21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just 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.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
I have had some time this summer to not only to reflect on my life, watch what is happening in the world, our country, and my community, but also discern where God may be calling me to do ministry. No doubt, this has been a very difficult year as we face the challenges of CoVid-19, racism and gender issues. I would also like to throw in the fact that as women, it is not any easier for us as is for those who are LGBT or people with color. I promise you that women are often belittled, disrespected, and disparaged– even today in the year 2020.
In Matthew 15:21-28, is the story where Jesus travels to Tyre and Sidon. For the Jews, this was “Pagan Land.” Canaanite meant everything dangerous to the faith of Israel. If we were to think about this in our modern day, we could certainly relate it to the Arabs and how many people are threatened by them because of 9/11. However, not only is Jesus and his disciples in this territory that is not favorable for them, but also it is a woman, a Canaanite, a Gentile, who approaches Jesus. The woman begins to ask Jesus to help her and her daughter. The disciples are put-out. They demand, “Get rid of her.”
Imagine the scene: The woman comes to Jesus and asked him, “Have mercy on me, Lord. My daughter is tormented by a demon.” There is silence. Jesus does not respond. Meanwhile, the disciples are urging Jesus to get rid of her.
Silence. I hate silence! It’s deafening! How many times do we pray, and we receive “silence?” How many times do we look to our Lord asking for answers, healing, and hope? But, all we get is silence? How many times in our lives do we feel lost, broken, and hurt? We pray for peace. We beg for forgiveness. And, all we hear is silence.
Jesus then sys, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, Jesus is saying that he is only there for the Jews – not for some Gentile woman.
I can relate to this Canaanite – Gentile woman. I feel her pain. I know her hurt. I understand the pain of being exiled from your faith community – the desire and hope of being accepted. As I put myself in her shoes, my heart hurts.
However, I have learned something from her. She didn’t give up! And, even though the disciples were urging Jesus to get rid of her, he doesn’t. And so, this Gentile woman sits in the silence – perhaps thinking, “but at least he hasn’t told me ‘no.’”
He then tells her, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” In this context, Jesus is talking about the Israelites and ‘house’ dogs. Jesus just called her a dog! He put her in her place – a woman, a Gentile, a Canaanite – the lowest it can get…But yet, she doesn’t care. For her, she was so happy to at least be in the house with the dogs underneath the table!
And so, here we are – Jesus, who is Lord – a Jew and a woman who is a Gentile, a Canaanite – two people who cannot be any further apart socially, economically, and contextually – are now close. In Jesus’ silence, I believe that he was discerning the will of God. (But, I didn’t come for the Gentiles, I came for the Jews). In his discernment, the woman turns the tables on him – “Yes, Jesus – but at least I am in the house (with you!) though under the table with the dogs – but now I know I can have hope! Seriously? How could Jesus possibly get rid of her?
In the end, Jesus heals her daughter. Her daughter now has a clean heart. They are both cleansed by faith! This faith then becomes love – pure love.
As I reflect on my life and where I am today, I walk alongside this Canaanite woman. My heart hurts and I feel lost and abandoned. I pray, but only receive silence. But this woman has showed me that there is hope in the silence. She shows me that I am never outcasted from our Lord. But more than anything, she demonstrates that God’s grace and mercy are worth hanging in there for – no matter what the cost – even if it is getting under the table with the dogs to receive the crumbs of God’s grace.
Think. How easy it would have been for her to give up and walk away?
Let us pray. Gracious God, your silence can be deafening as we pray for peace, grace, and mercy. Help us to know that in your silence, there is hope – hope for a better tomorrow, but most of all, hope for our eternal life, where we can we live with you forever in your amazing grace. We love you Lord, Jesus. Amen.