21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all.
His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.”
24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.”
25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”
26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.”
27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.”
28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed.
This miracle story in Matthew comes right after the Pharisees accused Jesus of not observing purity laws. Jesus taught that it’s not our failure to follow man made laws or the things outside of us that contaminates a person, but contamination comes from sin, from inside of us, the evil thoughts and actions that come from our hearts that result in our harming others.
Jesus’ ministry has been challenged and harassed by religious authorities trying to discredit Him. He’s been mobbed by followers seeking to be healed. So, Jesus decides to withdraw and take His disciples to a place where He isn’t as well known to teach His disciples. Jesus deliberately crosses over into the Gentile country of Syro-Phoenicia and risks ‘contamination’ by associating with people outside of Judaism. Worse, a woman who is a Canaanite shows up yelling to get Jesus’ attention, insisting on access. The term Canaanite is loaded with derogatory meaning. Canaanites were viewed as a cursed people, with a history of war and enmity with Israel; they were referred to as ‘dogs.’ The disciples want her to go away and she won’t budge. She’s at the end of her rope, she’s come to get her daughter healed by Jesus and she’s not leaving until she does.
Jesus uses this situation to teach His disciples that the love and grace of God, while first offered to “the lost sheep, the people of Israel,” is also to be shared with all of God’s children. Three times the woman’s faith is challenged by Jesus. She petitions Jesus, kneels before Him and professes Jesus as “Lord.” When her faith is challenged a third time by Jesus, who says he can’t take what was meant, first, for the children of Israel, and give it to the “dogs,” Gentiles, she responds with faith that even the “crumbs” are enough. Jesus announces her “great faith” has healed her daughter.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Jesus shows us that the love and grace of God is transformational for all of God’s children. Nothing can stop God’s love and forgiveness, or stop the grace of faith in God and the salvation we have through Jesus. But the miracle in this story is not just a daughter restored to health by her mother’s faith, it’s about the transforming of our hearts by God’s love. The evil thoughts and actions that come from our hearts to reduce others into groups to be hated, dehumanized and excluded can only be transformed by the power of God’s love. This is the miracle of the Kin-dom, all are loved, all are transformed, all are welcomed.
What groups of people do you view as different or do you fear and exclude? Ask God to transform your heart so that you can love all God’s children.
Prayer: Loving God, increase our faith and transform our hearts by the power of your love. Remove fear, hatred and our human need to view others as different and separate from ourselves. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.