There were a few puzzling things in today’s reading. But
most of them can be cleared up by understanding who this Canaanite woman was.
She wasn’t famous or anything that I know of, but she was determined. She was
not a Jew. Jesus saw something in her that he wanted to reward. Let’s break
some of this down.
First of all, she was a Canaanite. She was not Jewish. Jesus’ own statement to his disciples was “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” We could interpret from this that Jesus’ target audience was the Jews needing a savior. The rest of the world would have to wait. The disciples were also distressed by her incessant requests for help. They wondered why Jesus didn’t just send her away. But she persisted. The woman didn’t seem phased by “where she came from” or who Jesus normally healed. She knew without a doubt Jesus could save her daughter from the demons.
You Are What You Say is a book by a Harvard doctor who has a program focused on transforming stress through the power of language. Jesus would say that what comes out of our mouths is more important than what goes in. This whole discussion came about when the Pharisees questioned the disciples’ possible defilement by not washing their hands before they ate.
You have probably been reminded a time or two in your lifetime to wash up before dinner. I can remember that was just something we did after playing outside coming into contact with who knows what germs. As a child, I never knew it was a tradition or ceremony from the Bible. Jesus clears it up. It won’t make us unclean on the inside to eat with dirty hands. Germs may be “unclean,” but they are not going to cause us to sin and spread evil in our hearts.
I’ve never tried to walk on water. Have you? If Peter can do it, I think we all can–if we have the right mindset and trust. But Peter started to sink, and I’m sure we would, too. I don’t know about you, but I tend to overthink everything. That’s exactly what Peter did. Jesus’ words are ringing in my head, “Why did you doubt me?”
We are all guilty of that doubt from time to time. Our faith can falter with the breeze. If we encounter a stumbling block or even a roadblock in our lives, we tend to seize up and become stuck. We were not promised a trouble-free life. We were promised to never be alone. We were promised to be loved no matter what.
This story never gets old for me. This is Matthew’s version. All the other gospels include an account of this day as well. ( Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-15.) I am not going to spend time today comparing the stories. I have written devotionals on all of them, so you can feel free to read through the others. I’ve given you clickable links. I welcome any comments or observations.
Today’s reading starts with Jesus just wanting to be alone. He had heard of his friend’s death in the preceding verses. He needed time to process that. I’m sure we can all identify with wanting to be alone when we’re dealing with sorrow and loss. But Jesus couldn’t go anywhere without attracting a crowd, and today was no different. Did Jesus rebuke them and send them away because he wanted to be alone?
This is an interesting story to pop up in an account that has been focusing mostly on Jesus and his ministry. What does it say to us? It certainly gives us the picture that nobody is safe from evil, even and especially prophets. Notice the flashback. John was already dead, but we learn how and why it happened after the fact.
Some may say that John was a martyr but not actually in the true sense. He did not play an active role in his death. It happened on the whim of a young girl wanting to please her mother. John had allegedly been vocal about the wrong Herod had done in marrying his brother’s divorced wife, Herodias. He had to divorce his own wife to marry her. That would have been behavior contrary to the incest laws of the Pentateuch.