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What do we do with this one? What a strange thing to happen.
Jesus travels in to Gentile territory and it is then no surprise that he meets this Canaanite woman. What is surprising to us is Jesus’ reaction to her. He even uses the term ‘dog’ for the Canaanite woman. At first glance one could be forgiven that this seems a little racist! Some commentators such as Ken Bailey offer interesting and helpful insight on this passage.
Bailey suggests that Jesus tests the disciple’s narrow-minded views:
“The verbalization is authentic to their (the disciples) attitudes and feelings, but shocking when put into words and thrown in the face of a desperate, kneeling woman pleading for the sanity of her daughter. It is acutely embarrassing to hear and see one’s deepest prejudices verbalized and demonstrated.”
(Ken Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pg 233.ff)
So here Bailey argues that Jesus unveils the deeply held prejudices of his disciples. Looking at the Gospels as a whole it seems that Jesus took no issue with Gentiles. In fact, Jesus spent much of his time reaching out to those who were not Jewish.
The Canaanite woman’s response to Jesus shows incredible faith. She is literally willing to beg Jesus to help her. How much does this Canaanite woman teach us about our posture towards Jesus?
A prayer from Lent for Everyone by Tom Wright:
Sovereign Lord, give us the faith to ask for your help, and the humility to receive it on your terms.