|Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art
A few days ago on this blog I wrote about how the gospels are not always in chronological order but sometimes grouped. Understanding the grouping today will help us understand a very difficult action of Jesus. Throughout our reading today there is a battle Jesus had with the Pharisees. They are concerned with the letter of keeping the Law and not the heart of the Law. To add burning coals to their already smoldering fire, the Laws they are concerned most with tend to be the ones they have come up with … not the ones given to Moses from God. Jesus scolds them for this.
Following this interaction both of our authors show us that Jesus was not about the status quo. Jesus leaves the Jewish regions and moves into a predominate Gentile region. Here a woman who has a daughter possessed by a demon comes to Jesus seeking for His help. But Jesus gives her this tough to understand response … “First I should feed the children-my own family, the Jews. It is not right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27 NLT) We struggle with this statement because we see Jesus as all loving and sent to love all people, but this verse does not support that, at least in a first reading.
Let’s look back at the beginning story … Jesus is scolding the Pharisees for their supposed following of God, now as Jesus is interacting with this Gentile woman, Jesus is teaching His disciples. To His disciples this woman has many things against her … she is a woman, she is all alone with a wild child, and she is a Gentile. In their minds she can be seen as a dirty dog … dogs were considered dirty and unclean, unwelcome in the home of a Jew. That is the point of Jesus response. The disciple’s actions prove their hearts. In Matthew the disciples ask Jesus to get rid of her. Do not take that too harshly, they are annoyed by her, and all they ask Jesus to do is get rid of her. This was not a request to not heal her daughter, they more than likely wanted Jesus to heal her problem and send her away. But Jesus wants to teach His disciples.
While His primary target audience was the Jewish people, His kingdom would extend to all people. So just as He challenged the minds of the Pharisees, He is now challenging the minds of His disciples. Teaching them that their thought of this woman as a dirty dog is not the way God views her. We have to remember that sometimes Jesus will work in a way that we might find offensive and rude so He can show and teach His disciples. What a wonderful and powerful way to teach.