21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23
Jesus did not answer a word. So, his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes, it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
This passage from Matthew 15 in Sunday’s gospel really struck me as I heard it being read and then again as I listened to my Pastor’s (Pr Boyd Briese) message. It made me think of the important mission in our schools of sharing the hope we have of God’s saving grace being freely offered to students, staff and parents on a daily basis. What a privilege it is for us as staff in Lutheran schools to be able to do this. This story of the Canaanite woman reminds us that Jesus’ message of salvation is indiscriminate and fully available to all who call on him. No matter who we are, where we are from or what our story is; Jesus is enough for each and every one of us.
This particular section of the Gospel followed a discussion in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus had with some Pharisees and scribes about what it is that corrupts us. The Pharisees and scribes were caught up in their own traditions and rules on hand washing but had forgotten the saving messages of God in favour of their rules and traditions. Jesus reacts to them quite strongly and reminds them that it is the things they say and do that actually corrupts and not whether they have washed their hands or not. (COVID requirements still apply!)
I wonder if Jesus made a show of initially ignoring this Canaanite woman and then he responds so lovingly to her deep and abiding faith as he drives home a message not only to the Jewish officials, but also to his disciples that it is her faith that makes her clean and nothing else is required of her. I also wonder what this story tells us about the person of Jesus he wants at his table. It can be easy, when there are so many unknowns crowding in on us, to feel threatened and fearful of the difference in others and how it might affect us. It can also be comforting to believe that God needs us to protect Him from those we find fearful, and to forget that he is waiting at the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) with arms spread in welcome and a table full of beautiful goodies for all of us – the unloved, the unlovely, the poor, the foreign, the young, the old, the good, the bad, male and female,– God wants each one of us at His wedding feast as equal guests and with no strings attached.
“This God is in the unsettling business of meeting outsiders and granting them not just a crumb, but a place at the table.”
Carla Works, Luther Seminary - https://www.workingpreacher.org/profile/default.aspx?uid=2-works_carla
Education Officer: Formation