Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eating Crumbs from the Master's Table

Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV)
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. [22] And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." [23] But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." [24] He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [25] But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." [26] And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." [27] She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." [28] Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.

The Caananite woman shows faith in Jesus, in that she cries for mercy. It strikes me as odd in this story. Jesus is hard at first. He wants to teach. It isn’t that he does not have compassion on the woman, or gentiles in general. Sure he has been sent first to the jews, then, as Paul says, to the Greek. But Jesus is turning this into a teaching moment. If it is recorded in the gospels it is because it has a lesson for us. There isn’t anything random about the selection of materials for the Gospels. They don’t record every miracle, they don’t record everything Jesus said, they record those things that are important because they teach us what we need to know.
Here it is an illustration of faith. Jesus finds faith in the total humiliation of the Caananite woman, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” It wasn’t pleasant to be compared to a dog. Most people still take offense at the comparison when they are called after the name of a female canine. But this woman does not flinch. She knows it is in the nature of Jesus to show mercy. She asks for it. And receives it. It is a far cry from what we find faith to be today. Well at least in some circles.
Today, in many circles, faith is characterized by a bold self sure arrogance that seems to think God owes us something for being so great. Yet this is not faith, this is the “power of positive thinking” that doesn’t grapple with the truth, that at best the only thing any of us can really hope to be is nothing more than dogs that eat the crumbs falling from the master’s table. We are all beggars.

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