Sometimes you hear someone say something, and you’re left shaking your head – I can’t believe I just heard that. You are shocked, dismayed, even appalled.
This is one of those odd moments:
A Woman’s Faith
24Jesus left and went to the region near the city of Tyre, where he stayed in someone’s home. He did not want people to know he was there, but they found out anyway. 25A woman whose daughter had an evil spirit in her heard where Jesus was. And right away she came and knelt down at his feet. 26The woman was Greek and had been born in the part of Syria known as Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to force the demon out of her daughter. 27But Jesus said, “The children must first be fed! It isn’t right to take away their food and feed it to dogs.”
28The woman replied, “Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs that children drop from the table.”
29Jesus answered, “That’s true! You may go now. The demon has left your daughter.” 30When the woman got back home, she found her child lying on the bed. The demon had gone.
I can’t believe Jesus said that.
Who is this Jesus – at first reading not the one I recognise. To not just refuse to help her, but to insult her in the process. Tyre and Sidon are in the far north of the Jewish territory – and the Jews despised all who lived there, they regarded them as the bottom of the barrel. Surely Jesus wouldn’t turn away a woman in need just because of her ethnicity…
Tom Wright reassures us that Jesus is just sticking to the order of things, he has come first and foremost to fulfil God’s promise to his chosen people, the Jews (p 76).
In fact the woman shows that she understands this, but what she does want is to be part of what is left over, when they have had their fill – or indeed the bits carelessly thrown on the floor, perhaps by those who don’t want what Jesus is offering, or don’t realise they need it. There did after all seem to be plenty who didn’t seem to want what Jesus was offering, so there would be plenty left over for others. The woman is staking her claim.
She comes in humility – “Have mercy on me”, and recognises Jesus as “Lord”. She has the utmost respect for him – something that others should have done and didn’t.
Maybe you and I would walk away at that point at which Jesus turns here away. This woman has to decide how much she wants the healing for her daughter. How deep is her need, how deep her belief that Jesus would help.
The woman responded by sticking around. She showed Jesus the depth of her faith. She was not a glory-seeker or someone looking for an easy ride. This was her daughter who she loved so much she would throw herself at the mercy of Jesus for. This was Jesus who she had ultimate faith in.
The challenge for us? Do we love and care enough to stick around. To plead to Jesus on the behalf of others, or ourselves? The reading leading up to this passage are about tolerance and love. Widening the gates of faith to those who may not conform to what we consider acceptable, but who may show us new ways and new depths of faith. How do we respond?
This is certainly a passage to make us think!
Tom’s prayer for today (p 77):
Draw us deeper,
into your purposes and your plans,
so that we may learn to pray energetically
for the good things you have in store for us