The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.08.20
There are multiple currents taking place in this passage.
First it should be noted that this is the only place in any of the Gospels where Jesus is rebuked and corrected by another person.
The woman pleads to Jesus for aid, and is among the first people in the entire gospel narrative to recognize Jesus as King, the Son of David.
What is even more significant is that the person who corrects him is a woman, and she is not Jewish, she is not instructed in the law, and yet she knows better than Jesus how his gifts are to be directed.
Pay attention to the disciples. They uncharacteristically call for Jesus to give the woman what she asks for, not from a position of love and mercy, but because they bothered by her insistence.
Jesus is not inclined to give in to her demands.
At first he refuses her, stating in error that his mission, and his gifts are only intended for his fellow Israelites.
She asks again for aid.
Jesus then compares her to a dog, stating that it would not be right to take food away from the children of Israel and give it to the dogs.
She corrects Jesus. She humbly accepts being compared to a dog, and states that even dogs are fed scraps under the table.
Jesus remarks on the strength of her faith, and suggests that because her faith is so strong, she will receive the gift she has asked for, which is for her daughter to be healed.
The gospel writers get it wrong again, they make the entire matter transactional.
God, the creator of the universe does not offer God’s favor in exchange for anything. God gives because God loves. God loves all people, all of God’s children without exception, and without qualification.
The Canaanite Women
Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time