up well.

 

Knowing that the Gospel of Matthew targeted Jews, I'm sure this point would have generated a lot of snooty religious nods and grunts of acknowledgement.  "We're God's people.  We have the relationship... we're better than them.  Send her elsewhere."  Surely, anyone being told that line would leave with their tail between their legs?

 

No, not in this story.  There's a bigger picture here, and a bigger lesson to be learned.  With faith working in her, she replies along that metaphor that it's OK... she'll take the scraps.

 

And Jesus heals her...

 

Snorting religious people now with mouths opened, and sure for others to be "offended" at grace to one so "unworthy."

 

There is so much to learn in this passage:

 

1.  There is hope in Jesus that can't be found anywhere else.  [Selah]

2.  When we come to Jesus, scraps with Him are better than everything else.  True faith demands such a view.  Will we seek those?  Are we content with those?  We need to evaluate what we expect from Jesus... Is it really something He promises?  Most of the time it isn't.  How we respond to waiting and difficulty exposes what we really worship.

3.  Who's beneath us?  Jesus wasn't shamed into service by a witty reply from a pagan woman.  This passage follows the same pattern as other passages in Scripture where there is a setup, and then a powerful point is driven home.  Knowing the key audience of the Gospel of Matthew is to Jews, it exposes the cultural and religious snobbery, teeing it up for an act of grace meant to expose that house of cards.  Jesus executes it perfectly, and He wants the lesson to ring until His return.  

 

However, to learn that lesson, the old way of looking at people much be crucified.

 

Let's start our ministry where Jesus finishes... Let's repent from avoiding the "annoying" people.  No one is beneath us, and we can't send them away.  We need to stop seeking disciples for how they might benefit us, our buildings or our programs.  Let's instead let Jesus make them useful for His Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

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