Sunday, August 16th, Pentecost XI, Crumbs off the table
Genesis 45:1-15,Psalm 133, Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32,Matthew 15:21-28
I can understand Jesus and why he answers the way he does. It is clearer in the Mark version of the passage, Mark 7:24-30. Jesus enters a house there and did not want anyone to know he was there. He was trying to get away and take some time off from the lost children of Israel. We have read that he tries to get away alone to pray on other occasions and is unsuccessful. This is another time because although he has been able to shake the crowds following him, there is a woman who comes to him for help. The disciples wanted him to send her away because she kept shouting at them. His initial response is to tell her that she is not one of the group for whom he is to minister. The implication is; if he helps her, someone else will not get the help they need. In effect, it is seen as taking from one of the children of Israel to give to her and her daughter. But her response is about the crumbs that fall off the table, which will not be missed by the children of Israel.
This Canaanite woman is able to come to Jesus in humility and not react to the implied insult in the metaphor of children and dogs at the table and that she is being compared to a dog. Maybe she was able to pass it off, because she was used to even worse insults and challenges, she takes the tack, she is willing to ignore the implied insult if she can engage Jesus further about the crumbs and getting help for her daughter.
I am reminded of another incident of an interaction between Jesus and a woman alone, yes, there are instances of woman washing his feet, but a dialogue…….
In John 4:1-42 we have Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. There is an almost similar feel to the dialogue. And he challenges her as well, with the comment, go and tell your husband, and she and she answers that she has none, which Jesus response, that he knew this. That is why she is at the well at the hottest time of the day, because she is a social outcast, and it is easier to come during the heat than face the other woman of the community.
I am wondering if the Canaanite woman is also without a husband, and thus has no man to bring her need for help to Jesus. So he, after he gets beyond being tired and wanting to be left alone, shows admiration for the woman, and is able to not only engage with her as an equal, but to actually listen to her and realize what she is telling him about himself. Herbert O’Driscoll calls this the moment when Jesus realizes his ministry is beyond the children of Israel and for the whole world.
And it works for us as well. That ministry is not a zero sum game. If it were, all of us would only have one child. When we have the second child, do we love the first one any less?
What we don’t see, in Genesis is what is between last week’s reading and this week’s reading. After being sold into slavery, Joseph becomes second only to Pharaoh in Egypt, and when there is a famine in all the area, his family comes to Egypt for help, which he grants and gives them sacks of grain, but puts a silver cup in sack of the youngest Benjamin. When they brought back to Joseph because of the missing cup, he says the rest can go, but the one who has the cup will be my slave, and it is found in Benjamin’s.
Then we have the passage for today, where Joseph back’s down and tells them who he is.
I can understand Joseph and Jesus’ reluctance to just help without any question or thought retribution, yet the end, both were able to help those in need and not only help but have a respect for the other that was not thinking they were helping out of a sense of superiority but relationship with the other people, that we are all in this together.