The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Becky Byford. Officially a doctor (the fake kind…) and Senior Scientist working in the Pharmaceutical Industry who loves to dance! I came back to faith after being brought up in a Christian household part way through my PhD after attending the Life course. P.S. The COVID vaccines are safe, as a key worker in the industry I can try my best to answer any questions!

Matthew 15:21-28

The faith of a Canaanite woman

 21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.'

23 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.'

24 He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.'

25 The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said.

26 He replied, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs.'

27 'Yes it is, Lord,' she said. 'Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table.'

28 Then Jesus said to her, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Reflection

When I first got given this passage, my heart sunk and I actively procrastinated writing this...left my bible open on the page hoping for inspiration to hit (sorry Heidi...) until it finally clicked.

This is not an easy to digest passage, Jesus's actions actively challenge the preconceived ideas we have about the son of God. The idea that to this desperate woman Jesus gave 'no reply - not even a word' (v23), his mission just to save the Israelites (v24) and even more shockingly compares her to a dog (v26 - although a better translation is puppy) is in striking contrast to the loving nuturer we perceive. Even worse the disciples are openly dismissive (v23). This whole situation would have been uncomfortable for Jesus and his disciples, in a strange place and then directly addressed by a Gentile woman. All the social norms have been broken! Is it here we see Jesus as human?

The woman cries for help and throws Jesus's words back at him, v27, even the scraps will do - there is plenty to go round. Occurring not long after the feeding of the 5000 her statement only makes more sense. It is this plea and her clear demonstration of faith that leads Jesus to act, v28.

Have I not also ignored those in their time of need? Is the crux of these verses God asking us to sit with discomfort? Going beyond where we feel 'safe'.

Jesus here is demonstrating to us the need to listen to those who are different, learn and grow from them, live in that discomfort. Aren't we now in the perfect time for that? A world turned upside down, where the discrimination against others is being highlighted and we are asked to confront ourselves. Is the church shutting people out or are we leaving the doors wide open? Are we giving outsiders the chance to come to us on their terms with open hearts?

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