“Truth, Lord; yet the little dogs eat of the crumbs which fall
from their masters’ table”
Such a powerful and instructive Gospel. It highlights so many things which are distinctive and important about the Christian journey of faith so wonderfully concentrated for us in the season of Lent. Here is the story of a remarkable woman who gets it, who gets what we so often forget or deny. Here is the story about sticking-with- it and not giving up, no matter what the obstacles.
She is a Canaanite woman, Matthew is at pains to point out. Mark describes her as a Syro-Phoenician woman. The point is abundantly clear: she is a non-Israelite. She is from outside the religious community of Israel.
And yet, she comes to Jesus seeking the healing of her daughter “grievously vexed with a devil,” possessed we might say, emotionally troubled, the therapeutic culture of our day would euphemistically say. She sees in Jesus something of the power of God which might heal her daughter. She has, quite simply, an insight into the truth of God in Jesus Christ. For who else can restore and redeem except the God who has created and made us? Such is the logic of redemption. It always turns us back to the doctrine of creation without which redemption – salvation and wholeness – really makes no sense.
What she senses in Jesus is a truth which she will not relinquish. It is her sticking with it in the face of adversity that makes her story so compelling. Yet at the same time, the responses to her request must trouble and disturb us. She is met, first, with silence; secondly, with what amounts to a rebuke; and, thirdly, with what must utterly seem to be a grievous insult. What is going on here? Simply the way in which we learn how the Christian Gospel is for all people and not the possession of a few. This gospel particularly challenges the tribalism of our churches and communities. It opens us out to what is for all people and in all places. The whole dynamic is not only about the woman but about us.