Rev. Donald Nicol – Volunteer Associate Minister

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

August 23, 2020

Matthew 15.21-28

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  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.’  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.’  He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’  But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’  He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’  She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’  Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.’  And her daughter was healed instantly.

Did you get it?  Jesus is downright cruel – not to mention rude.  It’s a gospel lesson many would skip…

Jesus refuses to answer a woman pleading for his help.  A foreign, Canaanite woman comes shouting after him to heal her daughter.  “Son of David, my daughter is horribly tormented by a demon.”  And amazingly, Jesus doesn’t say a word…

Finally, he turns to the woman and says, “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”  And that’s supposed to be the end of it!  But, throwing herself at his feet, the woman pleads, “Sir, please, help me.”  Jesus has dismissed her, but she will not be dismissed.

Can’t she hear?  He’s told her she is not his kind, but it seems she hasn’t got the message.  So, Jesus says it again.  Louder and clearer than before.
“It’s not right to take the children’s food – and throw it to dogs.” A cruel slap-in-the face!  But the Canaanite woman doesn’t blink.

“True, Rabbi,” she replies, “But, even dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table!”  The sheer force of her faith changes something in Jesus – and her prayer is answered.  Jesus gets it.  He hears that he has called the foreign woman a dog, and suggested that she is beyond God’s love and concern!  Something in Jesus is shaken – re-arranged and changed forever.

“There is only one human family!” he gasps.  God’s love excludes no one – embraces all.  “Woman, you have great faith.”  Can you hear the change in his voice?  And at that moment, her daughter was healed.

There is a lesson for all of us here.  In our relationships with others:  with LGBTQ2, Indigenous people, with Black Lives Matter, those who are “different”.   At first, like Jesus, we do not even hear.  Then we say, “Well, Black Lives Matter, LBTQ2, Indigenous people, public housing, street people – have nothing to do with me.”  But we keep hearing it – over and over again till it becomes annoying – and then, perhaps, some insight dawns that leads to reconciliation and a significant, permanent change in attitude and behaviour.  Christians call it grace.

It turns out, Jesus is a blessing to that foreign, Canaanite woman, and she is a blessing to Jesus.  His eyes were opened.

Jesus got it.

Did you get it?



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