Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Have you ever been asked to do something for someone when you were extremely tired and needing rest and revitalization? That was the case for Jesus on this occasion. He had been preaching, teaching, healing, and traveling, and had found a place to rest in Tyre at the end of his latest journey where he hoped to be alone for a while to get away from the demands of his ministry to rest and pray. But there came someone with a need. A Greek woman whose daughter suffered with a demon that had taken over her very being needed Jesus to heal her child. This mother was seeking help from Jesus, who she had heard had healing powers. She bursts in on him and pleaded for him to cast the demon out of her child. It seems he was caught off guard and his human condition of fatigue caused him to speak in a way we would not expect from the Son of God. What? Did he just call this woman a dog?
We have to recall that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, and in this moment his humanity spoke out and replied that he had come to bring food first to the children of Israel. His immediate response of not feeding the dogs before the children is one we can hardly believe that Jesus would have said. However, her response of how “even the dogs eat the crumbs that the children drop at the table” shocked Jesus into seeing that he had allowed his human response to her to override his divine nature. Her experience of being valued less by the Jewish religious people, did not keep her from seeking Jesus’ help for her child. This mother’s unrelenting love for her child awakened Jesus’ compassion, and he repented and healed her child right then from afar. Then he told her that because of her response of faith her daughter was healed.
This story brought to mind a little girl in one of my preschool Sunday School classes years ago, who gave me a response that opened my spiritual eyes beyond my human understanding. I had told them the parable of the seed that fell on good soil and some that fell on rocky ground. The children drew pictures of what they had heard, and then told me what their picture meant. Most children drew pictures of lots of bright colored flowers blooming in good soil. Her picture was of two huge rock boulders with just a small crack between them. There was a tiny flower peeking out from above the crack and it was blooming. She told me that when a flower listens to and follows God it can grow even in a difficult place. Her experience as a child of mixed-race parents, back in the 1980’s, told me that she had been taught by her parents to listen to God rather than things people might say to her or about her. Her learning went a step beyond the parable because of her experiences. She taught me that day to listen to God more closely in order to know the depth of God’s compassion.
- When you are tired or overwhelmed have you ever responded to someone in ways you regret?
- What does this event in Jesus’ life teach us about our humanness overriding our spiritual source of God’s love and compassion?
- When have you also learned more about God from someone you did not expect to teach you about God, and God’s love?
- Are you listening to all the unexpected sources in your life to hear what God may be saying to you through them?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.