Brent Messick is Resurrection’s Managing Executive Director of Operations.
I am always struck by the exchange between the Canaanite woman and Jesus in Matthew 15:21-28. The Canaanite woman (a Gentile) pleads for Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus doesn’t respond. Why not? Then after the urging of his disciples, Jesus says that it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs. If I was in her shoes, I would say “Huh? What does that mean?” Jesus is using a metaphor to state that the gospel was to be given first to the Jews. The children symbolize the people of Israel and the bread symbolizes God’s blessings. The dogs was a derogatory term the Jews used for the Gentiles, illustrating the barriers between these two groups of people.
The woman responds that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. She was saying that even the Gentiles are eager to hear the gospel message and receive God’s blessings.
Why does Jesus not respond at first? And then why does he speak in abstract terms to respond to her request? I believe Jesus is testing her faith. It reminds me of when my children would tell me how much they loved me when they needed something, but I would not hear those same words of endearment when they didn’t need anything. How many times do we ask Jesus to help us when we are down, but don’t thank him when things are going well?
I am impressed with this Canaanite woman. First of all, she is a Gentile, yet she addresses Jesus as “Son of David”, showing that she had some recognition of who Jesus is. Then, she not only comprehends Jesus’ message, but she responds in kind. She is not intimidated and does not back down. She is humble, yet she holds her ground and matches wits with Jesus. He is pleased with her reply, because it demonstrated her faith and humility, and Jesus heals her daughter.
I believe this Scripture passage is a great example of how our faith in Jesus Christ and the church can break down human barriers. How can our faith do that? Jesus commands us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we truly follow this great commandment, then God will give us confidence and humility to overcome those human barriers that we may struggle with, be they economic, racial, ethnic, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
Our daughter lives in San Francisco, and my wife and I travel there frequently to visit her and her fiancé. We love to walk around the city to experience its sights, sounds, food, and diversity. It is a very densely populated city, and you don’t have to walk far to experience its diversity. My faith has helped me to realize that while we are all different, like the Canaanite woman, God’s loves us all and blesses us all more than we realize. Our faith should help us to break down those human barriers of prejudice.
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