The Woman Who Changed Jesus' Mind
It took guts for that Canaanite woman to even walk up to Jesus; but it took even more guts for her to hang in there with Him, even as He seems to insult and dismiss her. She shows remarkable humility – even poverty of spirit – by allowing Jesus’ apparent insult to roll off of her and to accept her smallness. She needs Him – no one else – and she is not going to let Him get away.
Many of us, in our pride and self-importance, might walk away – even angry at the Lord for His lack of action: “HOW DARE HE? How DARE He not do what I ask?” Well, that’s it, then! We don’t feel the need to follow Him anymore, since He has not been “useful” to us. It’s the same “I-want-to-speak-to-your-manager” attitude that so many people seem to express these days.
This plays out in our spiritual lives – we look for something from God and we don’t get the answer that we want. So, we might accept that, but we remain bitter. Perhaps we even seek what we want from other sources – even sinful ones. What we should be learning today, and what we should look for from God, is that gift of faith that the Canaanite woman had. Her faith fed her persistence – since she knew that only Jesus could bring the healing and wholeness that she was seeking. Her estrangement from the People of Israel was merely an accident of her birth – being born outside of Israel; however, faith knows no borders. Paul recognized this and made it his mission to evangelize the Gentiles, in order to bring them the salvation that Jesus has wrought. This is God’s desire for all His children, as Isaiah announced long ago: “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants … them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.”
It took a foreigner, a foreign woman to teach us that; and she changed Jesus’ mind with her faith. She is the voice that we must heed in our prayer. She is the example of persistence and a hunger for justice. She is the life that matters, when everyone was certain that all lives did. We need to be reminded by people like her – by women, by Blacks, by Hispanics, by the poor, by immigrants, by the marginalized – that God does, indeed, love all people, even when we do not. In in realizing that essential fact about God, we should be converted to love all as He loves us.
This is why, today, the sentiment expressed by the slogan “Black Lives Matter” matters. I don’t speak of the Marxist overtones or the violence; I mean the idea that long-neglected voices must be heeded. People who have long been excluded must be included. Lives that have been merely statistics must become flesh-and-blood – boys with mothers, and girls with brothers. No one should feel worthless or discounted by a society that professes that all people are created equal. Our nation is one that has forgotten that principle from time to time and always needs to be reminded of it. My ancestors experienced racism and xenophobia; yours did too. That is no excuse to continue a narrative of social stratification that permanently disenfranchises members of our society. It can end with us.
Today, that woman made a stand and declared that “Canaanite Lives Matter.” “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Her courage was rooted in her humanity – not in her sense of entitlement or her anger at a system that she sought to overthrow. She had a child with a need. What mother wouldn’t advocate for her? Jesus saw her faith; He saw her pain and her resolution; and He knew that she “got it” – perhaps even better than any of His disciples.
It took guts for her to speak up.
It will take guts for us to listen.