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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Today’s Reading | 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. (NRSV)

Here’s the script for requesting a faith healing (the outsider version—the script for religious insiders is longer):

Plainant: Heal me/my child/my spouse please!

Faith Healer: No.

Plainant: Okaythanksbye.

That’s not the script performed in this story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman. She asks. Jesus ignores her. She keeps asking (shouting). He finally replies, “No.” She begs. His refusal stands.
Then it gets weird. She pivots.

She’s listening to the conviction behind Jesus’ refusal, granting it legitimacy, and then pushing back with a better version of it. It’s genius. Sure, don’t steal from your kid to feed the dog. I’m not asking for that. I’ll take table scraps.

There’s a lot not to like about this exchange in cultural and gender terms; I prefer “Let-the-little-children-come-to-me” Jesus to “This-non-Jewish-woman-is-a-dog” Jesus. But the Jesus I like less of those two changes his mind. This person that his tradition and culture scorn gets the better of him, and he owns it. He’s smart.

She’s brilliant.

May we hear the pleas of the needy, wherever they find us, and may we advocate as brilliantly for them—before God and before Congress—as the Canaanite woman did. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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