But she said, ‘No Lord, for also the dogs eat the crumbs falling from the table of their lords.’
Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy, Christie eleison, Christ have mercy, Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy. The cry of this woman has been sung by Christians for 2000yrs, it has become part of our liturgy, originally sung after the entrance psalm, now also following our public confession of sin and absolution. But it is not another confession of sin, rather simply it is a cry for help. Last week we heard Peter, one of the twelve, a Jew, cry out to Jesus, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out and saved him, for Peter was of God’s people, whom Jesus came to save. But you are not Jews, at least none have told me if you are, will you be saved when you cry out to the Jewish Christ?
Now, Jesus still is on the move after hearing Herod thought He was John the Baptist back from the dead. Jesus had gone to a deserted place, but the people followed and 5000+ were fed. Jesus sent them away and the disciples ahead by boat, that He might have time alone to pray. Then He met up with the disciples walking on water, called and saved Peter. Landing on the non-Jewish side of the sea of Galilee, He healed many, but the Pharisees found Him and challenged Jesus. Apparently, the disciples forgot to wash their hands before eating. Jesus answered them, it’s not what goes in but what goes out that defiles you. And now we come to the account of the Canaanite woman today, followed by more healing and Jesus feeding 4000. It’s a mirror of what has gone before, it hinges on this conflict with the Jewish Pharisees. But even though the mirror is similar something key has changed. And Paul tells us what that is.
The Jews rejected Jesus, their Brother and Messiah, so now the Gentiles, you, would be blessed and that the Jews, God’s ancient people, might repent and come back to Him (Romans 11:30-31). That there would be no longer Jew and Greek, German or Aboriginal, immigrant or local, but that all would be one together in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Brothers and sisters all, in God’s new family (Romans 8:15). How wonderful it is when siblings live together in unity, with love, joy and peace in Christ (Psalm 133:1). When we look out for each other, remember to call or check on those more isolated, on those suffering. When Joseph and his brothers were united, and Jacob’s family saved from famine (Genesis 45).
But congregations don’t always hold together with love in Christ, and the Israelites had to escape the slavery that came on them. Leaving Egypt they came to Canaan and fought the ancestors of this Syro-Phoenician woman we heard today. The Canaanites who sacrificed their children to their gods, also making a practise of prostitution and adultery; utterly rejecting God Almighty. The Jews of Christ’s day came to calling them dogs. And Jesus does the same. ‘It’s not right to take bread from the children and throw it to the doggies.’
‘Yet even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their lords’ table.’ This woman knew who Jesus was, a Jew, she cried out, ‘Lord, son of David!’ She knew who she was, a dog outside of God’s chosen ancient people, just like you and me. Yet just like you and me, she also knew she needed help, and help from the Jewish Messiah. She must have known that ancient promise to Abraham, that all peoples will be blessed through his descendent. Perhaps even the promise through the prophets, that a Son of David will come to save His people and all the nations (). And you know another promise God has made to you in your baptism, in Communion, you are made anew in Christ, being made anew by the Spirit, and wait for the final revelation when you, me and all Christians will live forever in unity.
You know what you have been promised, you know what is at the end, so join Peter, join this woman, join our brothers and sisters those who’ve gone before and those who are fighting alongside us across the world; join them and cry out to Jesus, Have mercy on us! Through the tough times, call out to God, ‘Lord, rescue me!’ call out to us your brothers and sisters in Christ, that we might be His hands and feet and live together in unity. Don’t give up when it seems Christ ignores you, but press on knowing the promise He has made to you and all Christians. Respond like this woman did, ask even just a crumb, but remember a crumb to Christ can feed 5000.
And as we kneel and pray for mercy, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to our life together forever as family. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.