Jesus Christ had two missions. One was to bear witness to the nature of God to the Jews, the nation of his mother and father, of the prophets and patriarchs. For the Jews of that time were losing their way into a regulatory, virtue signaling legalism. However, as the sermon yesterday noted, Christ was sitting with the sinners and the traitors. This offended the righteous: and from that came three famous parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.
These three parables, of the love of animals, the treasuring of a bride-gift, and the acceptance of a man who (to paraphrase the older brother) squandered the family wealth on whores would have set those who considered themselves the religious leaders into a state of irritation. What is unsaid is that all of us are the prodigal son, the lost sheep, or the misplaced coin. What is said is that heaven rejoices when one is saved.
But Christ had a clear mission to Israel. And today, he heals a woman the Pharisees say no good Jew should even speak to: the ancient enemy, a Canaanite.
21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
The dog was and is an unclean beast — not the be eaten according to Jewish Dietary laws. My three beloved dogs would agree with that: they would rather be blogging assistants. To call someone a dog was to say that they were beyond the pale, not part of the nation, and not worthy of attention. That they were the other, the enemy.
Do not, for a second, think that this Canaanite woman did not know that. But her child was sick, and she does not care. She will follow and plead and demand and cry out for help. She knows the situation of her daughter. She needs help, and she knows she cannot find it from her own resources.
So she hounds the disciples. They now have a splitting headache from all the yelling, and want this loud, untidy stranger to go away.
And When Christ reminds her of his mission, using a racial insult, she says… yes, but the same dog will eat the crumbs. I only need a little. So Christ heals her daughter.
We are all desperate for healing. We are all broken. Let us not pretend we can heal ourselves. We all need Christ, and all our attempts to construct a narrative that says we are wonderful and righteous we know to be lies.
But Christ came not merely for one nation, but for all. He wants us at the table, as his brothers. Not under it. So chase salvation above all, and do not care about your dignity or connections to those in power. They cannot save themselves.
But Christ can save and heal you.