Matthew 15:21-28 CEB
From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” But he didn't respond to her at all.
His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.”
Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.”
But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”
He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.”
She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.”
Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed.
Let’s for a moment allow ourselves some bold honesty about who this woman in our scripture was. First, she was not an Israelite. Her cultural standing had social implications. She was a Gentile and considered lower than the Israelite. Not going any further, this meant she had no right to speak to Jesus so boldly. Second, she was a woman. The people during the time of the New Testament thought feminine outspokenness should be shunned and quelled. A woman’s place was behind her husband, not in the streets yelling. With that combination of culture and gender, she could have believed her goal was destined for failure. Instead, her faith kept her going. Instead, she kept trying. Even when others openly ignored what she was saying she pushed forward.
It is easy to say what you believe when you are in the majority. In the majority you are usually not sharing anything new, but simply being open to agreeable points others make. In the majority you feel more comfortable sharing a disagreeable opinion because your status among your peers is more secure. This woman was not in the majority. It's when you are the outcast and the downtrodden your true nature seems to show itself. It is when no one stands with you that you make those difficult decisions to even stand for anything. This woman stood for two things: her daughter, and the belief that Jesus was God incarnate come to save everyone. Even when Jesus openly told the disciples his ministry was only to the Israelites she persisted. Even when Jesus called the woman a dog she persisted. She knew what she was going to stand for and she was not going to back down.
Jesus’ reaction to the whole debacle reminds me of the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Throughout the movie Wonka acted cold and heartless to the kids. He seemed ambivalent when one would nearly drown in chocolate or shrink himself with a TV ray. He did not come across as the Wonka everyone remembered who just wanted to make children happy. No one in the group liked the man except one of the kids, Charlie Bucket. Somehow he saw past what Wonka was pretending to be and had faith in who he really was. At the end of the movie Charlie holds an Everlasting Gobstopper, if he keeps it he might be able to sell it to a competitor and get big money. Yet, even as cold and heartless and Wonka appeared throughout the entire movie, Charlie still believed in him. In a moment of compassion, he hands over the Gobstopper. That is when he finds out the whole thing was set up to find someone who was innocent and sincere enough to take over the Chocolate Factory. By turning in the Gobstopper, Charlie passed the test and became Wonka’s heir.
We might get the hint that the same thing might be going on with our scripture. Before Jesus and the Disciples head to Tyre and Sidon he gives a scathing dialogue on words. Using the Pharisee’s as direct examples he says it is not what goes into the mouth one should worry about, (i.e. food.) What one should worry about is what comes out of the mouth, (i.e. words.) Words show us for who we really are because they come from the heart. Basically, what is coming from the Pharisee’s hearts are foul and not worth listening to.
I personally don’t think the Disciples got it the first time around. I mean, after all, this is a group of people who needs an illustration or a parable to explain pretty much everything Jesus is saying. Now I am speculating, but perhaps the disciples are wary to put down the Jewish religious leadership so quickly. Perhaps they needed to see firsthand how the Pharisee’s words corrupt. The woman and Jesus become a living parable. Jesus takes the part of the Pharisee. (The Pharisee’s focus is on those who are the select children of Israel, not of Gentile women.) Jesus plays the part perfectly. To the Disciples, they were probably happy Jesus appeared to be scolding this “nuisance.” To the woman, she saw beyond his actions and had faith in what was in his heart. She could have left at any time, taking what Jesus was doing as a sign that God’s love was not for her. She wouldn’t have earned anything from succumbing to the words Jesus and the Disciples were saying. Instead she persists and speaks from the heart. Think of the damage that could have been done to this woman and her child if it had actually been a Pharisee saying those words. Instead, Jesus' true nature becomes apparent, and this woman is accepted as an heir to the Kingdom.
Whether we are talking about Charlie Bucket, or the woman in our scripture we need to be wary, of what comes out of our mouth. We separate ourselves by unfriending and cutting off those who don't share our opinions. We create our own pockets of acceptance. Within our opinionated majority it is easy to exclude others without even realizing we are doing it. Our heart can be a dangerous weapon bringing evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness and slander into the world. If we allow Jesus into our hearts that weapon can be turned around and used to save the world. Charlie inherited a chocolate factory and the dream of a man who wanted to make children happy. And the woman: The woman inherited nothing that she didn’t already have. Her heart was pure and because she persisted in her faith her daughter was cured. She always had God’s love and her determination proved it. She had inherited the Kingdom before she ever had the opportunity to talk to Jesus.
So be careful. If your heart does not belong fully to God your words are liable to be a weapon, not a help. And, even what we don’t say speaks of what is in our hearts. Stop buying into scandal to sell a web page, and start buying into Christ to change the world.