Crumbs for Dogs

2020-08-16 – Year A – Proper 15 – The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas
Isaiah 56:1-8; Psalm 67; Matthew 15:21-28

  • Plucking toys out of the dog’s mouth

Retreating

  • Last week Mthr. Carrie preached on the story of Jesus walking on the water. In-between that story and today’s gospel lesson Jesus engages in a verbal conflict with the Scribes and Pharisees about the washing of hands.
  • Jesus has been trying to get away with his disciples for the last few chapters.
    • We might be tempted to think that this might explain why Jesus’ response towards this woman seems to be short or even rude.
    • I think Jesus had something else in mind. This was an opportunity to demonstrate the scope of the Good News of the Kingdom that he had been preaching.
  • V. 21 Jesus withdraws to the district of Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon and Syria today).
    • This was a Gentile region. Jesus was not likely to run into any Jews.

Jesus’ Response to the Caananite Woman

  • “Caananite” vs. “Gentile” or “Syrophnecian” (the terms Mark uses in his account of this event 7:26). “Caananite” was the OT general term for all of the people who occupied the promised land when the Israelites entered it after their 40 years in the wilderness.
  • The Israelites had a historic dislike of the Canaanites.
  • So here we see Jesus and his disciples trying to get some much-needed rest, and a gentile woman, a Canaanite, persistently begs Jesus to heal her daughter. (v. 22)
  • How would Jesus respond? (v. 23) At first, he ignores her, and then he calls her a “dog”.
    • (v. 26) “Dog” was a derogatory term used by the Jews of Jesus’ day to talk about the gentiles. This is the kind of response a Canaanite woman might have expected from a Jew.
      • This isn’t the kind of response we would expect from Jesus!
  • Jews weren’t supposed to associate with gentiles, but Jesus had frequently ministered to people who were outcasts: tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, lepers, etc.
  • Even though Jesus’ silence and later his response seem rude, perhaps we can detect a “twinkle in his eye.” Especially when we remember how he commends her faith later in the story!
    • The version of the word “dog” that Jesus uses indicates a house pet rather than the wild dogs that Jews usually referenced.
    • Perhaps Jesus was testing the woman to see what she would do.
    • He had already healed a gentile centurion’s servant. What would he do now?

Jew and Gentile

  • All throughout the Old Testament, we can see hints at the fact that it was God’s intention to eventually save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9).
  • Isaiah 56:6-8
    • The promise here is that foreigners who join themselves to the Lord will be accepted by the Lord. Their prayers will be heard, their sacrifices will be accepted.
    • v. 8 As the Lord gathers back his people from exile he says that he will gather others as well.
    • This is very good news for any of you who are not ethnically Jewish!
  • Despite the fact that there are so many clues in the Old Testament regarding God’s acceptance of Gentiles, the early Church struggled to understand the place of Gentile believers among them.
    • How could so many Gentiles be saved when many Jews hadn’t accepted Jesus as the Messiah and as Savior and Lord?
    • Romans – Olive tree – Chapter 11

So What?

  • It is a blessing and a treasure to be counted among the elect!
  • Just as the Canaanite woman suggests that even gentiles might receive a spillover blessing from Jesus’ ministry among the Jews, our status as God’s elect should spill over with blessing on those around us.
    • How can you bless those around you with your words, your actions, and with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

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