Monday, August 11, 2008

Matthew 15:21-28 (The Message)

21-22From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, "Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit." 23Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, "Now she's bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She's driving us crazy." 24Jesus refused, telling them, "I've got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel." 25Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. "Master, help me." 26He said, "It's not right to take bread out of children's mouths and throw it to dogs." 27She was quick: "You're right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master's table." 28Jesus gave in. "Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!" Right then her daughter became well.

If I were left to my own devices, I probably would not choose these passages from Matthew. I like John. I'd preach John -- I'd preach Romans and maybe Ephesians. But mostly I would stick to John.

I like the Jesus in John. Deep and theological.

But this story appeals to me. I can imagine it in my mind. Jesus has gone into Tyre -- not a Jewish town. Perhaps he has going there for some rest; to get away from it all. In chapter 14, he retreated twice to the Mount for prayer. He has been teaching; he has been healing. He has been by the Sea of Galilee but now moves north into lands controlled by the Gentiles. A Canaanite woman comes down from the hills (remember that a Canaanite is a HEATHEN -- even worse than a Samaritan, this is a pagan person, not even a God-fearer.) She starts in with Jesus (not just "pleading" but ekrazen -- screaming.) He basically seems to brush her off, but that might be for show. He even calls her a dog but still she doesn't stop. Persistent. Knowing what she needs and not stopping until she gets it. You might even say -- like a dog with a bone.

What might it mean for us to be that persistent? To keep going after what we need -- to just bug God like this? To demand, to scream at God, even when he seems silent or ignoring us? What might it mean?

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