Summary: Sermon on the Canaanite Woman that Jesus called a dog, a racial slang against... As we confront racism, what shall we do with such a difficult passage?
Title: How to get Jesus to change his mind
Proper 15, Matthew 15:21-28
Intro: “Jesus wasn’t white, but he sure was a racist.” So says David Peters, a priest from Austin Texas. Do I have your attention?
If we step back and watch this scene unfold, it is no wonder how someone could accuse Jesus of racism. He completely ignores her, then, when she finally gets his attention, his people are more important and that she’s a dog!
That statement is the exact opposite of what he said in the preceding verses! He discusses how the posture of the heart determines what makes a person clean or unclean, not eating particular foods that are forbidden religious laws.
So people are clean, or unclean, based on their heart, not their diet!
Then in vs. 24-25, he says, "I'm only sent to Jews, it's not right to take the food that belongs to God's children and throw it to the dogs."
This is one of those uncomfortable passages that people will work tirelessly to explain so it doesn’t jostle their belief system. Here are a few scholarly opinions I found last week during my research:
“Well, Jesus was sent to the house of Israel like he said, so his primary mission wasn’t to help gentiles.” “Jesus was just using hyperbole just to test her faith. He’d never be that rude.” “The story is actually a parable.”
This one is popular: "Jesus was just being playful. In Greek, the word for "dog" that he used is translated "little dog," and it wasn't the same word as a full-grown dog."
One of my N.T. professors, Amy Jill-Lavigne (who's Jewish), has some words for that last one. She’s gifted with a sense of sarcasm, so I’ll… paraphrase her… “Calling someone a little… female dog is the same thing as calling them… a female dog.”
The story is moving because it shows a mother willing to sacrifice dignity for the sake of her child just to get Jesus to listen to her. It leaves us wondering… Can We Get Jesus to Change His Mind?
Transition: OR… is it a Mind Made Up.
I probably know the answer to this question but, have you ever been exhausted? I don’t mean tired, I mean spent, fatigued, drained, and weary? There's one beyond that too, a man talking to his wife while pumping gas taught it to me last week… it’s called… wore-slap-out.
I've been there, and there's a way to tell when you're there too. You'll get grumpy, and the people who love you the most will avoid you like a sneeze on a grocery aisle!
Jesus was exhausted… and maybe… a little cranky. The lectionary reading for the last two weeks mentions how Jesus just wants to get away and rest. First, he tried to rest, but people followed him, and he had to work a miracle so they could eat. Then last week, he tried again, but his disciples got caught in a storm, and he had to rescue them.
It makes me wonder if he said to himself, "These Pharisees are irritating me to death, and a lot of people are only interested in what I can do for them. I’m getting out of the country, and going to the wealthy port cities and of Tyre and Sidon so I can get some rest."
He hadn't even made it to his hotel before the paparazzi shows up with 1st century iPhones in hand! Within 30 seconds the news is on Facebook, and the town is pouring into the streets.
People are pushing and shoving; his disciples are no longer students but now bodyguards. Peter was always ready for a good fight, so he didn't mind pushing some of these people out of the way while Jesus was trying to escape. There was this one woman who wouldn't stop rushing toward Jesus.
She grabs him and mumbles something about healing. Jesus keeps walking and says, "My mission is to Jews, not to you. It's not fair to take what's holy and throw it to a pack of dogs circling me!"
Woah, Jesus, "I know you're tired, and I know you're surrounded with people grabbing and shoving you, but What about the human factor here? This woman didn't show up here to protest your arrival. You're the guest in her country. She’s not here to march on the town center holding a sign that says ‘No more illegal prophets across the Galilean border!’ She’s here because she believes in you and has faith in your healing. Why not have mercy on her daughter’s suffering?
Transition: Faith of the Canaanite Woman
The woman refuses to be denied… “But even the dogs eat scraps.”
Something about those words grab him! He finally sees her; her pain, fear, rage, and how desperation makes her throw herself at the feet of a foreigner and even absorb his insults.”