Matthew 15:21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Wow. We’re told Jesus ventured into Gentile territory (Tyre and Sidon), presumably to get relief from the Jewish crowds following him everywhere. But it doesn’t work. Gentiles have heard about Jesus’ miraculous healing power and pursue him as the Jews did. Then we’re told about a particular “Canaanite woman”. She is desperate for healing for her demon-possessed daughter and cries out to Jesus. Again and again (v.22). Jesus’ response is shocking to me.
First, he ignores the woman. Okay, I understand Jesus didn’t heal everyone all the time. But then he goes on to insult her, referring to her kind as “dogs”. Dang! What’s that about? It has been said that Jesus reflected the heart of God the Father – but in this case I don’t think he did. Jesus was both truly God – and truly human (perhaps with all the resentments and prejudices humans typically engender). He was brought up in a culture that viewed Canaanites as ancient enemies of Israel and a people inferior to Jews. It’s my estimation that, in this case, Jesus’ humanity shows through in a rather unflattering way. He unfairly demeans this woman who is desperate to save her daughter.
Also notice this woman refer to Jesus as “Lord, son of David”. Unlike many Jews who rejected Jesus, this Canaanite woman readily acknowledges Jesus’ identity and, therefore, his power to heal. She’s even willing to swallow her pride and play along with Jesus’ characterization of her people as “dogs”. Whatever it takes to get the help she seeks.
“Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
In yesterday’s blog post I expressed disappointment with God the Father. Today I’m a bit disappointed in Jesus. Whatever his cultural conditioning, it was just plain wrong to demean a woman desperate to help her daughter. Yes I know times have changed and, in ancient times, such a response to a Canaanite woman would have been expected. But that doesn’t make it right. Nor, in my opinion, did Jesus’ initial indifference reflect the heart of God who sent Jesus for the sake of ALL people, not just the Jews.
Heavenly Father, I realize it may not be my place to be critical of you and Jesus. To suggest that your understanding far exceeds mine is a massive understatement. Give me insight that I might better understand things in scripture that don’t add up for me. I ask this in all humility, in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.