Our focus text this week, is one that makes us uncomfortable. Probably because it seems out of character to hear Jesus ignore and almost dismiss the plight of the Canaanite mother. And when he did speak, he said: “I was sent to help the Jews, not the Gentiles.” V24
His first response to her pleas was silence: “He did not answer her a word” v 23.
In fact, he only responded once the disciples requested that he do so. And they intervened not out of concern for the woman or her daughter, they just wanted Jesus to send her away, because she was a nuisance to them. “For she is bothering us with all her begging” v 23.
So when Jesus did respond, he seemed reluctant to do so and he spoke in the metaphor of bread.
“It doesn’t seem right to take bread from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
In the dialogue that follows, the Canaanite women managed to convince Jesus to have mercy on her daughter. She argued that the puppies under the table are satisfied with the crumbs that fall from it. And with this she declared her faith that even the left-over crumbs would be enough to heal her daughter.
Jesus seemed convinced and responded: “Woman … your faith is large and your request is granted. And her daughter was healed right there.” V 28
But despite the fact that her daughter was healed, Jesus’ response makes us uncomfortable. We almost do not recognize the Jesus we thought we knew.
The Jesus who offered the Samaritan women the living water at the well. (John 4)
The Jesus who gave his life in order for the WORLD to be reconciled with God.
The Jesus who invited ALL who are weary to come to him, because his yoke is soft. (Matthew 11: 28-29)
But perhaps Jesus was not really speaking to the Canaanite women.
Perhaps He engaged in this specific conversation for the benefit of the irritated and arrogant disciples who looked down on the Canaanites.
Perhaps He was speaking loud enough for them to hear….
And even when the Canaanite woman left, Jesus seemed to continue this conversation when we read: “And a vast crowd brought Him their lame, blind, maimed, and those who couldn’t speak, and many others, and laid them before Jesus, and He healed them all.” V 30
We find no mention of their nationalities or tribes, or any references to dogs for that matter. We simply read that He healed them all.
And Jesus continued this conversation when He turned to his disciples and asked them to feed this multitude of people.
Not only do we see the miracle of the multiplication of the seven loaves of bread and a few small fish to feed thousands, we also see that seven baskets full of scraps were left over and picked up. (V38)
Is this the same crumbs from the table that the Canaanite woman was asking for?
Is Jesus perhaps trying to say that there is indeed enough bread to share?
Is this metaphor of bread perhaps another way of saying His love and grace and mercy and forgiveness is enough to extend beyond our own expectations of Him?
Even though the Jews were expecting him, even the Gentiles were able to feed from the crumbs of His table.
And they did, because today the majority of Christians are non-Jews. Certainly there was more than enough bread and scraps for all of us. Certainly there will be enough in the future to share generously, also with those who are different from us!
To think about: In this text Jesus also addressed the disciples through this conversation with the Canaanite woman. What could He possibly be saying to us today through this conversation?
To what extent have we taken the Gospel of Jesus and hijacked it for ourselves and others like ourselves? Who are the people in our societies that we ignore, look down on, devalue or even treat as dogs? What does it mean today to share the “bread” with so-called Gentiles?