Summary: "I'm A Dog" The Startling Confession of A Canaanite Christian A Crucial Confession for Canadian Christians
She may have once been a beauty queen but I doubt she was looking her best when she came to see Jesus. Care lines may have accentuated eyes bloodshot from crying, making her face look like wrapping paper used one too many times. Her once silken hair was probably prematurely grey and natty, hardly distinguishable from the twine she used to pull her hair back. Who had time to look good when your daughter, your beloved daughter was suffering from demon possession? Still, no self-respecting woman would have blurted out what this Canaanite woman did: “I’m a dog.” Yes, that’s what she acknowledged after Jesus himself called her that.
“Whoa. Wait a minute, Pastor! Did you just say that Jesus called a woman a dog?” Yes, and you heard it for yourself when I read the Gospel lesson earlier. What did Jesus mean by those words and the way in which he treated this desperate woman? Why would a woman say of herself: “I’m a dog”? It is the startling confession of a Canaanite Christian…but there’s more. “I’m a dog,” is also a crucial confession for Canadian Christians. Let’s find out why.
Our text takes place in the region of Tyre and Sidon, an area northwest of Galilee, outside of Israel. Jesus and his disciples had gone there to get away from the murderous pressure of the Jewish religious leaders. It didn’t take long for word to spread among the non-Jewish inhabitants that the miracle worker from Israel had come. Many must have sought Jesus’ healing touch but one woman in particular caught the attention of Matthew, the author of our text. He wrote: “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to [Jesus], crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’” (Matthew 15:22).
We don’t know much about this woman. We don’t know her age. We don’t know her name. We do know that she was a Canaanite – a descendant of the original inhabitants of the Promised Land. You may remember that the Old Testament Israelites were supposed to get rid of the Canaanites because of their putrid pagan practices. But many of them survived so that this woman could trace her ancestry back to them. She wasn’t like her ancestors, however. She didn’t worship the idol Baal and offer her children as human sacrifices as they had done. In fact she sounded more Jewish than Canaanite when she called Jesus, “Lord, Son of David.” It’s obvious from the rest of the text that she wasn’t just parroting something she had heard the disciples say. She really believed that Jesus was “Lord,” the Son of God. She honestly trusted that, as the “Son of David,” Jesus was the promised Messiah who had come to save the world from sin. How did she know this? We’re not told but it was obviously surprising to Matthew because he introduced the account of this woman with the un-translated exclamation: “Behold!”