Starving for Crumbs
It’s an uncomfortable story. Few snapshots of Jesus portray our divine Savior being so human. Stuck in the midst of stories of miracles and healing, another account of Jesus’ healing work begins with Jesus casting an insult.
In the gospel of Matthew she is known as the Canaanite woman. In Mark she is called the Syrophoenician woman. Either heritage puts her in a scandalous position. As a Syrophoenician she is a Gentile. As a Canaanite she is a Jew – but of ambiguous lineage an considered to be racially impure. Her people are considered to be ” mongrels.”
She approaches Jesus to ask that he cast a demon out of her daughter. Jesus’ response? He tells her that to help her kind would be like feeding the dogs before feeding the children. Jesus’ words here cannot be interpreted in a nice way. Jesus denies this woman’s request and dismisses her based on her race and class. He is rude.
But she doesn’t let him get away with it! She won’t let her daughter’s plight be denied. No matter who she is, no matter where she comes from, this woman needs Jesus, too. So Jesus heals the daughter and from that action we begin to wonder if Jesus has learned something important about his ministry, too. Does this moment make him realize that his initial vision of his ministry too small?
And if Jesus has reached this insight, how much more do we need a broader vision of ministry? Whom do we exclude? To whom does the Spirit send us? Jesus might have thought he came to reform the religion of his land.
But with this encounter, it becomes obvious that there is an entire world starving for the crumbs falling from the children’s table. May we receive these crumbs of life falling from Jesus’ table, and become the bread of good news for others.