October 20, 2010

Nameless But Notable III: Christ & A Doggedly Persistent Canaanite

"Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour." ~Matthew 15:21-28

Bold is the first word that comes to mind when I read this passage about this Canaanite woman. The Lord had just withdrew from the crowds with his disciples for rest to Tyre and Sidon. He was also attempting to temporarily get away from the tormenting and heckling Jewish leaders. The news of their presence in the area clearly got out to the people of the area they were in.

Needless to say, any intrusion by anyone in this situation would've ruffled feathers so it is not surprising that the disciples emphatically urged the Lord to shoo her away so they could get their much desired rest. What probably made them view her at an even more condescending and downward angle is that she was a foreigner, a woman an what's worse, a Gentile and a Canaanite. Descendant of the people that, having failed to measure up to God's standards, were to be replaced by Israel. This woman literally had everything culturally and stereotypically working against her.

This of course didn't deter her even one step. Her persistence though wasn't defiant but rather zealously earnest. "Lord, help me!" This is not the demand of a demanding belligerent person but the appearance of someone who knew the tougher side of life and had been humbled by it yet still yearned for something better knowing full well that Jesus could provide it if only she had doggedly persistent faith.

And what was Jesus' response? "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." We need to understand that this is a proverbial statement. Jesus is telling this woman and those within earshot that he "was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel", not to Gentiles. Additionally, the word dog was a commonly used derogatory term for Gentiles but what is said here is the diminutive form of dog or [κυναρίοις/kunariois] the neuter of a presumed derivative of [κύων/kuon] referring to much treasured house pets (puppies) not the nasty street scavengers that were often referred to and used as insults by Jews. Also, the delivery of such a word most likely would've been delivered with either a sneer or a smile. I am betting Jesus said this with a smile meaning it was delivered with wit and in jest not as a slander to the woman as this would not have been in line with Jesus' character.

The woman being of quick wit herself immediately replies back, "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Instead of being deterred by what seemed like a derogatory response from the Lord she replies with tact and cleverness. Jesus appreciates this woman's faith, tenaciousness and is delighted by her quick wit. "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted."

Point of the story? Have abundant faith and don't be so quick to give up at the first sign of resistance or bad news. If things were meant to be easy, everyone would be doing them, wouldn't they? God wants those that will stand ramrod straight in the face of adversity not get weak-kneed and cave it under the slightest of pressure. It is also called being spirited and hopeful...the signs of a faithful servant.

1 comment:

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