Published on August 14th, 2019 | by Stephen Barrington0
Jesus heals the daughter of a Canaanite woman, Matthew 15:21-28. August 7, 2019
Ata marie te whanau o Ihu Karaiti, rangimarie ki a koutou katoa. Peace be with you, the family of Christ this morning. Today our gospel text is Matthew 15:21-28, ‘the daughter of a Canaanite woman healed’.
As with all the accounts of the life of Jesus that follow his road trip through Palestine this text throws us some curve balls. Previously in this chapter 15 Matthew has recounted how the religious police, the religious elite (the scribes and pharisees) had come out to check out what this Jesus bloke was up to, breaking many of their rules and eating with those who didn’t measure up for them. After these encounters today Jesus heads for gentile/pagan territory to get a break from this harassment.
Tyre and Sidon is on the Mediterranean coast in Syria, way beyond the normal view or interest of Palestinian Jews in Jesus’ day. In Marks account of this story (Mark 7:24), Mark says Jesus went into a house and wanted no one to know where he was! So when a Gentile, non Jewish women knocks on the door shouting for Jesus, he seems to ignore her.
Some say, rightly, that Jesus had a mission to the Jews first and that this was needed for the Jews to first have the opportunity to recognise the fulfillment of their ‘law and history’ in Jesus. St Paul unpacks all this in his letters and reframes the Jewish story around the life and death of Christ. There is always a struggle though within us as we seek to work out how the kingdom of God actually is expressed – it is here now and also we still wait for it to come in its fullness. Sometimes its appearing breaks in and surprises us. No one should have been surprised by this situation occurring though – many OT prophets had spoken about how the people of Israel were to be a ‘light for the gentiles’ and that non-Jews would experience and become part of the Kingdom of God.
So Jesus plays this card first. He knows that no respectable woman would break in and demand his time in the society at that time. His rebuff, is expected and understandable. His reply that ‘the children must be fed first, before the dogs’ is then immediately rebutted with the woman’s reply that ‘well ok, but even the little dogs eat the scrapes the children drop…’ Jesus once he is engaged is not afraid to embrace (again) with someone who at that time was considered to be a lesser person (a women, and a non-Jew).
In this encounter Jesus continues his habit of including the outsider and crossing over to the ‘other side’ of whatever side there is. Jesus always wanted the gentiles and pagans to be included in his Kingdom – and eventually the disciples got this concept. We can read of that epiphany, that realisation in the Book of Acts and the struggle that was for them as they worked out what that actually meant in practice.
Our picture shows people, some of us, sharing a meal around a table. The question from today’s text has to be ‘who are we sharing food with, who are we allowing to be included in our lives so that the kingdom of God can come on earth?’. That table sits a few hundred yards from where a colonising army gathered to attack a peaceful village. The children of that village took freshly baked bread and sang welcome songs to those soldiers before they came in and ransacked the village, raped women and took men prisoner and desecrated the village.
Embracing others in the ways of Jesus is risky and dangerous, but it is the Jesus way to take a chance and choose to love and embrace first, and always. Jesus was hounded by powerful people as he loved whomever he met. Jesus will challenge all of us to embrace someone that we struggle with – but from today’s story his embracing of this outsider brought healing and wellness.
May we not be afraid of those who seek to divide us, and continue to seek to bring healing (salvation, whakaora) to whomever we meet. To dismantle the walls that divide and build bridges of inclusion. Today that village where we are eating is a sign of hope, of reconciliation and peace because of the way they sought to walk away from violence and seek peace in their time of oppression. People now travel to this out of the way, unmarked village to learn how to be makers of peace. This again is the way of Jesus that we are called to follow in. To take the risk of loving all who come our way, rich or poor, male or female, people like us or people different to us.
Kia kaha, kia maia kia manawanui e hoa ma ki te ara o Ihu, te rangimarie kia nga tangata, nga iwi katoa.
Buckshot – Wellington chapter, New Zealand