Context and Character
If Christ were God, and God is love, which is my belief, then God becoming flesh to dwell among us, must have had a reason; perhaps it had to do with human character? As well, given the teachings of Christ and His remarkable compassion, any neglect on His part, of a particular person because of their ethnicity or social status in life, would have significance.
A Canaanite woman from the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon came to him, crying out…“have mercy on me”…”Jesus did not answer a word.” (Matthew 15:21-27 NIV). This woman was from a town settled by Canaan, the son of Ham, who had been cursed by an angry, hung over, drunken Noah. (Genesis 9:10-12). To its on veracity, the Bible captures mankind, warts and all, even those who in their best moments run hard after righteousness.
In fact, this single verse may contain the primary challenges of today’s racism, and the underlying conflict between the three major religions of the world?
What the Holy Spirit captured in Genesis was not meant as justification for centuries of bigotry, but a prophetic revelation of the soiled character of mankind. This is the reason God became flesh and love leaped beyond Judaism!
Jesus’ neglect of the Canaanite was a calling out of what was really in the hearts of his disciples. He was saying out loud what they were carrying around in silence. Some things never change, especially among religiously close-minded people. Let them become political and that problem becomes exponential.
What Jesus did, seemed to give justification to the disciples for their sense of elitism, yet keep in mind that some of these guys were just fresh off small fishing boats! Don’t take me wrong, some of the best people I have ever met were on chartered fishing boats as a child, but these guys had somehow let their calling go to their heads! Hello?
Their reply was “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” She was raining on their parade as they marched through town with a man some thought would eventually take back their country from the Romans.
Jesus answers, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” If this were true, then why at Pentecost is this gospel suddenly thrust out to “all the world?”
Then this poor woman falls on her knees before Jesus and cries out “Lord help me!” Keep in mind that this is not some “poor beggar who refused to work” (did you feel that) but a mother whose child is tormented, “suffering terribly.”
His reply, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Does this sound like the Jesus, so moved by compassion, that he later interrupted a funeral procession to raise the only child of a widow from Nain?
He was simply saying what was already in the hearts of the men who had been called to follow him. This is not just a story of a God-man so moved by compassion that he violates some privileged right of these descendants of Abraham, but rather a moment in time when the God of love would address the errors of religion, calling out the deep harbored ill will of those who professed His name. We may be there again?
People don’t like for their hearts to be revealed, but until that happens, redemption is stalled and progress limited.
“Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” It was she who had the pure and humble heart, not the religious of Israel, nor even the called out disciples who continued to condone his behavior. Jesus suddenly acknowledges her faith, and from that “very hour,” the daughter is healed
I can only imagine conversations around the camp fires, the insights and reflections of each disciple on their particular behavior in these moments, once He was alone with these men; especially after he had sufficiently drawn out the religious bias of an entire city, conflicted the thoughts of the learned and confronted the political, to the point of His impending murder!
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8 KJV).