Today we see an encounter between Jesus and a Canaanite woman, someone who was not, to Jewish understanding, one of God’s people. She comes to Jesus asking for His help, and His disciples tell Him to send her away. Here we see Jesus at what many say is His cruelest, but thus far this week we have seen Jesus at His most generous; are we still seeing that Jesus? Yes.
He responds to His friends that He “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” They, as we, likely took this to mean He was in agreement; He could not help her. She came and paid Jesus homage and He says, shockingly, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
The food of the children; does this remind us of anything? Earlier this week we reflected upon the feeding of five thousand and how Jesus, in telling the disciples to feed the people themselves, was recognizing the hunger the crowd had for Him, the Bread from Heaven, the answer to our appeal to God the Father when we pray, “…give us this day our daily bread…” Here, a woman asks for her daughter’s deliverance from a demon and Jesus is speaking of food; we often miss this and rather focus on Jesus’ seeming rejection of the woman. Rather, He is recognizing the deeper need: the freedom that He offers by offering Himself. Jesus, in saying this, is probing her heart for the faith that will permit Him to enter into her life and not only free her daughter, but feed her own hunger for God, a hunger we all have.
How does she respond? In kind, but also with humility and recognition that she has not come to Jesus because of His rumored power, but because she sees Him, truly, as Lord: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Lord is a common enough form of address—much like ‘sir’—but see how she refers to Him as master as well. She sees His favor—freeing her daughter from Satan’s grasp—as a “scrap” falling from the table of her Lord, a sign of her trust in His tremendous power.
Imagine not only the surprise of the disciples when He declares her great faith, but Jesus’ love for her when He recognizes her love for Him! For in her declaration of faith in Him she has revealed herself as His sister, and thus a child of God; one of Israel’s lost sheep has come home. “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matt. 12:50) And what is the will of His heavenly Father? “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” (John 6:40)
All who see Jesus and believe in Him are the children of God; the Caananite woman saw Him and believed, and thus she was fed. Let us not only behold Jesus and believe, but reveal Him to all we meet, that others might see Him in us and also become children of so loving a Father.